Plan presented to guide judiciary into the future

The Michigan Judicial Council (MJC) recently released a strategic agenda and operational plan to help Michigan’s judicial branch become more innovative, effective and inclusive.

The MJC Strategic Agenda (2022-25) frames a long-term vision for the third branch that will be periodically retooled to reflect future conditions and needs.

The MJC Operational Plan (2022-23) details specific initiatives and goals to be achieved over the next year.

Approved by the MJC at a recent meeting, the agenda and plan bring together stakeholders from courts and the community with a shared commitment to a judicial system that is accessible to all and trusted by all.

“Over the past year, the members of the Michigan Judicial Council have worked diligently to craft this agenda and related work plans, and I am grateful for their hard work and cooperative effort to make our justice system a model for the nation,” said Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget M. McCormack, who chairs the MJC. “The work will be difficult, but the result will be so worth it: justice for all.”

Justice Elizabeth T. Clement also serves on the MJC, which is comprised of 29 members, including judges, court administrators, court clerks, attorneys  and members of the public.

“Because the courts encounter and address such a variety of issues every day — relating to mental health, racial equity, access to justice, to name a few — it was crucial that the Council bring together a wide range of viewpoints,” she said. “With these stakeholders, we are well positioned to develop a solid path forward and provide comprehensive, thoughtful guidance for courts statewide.”

Other highlights of the agenda include:

• Develop and implement a uniform statewide data structure and uniform data collection methods.

• Make the courts more understandable and user-friendly for all who use them.

• Enhance/expand educational and other resources so users are able to access and conduct business successfully with courts either in-person or virtually.

• Lead efforts to increase equity, consistency, and predictability within/across courts and with external partners.

• Promote and improve diversity, equity, and inclusion/belonging throughout the court system – judicial officers and administrators.

Goals of the plan include:

— Behavioral Health Improvements

Chaired by Judge Michael Jaconette (Calhoun County Circuit Court and Mental Health Court), the workgroup will develop new strategies to divert adults and youth with mental health and substance use disorders away from the justice system (criminal and civil) and connect them with needed behavioral health services instead.

— Access & Service Improvements

Led by MJC Liaison Angela Tripp (Michigan Legal Help executive director and Justice for All Commission vice chair), the workgroup will collaborate with and expand on the work of the JFAC — 100 percent access to the civil justice system — to continue to make the courts, more accessible, understandable, and easy to navigate.

— Training/Education for Judicial Officers & Court Employees

Chaired by Zenell Brown (Wayne County Circuit Court executive administrator), the workgroup — in collaboration with the Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Michigan Judiciary — will address and mitigate racial and social inequities that still exist in the justice system, ensuring that all people who interact with the judicial system are treated equitably and with dignity and respect.

—Increasing Public Trust Through Procedural Fairness

Chaired by Judge William Baillargeon (57th District Court in Allegan), the workgroup will work to improve perceptions of procedural fairness, which are the strongest predictors of public satisfaction. Some of the strategies include studying, developing, and recommending approaches (e.g., practices, resources, tools) for embedding procedural fairness principles and practices into court operations, including the courtroom and court processes.

—Transparency & Public Access - Livestreaming Policies/Rules

Chaired by Judge Aaron Gauthier (53rd Circuit Court in Cheboygan/Presque Isle counties), the workgroup will address the challenges in balancing the interests of transparency and privacy that the recent increase in remote proceedings has presented.

—Workforce of Today and Tomorrow

Co-Chaired by Justin Roebuck (Ottawa County clerk) and Ines Straube (Barry County Trial Court administrator), the workgroup will prepare for the workforce of the future, including what courts may look like (e.g., service and operational needs), the skills needed to meet future needs, and the ability recruit and retain a talented and dedicated workforce.

—Statewide, Unified Case Management System/Funding Appropriation Strategies

Chaired by State Court Administrator Tom Boyd, the workgroup will focus on making improvements to the courts’ technology infrastructure, particularly the implementation of a statewide case management system that will lead to enhanced data reporting and gathering, accessibility, and data-driven decision making. The workgroup will also develop a transition plan to a statewide, unified case management system.

—Alternative Funding for Trial Courts

Chaired by State Court Administrator Tom Boyd, the workgroup aims to help the judiciary shift from a longtime funding system that is complex, inadequate, and inequitable to a new system that is sufficient, stable, and consistent — and based on the Trial Court Funding Commission report recommendations. To that end, the workgroup will draft and propose specific statutory language and work with executive and legislative leaders to support any proposed statutory changes.

The MJC solicited public input earlier this year on the process to assist them in finalizing the 2022-25 Strategic Agenda. The first step in this process was adopting of an overarching mission statement for the judicial branch: “Michigan’s One Court of Justice delivers justice for all by providing access, protecting rights, resolving disputes, and applying the law under the Constitution.”

A $50,000 technical assistance grant from the State Justice Institute in April 2021 has funded the Council’s efforts.


Subscribe to the Legal News!

Full access to public notices, articles, columns, archives, statistics, calendar and more

Day Pass Only $4.95!
One-County $80/year

Three-County & Full Pass also available