Duly Noted

Judicial Resources Recommendations endorsed by Michigan Supreme Court

The state must eliminate 45 trial court judgeships as a first step toward “rebalancing the workload” of Michigan’s courts, Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. said today, in announcing the findings of the 2011 Judicial Resources Recommendations report.

The report, which also recommends reducing the number of Michigan Court of Appeals judges from 28 to 24, finds that some trial courts need a combined 31 new trial court judgeships. But the State Court Administrative Office, which produced the report, said it was not recommending any new judgeships at this time because of the state’s economic climate.

Young said that the Supreme Court unanimously endorses the report’s recommendations. The Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Judges Association, the Michigan Probate Judges Association, and the Michigan District Judges Association also endorse the findings.

“This is unprecedented, not just in Michigan but nationally, to have a state court system not only recognize that it needs to shrink, but also have a practical plan to accomplish that goal,” said the chief justice. “And to have the universal endorsement of the judiciary’s leadership – that has never happened before...”

Gov. Rick Snyder also supports the recommendations, Young said.

State Court Administrator Chad C. Schmucker explained that SCAO determined each trial court’s need for judges based on workload.

“We use a weighted caseload formula, so that we’re not looking just at numbers of cases, but also at how much of a judge’s time a particular type of case needs,” Schmucker said. “For example, a medical malpractice case takes longer to process than a traffic ticket. We then do an extended analysis to take into account other factors that might affect a court’s workload – population and case filings trends, for example.”

The Court of Appeals analysis focused primarily on numbers of new case filings and opinions, he said. The appellate court’s filings have declined; from 2006 to 2010, filings fell by 22 percent, he noted.

The SCAO report recommends eliminating unneeded judgeships by attrition, when a judge leaves office or dies.

“The judicial branch can only recommend; it’s up to the Legislature to act, and we hope that they will act this time,” Young said.

A summary can be found at  http://www.courts.michigan.gov/scao/resources/publications/reports/JRRSummary


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