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Michigan Court Records

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How Does the Michigan Supreme Court Work?

The U.S State of Michigan operates a 3-tier pyramidal judicial system consisting of 5 unique courts and a specialty court, each with jurisdiction over specific types of cases. The Michigan Supreme Court is the highest court and court of last resort, hearing all appeals from the lower courts. However, as most cases are resolved in the lower courts or by the state’s Court of Appeals (the intermediate appellate court), the court hears fewer cases, mostly from the Court of Appeals rather than directly from the other courts. The Supreme Court is authorized by Article VI Judicial Branch of the Michigan Constitution and, apart from its judicial responsibilities, governs and regulates every court’s rules, procedures, and practices in the state. The court does not have the authority to dismiss judges.

The Michigan Supreme Court’s annual term begins August 1 and ends July 31 of the next year. In each term, over 2,000 cases are filed in the court. The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction over all cases, handles matters involving judicial misconduct, and may hear and decide writ applications at its discretion. Writs, otherwise known as writs of certiorari, are applications or petitions for the review of cases decided in the lower courts. The court’s jurisdiction also includes:

  • Appeals from the Michigan Court of Appeals (both pending and decided cases)
  • Matters involving the issuance of advisory opinions and responses to certified questions
  • Appeals of the final orders of the Attorney Discipline Board
  • Supervision of lower courts or tribunals
  • Any jurisdiction permitted by law

According to Michigan Court Rules (MCR), Rule 7.303, the Court also has the authority to review the Judicial Tenure Commission’s orders regarding discipline, suspension, removal, or retirement recommendations.

The Supreme Court has discretionary authority to grant or deny a petition. Cases in which the court may grant leave of appeal typically involve a vital constitutional matter, the validity of a legislative act, or are of significance to the public. Unlike the trial courts in the state, the Supreme Court does not hold trials or hearings. Rather, cases are heard by oral arguments, before justices, and decided by order or opinion. In an oral argument, an attorney or litigant demonstrates reasons, by verbal and credible explanation to convince the court to rule in favor of a petition. About 2 to 3% of argued cases are decided by opinion, and the rest by order. A Supreme Court order may maintain or reverse a decision of the Court of Appeals, remand a case to a trial court, or sanction a proper Court of Appeals opinion.

Oral arguments in the Michigan Supreme Court begin in October and end in May. In special cases, the Court may hear arguments in February, July, August, or September. These arguments are open to the public, including the media. The court hears 10 to 12 cases within two days in the first or second weeks of October through May.

The order in which oral arguments are held in the Supreme Court is published on the Oral Arguments page. Each case is uploaded 21 days before the commencement of its session. The time spent on an argument depends on factors including the number of appellants. A case filed in the Supreme Court may take between 6 to 8 months to resolve. The Guide for Counsel in Cases to be Argued in the Michigan Supreme Court provides detailed information on the court’s oral argument processes.

There are seven justices in the Michigan Supreme Court: a chief justice and six justices (Article VI, Section 3).. The justices are responsible for reviewing and deciding all cases selected by the Supreme Court. Supreme Court justices are nominated by political parties, elected at nonpartisan ballots, and serve 8-year terms in the state. The election process is regulated by Chapter XVIII of the Michigan Election Law.

Eligible candidates for the Supreme Court Justice office must be less than 70 years, qualified electors, licensed to practice law in Michigan, and must have practiced law for at least five years in the state. In cases where a justice exits office before the end of a term and a vacancy exists, the governor appoints a replacement, who must then run to retain the next election position. Elected judges below age 70 may also run for re-election. In the Supreme Court, the chief justice is appointed by the justices biennially.

All justices, including candidates, are expected to maintain high ethical standards and strictly adhere to the canons (rules) of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct. Justices accused of judicial misconduct are investigated, prosecuted, and adjudicated by the Attorney Grievance Commission, Attorney Discipline Board, and Judicial Tenure Commission. If a justice’s conduct is found to be unethical and violative of the Code, the justice may face consequences which include censure, removal, suspension (with/without pay), and retirement.

The Michigan Supreme Court is located at the following address:

Michigan Hall of Justice

925 West Ottawa Street

Lansing, MI 48915

Phone: (517) 373–0120

The public may find the Michigan Supreme Court docket on the Case, Opinions, and Orders page. It is possible to search and view case records, opinions, and orders of the court. Case information and statuses of cases from the mid–1980s to date can be viewed by inputting a party’s name, lawyer’s details (name and bar number), or docket number on the Case Search page. Access to the Michigan Supreme Court’s opinions and orders may be obtained via the Opinion and Order Search. View these documents by entering a party’s name, keyword, docket number, or by using the advanced search, which includes search fields such as the date range, case type, and lower court. Opinions and orders are also downloadable in zip files (PDF format).

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