State trial courts are rarely entirely funded via state-level appropriations; there is often a mix of state and local funding with the majority of funding in some locations coming from the locality itself. Michigan’s trial courts have just such a mixture and may, under legislation approved by the House on a 65-44 vote this week, be able to sue localities that fail to provide “serviceable levels” of funding.
Under HB 5076 as amended, a court funded by a county would have standing to bring a suit against the legislative body of that local unit concerning a general appropriations act, including any challenge to serviceable levels of funding for that court. The bill includes a presumption that a county general appropriations act “is presumed to fund those activities of a county mandated by law at a serviceable level.”
In addition, county-funded courts would also have standing to bring suit against the chief administrative officer of that county concerning an action relating to the administration, execution, and enforcement of a general appropriations act for that court.
The bill would not apply to courts in the Third Judicial Circuit (i.e. Detroit), as they are funded by the city in which they are located and not a county.
Before a court brings suit either against the legislative body or the chief administrative office, a mediator would have to certify in writing that the parties were unable to resolve the issues by mediation. Suits involving the trial court’s funding would have to be filed directly with the Court of Appeals.
The Court of Appeals “shall consider the financial ability of the county to pay when considering any challenge as to serviceable levels of funding.” Moreover, the Court of Appeals would be prohibited from transferring the case to any other court, but could request retired judge be appointed by the Supreme Court to resolve discovery issues, review the evidence, and make proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law.
The bill is now in the Senate’s Judiciary Committee.