Lawmakers hold public hearing on judicial reform package

A public hearing to give residents and local judges a chance to voice their opinions on a package of bills to eliminate 45 trial court judgeships will take place today in the Mackinac County Court House located in St. Ignace.

State Rep. Frank Foster, R-Pellston, will welcome House Judiciary Committee Chair John Walsh, Vice Chair Kurt Heise and other committee members to discuss and take testimony on parts of the legislation that would affect trial court judgeships in Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

"This public hearing gives residents of these areas the chance to weigh in on the proposed changes without having to travel to Lansing," said Walsh, R-Livonia. "We want to hear from all regions in the state before we take action on a bill that affects so many communities in Michigan."

Heise agreed that the remote committee hearing was needed to give all residents a voice in state government.

"We are working to create greater efficiency in our judicial system throughout the state, and wanted to give Northern Michigan residents, judges and officials the opportunity to ask questions and explain their position on these necessary reforms," said Heise, R-Plymouth.

The bipartisan legislation under consideration by the House Judiciary Committee eliminates 45 trial court judgeships based on the findings of the 2011 Judicial Resources Recommendations report, compiled by the State Court Administrative Office. The report also recommends reducing the number of Michigan Court of Appeals judges from 28 to 24.

"This well-developed study looks at many aspects of Michigan's changing judicial arena, including the number of cases handled by judges, how much time each judge needs for specific cases, and population loss and shifts throughout the state," Heise said. "This is a big-picture look at reforming Michigan's judicial system. We want to make sure Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula have an opportunity to learn more about the reforms and voice their concerns or support."

Walsh said: "These reforms could create greater efficiency in our judicial system across the state. This is a great example of cutting back on unnecessary expenses while continuing to maintain a high level of service to the residents of Michigan."

House Bills 5071-72, 5094-95, 5101, 5106 and 5108 will be discussed at the hearing.

Published: Mon, Nov 7, 2011

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