Duly Noted

Supreme Court hears proposed changes to court rules governing Headlee Amendment

Rules for litigating Headlee Amendment cases would change under proposals that the Michigan Supreme Court had on the agenda for its May 11 public hearing.

The Legislative Commission on Statutory Mandates recommended the changes in a December 2009 report. If adopted, the proposal (ADM File No. 2010-05) would eliminate fact-specific pleading requirements and would establish priority treatment for Headlee actions in the Court of Appeals. The proposed changes would also codify the current practice of appointing a special master to hear the case. The changes would make it easier for would-be Headlee litigants to pursue their claims, the commission maintains. But Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Michigan Court of Appeals have expressed concerns, saying that a Headlee plaintiff should be required to plead specific facts – for example, how a government action violated Headlee – so that the parties and court understand the basis for the Headlee claim.

Adopted by voters in 1978, the Headlee Amendment (Const 1963, art 9, §§ 24-34) sets an overall limit on total state spending for each fiscal year. The amendment requires the state to reimburse local governments for any new state-mandated programs; it also prohibits the state from reducing the proportion of total state spending on local governments below the proportion in effect in FY 1979. Among other provisions, Headlee requires that voters approve local government tax increases that were not authorized by law or charter before November 1978.

The proposals for all public hearing items and their related comments are available online at http://www.courts.michigan.gov/supremecourt/Resources/Administrative/index.htm#proposed.

Also included on the Supreme Court’s agenda were:

• Proposed amendment of MCR 3.501. Two alternative amendments of MCR 3.501(B) concerning class actions;

• ADM File No. 2008-28, proposed amendment of MCR 6.005. Whether to adopt revisions that would require appointed trial counsel in criminal cases to respond to any preconviction appeals by the prosecutor, either by filing a substantive brief or by notifying the Court of Appeals that the lawyer will not be filing a brief;

• ADM File No. 2009-20, proposed amendment of Rule 3 of the Rules Concerning the State Bar of Michigan and Rule 8 of the Rules for the Board of Law Examiners.