State legislators who passed bills to cut unneeded state judgeships came in for praise from Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. as the last of the bills passed the House Tuesday.
Approved by the Senate last week, the bills now head to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.
"The legislators are doing the right thing for the courts and for the taxpayers," said Young. "In politics, it's easy to grow the size of government, but it takes political courage to reduce it. These legislators showed their courage and their common sense."
The Senate and House both overwhelmingly passed House Bills 5071-75, 5093-95, 5101-04, and 5106-07. If signed by Snyder, the bills, together with legislation already signed by Snyder, would cut 36 state trial court judgeships by attrition. "This is the largest cut in judgeships ever accomplished in the United States - it is unprecedented," Young said.
"The last time we eliminated judgeships in Michigan was more than a decade ago, and even though the current reduction is not as sweeping as we first envisioned, it is a huge step toward reforming the judiciary, assuring access to justice and saving taxpayer money," said state Rep. John Walsh, R- Livonia, chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
"This will in no way affect a citizen's right to a speedy trial or full access to justice through the court system," Walsh added. "It is overdue reform that will save taxpayer money in the long run, and will bring our judicial system to the correct size."
When complete, the cuts will save the state approximately $6 million per year. The state will save about $750,000 by the end of 2012 from five open judicial seats that will be eliminated by the legislation.
The bills are based on the Judicial Resources Recommendations, a 2011 report issued by the State Court Administrative Office, the administrative agency of the Michigan Supreme Court. The report called for cutting 45 trial court judgeships in courts where the workload could be handled by fewer judges.
Young noted that SCAO has recommended cutting judgeships for many years. "But past Legislatures weren't inclined to act," he said. "The Senate and the House have taken a much-needed step by cutting judgeships that are no longer justified by the workload. This right-sizing of our judiciary is the front edge of reforms we need to make for a more service-oriented and efficient court system."
Young said that the Supreme Court unanimously supported the 2011 Judicial Resources Recommendations and that the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Judges Association, the Michigan Probate Judges Association, and the Michigan District Judges Association also endorsed the findings. He also credited the State Bar of Michigan for calling for setting the number of judgeships based on workload.
SCAO, the Supreme Court's administrative agency, issues a Judicial Resources Recommendations report every two years. For more information on the 2011 report, visit http:/www.courts.michigan.gov/supremecourt/Press/2011JRR.html.
Published: Thu, Feb 16, 2012