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MI Supreme Court-appointed panel seeks funding strategy for local courts

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The Michigan Judicial Council is focused on is equitable funding for local courts.

A panel created by the Michigan Supreme Court is seeking public input on ways to improve access to justice.

“For the first time in Michigan history, we have brought together a wide range of stakeholders to develop a strategic plan with a unified vision for the judicial branch,” Chief Justice Bridget McCormack said in a written statement. “We want to hear from the public about their experiences in our courts and what we can do to make our judiciary function better for everyone.”

One key area the 29-member Michigan Judicial Council is focused on is equitable funding for local courts.

Michigan’s Constitution says the state is supposed to have a single unified court system, but local courts still operate with disparate resources.

“The problem with money in the system persists and so it needs to be fixed once and for all,” said Michigan State Court Administrator Thomas Boyd, who is a former judge. He says it’s not fair that some circuit and district courts rely more heavily than others on revenue from fines. He says that creates an incentive for judges to levy fines to keep their courts operating.

“If we separate the concept of bringing money in and how much money it costs to operate the court not only will we provide better justice in every case,” he said. “But we will begin to tackle funding disparities community by community.”

The Michigan Judicial Council’s next meeting is March 8.

How to participate:

Commenters may either submit their feedback in writing or present during the meeting. (Complete this fillable PDF form to indicate your preference and send to MJC@courts.mi.gov.)

The public can also view the meeting on the Court’s YouTube page.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.