Michigan Supreme Court

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Michigan Supreme Court
712 michigan hofj edit.jpg
Established 1837
Country Michigan Michigan
 United States
Location Lansing
Composition method Non-partisan election
Authorized by Michigan Constitution
Decisions are appealed to Supreme Court of the United States
Judge term length 8 years
Number of positions 7 (including chief justice)
Website http://courts.michigan.gov/supremecourt/
Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court
Currently Robert P. Young, Jr.
Since 2011
Lead position ends 2013
Jurist term ends January 1, 2019

The Michigan Supreme Court is the highest court in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is Michigan's court of last resort and consists of seven justices. The Court is located in the Michigan Hall of Justice at 925 Ottawa Street in Lansing, the state capital.


Unity Rules on Michigan’s Supreme Court

A recent guest editorial in the Detroit News by Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. and Justice Bridget McCormack highlighted increasing cohesion and collaboration on the court. For example, during the term that ended in July 2014, the Court issued 38 opinions, covering 48 cases that were argued, along with several thousand orders disposing of other cases. These opinions addressed a wide range of issues that affect the daily lives of Michigan residents, from the safety of our families to the size of our paychecks.

During the term, the Court spoke unanimously 15 times – compared to just a handful in previous terms. In addition, looking at cases decided by a 5-2 majority only divided along party lines only once. The members of the Michigan Supreme Court are not governed by politics but by the rule of law. For more information on the Supreme Court’s 2013-2014 term visit: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20140808/OPINION01/308080005

Michigan's Court of Last Resort

Each year, the Court receives approximately 2,000 new case filings. In most cases, the litigants seek review of Michigan Court of Appeals decisions, but the Supreme Court also hears cases of attorney and judicial misconduct, as well as a small number of matters over which the Court has original jurisdiction. In 2013 alone, the Michigan Supreme Court received 1,884 case filings and 1,789 dispositions.

The Court issues a decision by order or opinion in all cases filed with it. Opinions and orders of the Court are reported in an official publication, Michigan Reports, as well as in Thomson West's privately published North Western Reporter.

Administration of the courts[edit]

The Court's other duties include overseeing the administration and operations of all state courts, and exercises that oversight through the State Court Administrative Office,[1] one of its agencies. The Court's responsibilities also include a public comment process for changes to court rules, rules of evidence and other administrative matters.

In particular, the SCAO is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and publishing data regarding the performance of Michigan trial courts. These performance measures data are used to help trial courts identify and reward superior performance, address potential problem areas, and improve service to the public. SCAO also provides administrative support to trial courts through five regional administrative offices and through several divisions in the Hall of Justice in Lansing.

In 2013, trial courts conducted the first annual statewide public satisfaction survey. Over, 21,000 people responded to questions about accessibility, fairness, and effectiveness.

Measuring Performance, Improving Outcomes

•Public gives high marks to Michigan trial courts. 94 percent agreed or strongly agreed that they were treated with courtesy and respect by court staff and 81 percent agreed or strongly agreed that the way the case was handled was fair.

•Cases are adjudicated in a timely manner. In 2013, 96 percent of trial court cases were adjudicated within the time guidelines established by the Michigan Supreme Court. Trial courts continue to manage caseflow to ensure that justice is not delayed.

•Problem-solving courts make a difference. These programs focus on addictions and destructive behaviors. By using intensive treatment and other services, backed by the threat of court sanctions, these programs address issues that will otherwise trap the offender in a vicious circle of crime Michigan’s problem solving courts include drug, sobriety, family dependency, juvenile drug, mental health and veteran’s courts.

Implementing New Technology, Working Smarter

•E-Resources are now available to the public. SCAO is committed to helping trial courts share innovative ideas and use new technology where it would be beneficial.

•New “One Court of Justice” site praised. In 2012, the Court launched its redesigned website that eliminated outdated content and improved search functionality. Since then, traffic to the site has doubled has reached nearly one million page views per month and the site was recently rated in the top ten for courts worldwide by the Forum on the Advancement of Court Technology.

•MiCOURT case management system has launched. Developed by the Judicial Information Systems division of the State Court Administrative Office, MiCOURT will provide the trial courts with state-of-the-art features that save time and money.

•“Video transports” save the Michigan Department of Corrections more than $2 million annually. In 2013, Michigan’s courts increasingly used video equipment to hold hearings with incarcerated offenders, thereby reducing risks and expenses of transporting prisoners to court.

•More courts are now accepting online payment. 118 courts are currently accepting payments through the web as a convenience to the public.

•45 million court records shared electronically. The Judicial Data Warehouse is a central electronic repository for court records where courts, law enforcement agencies, and the Secretary of State can access records from other courts to obtain a “court history” for an individual. Since 2010, the number of “hits” to the warehouse has nearly doubled to nearly 400,000 last year.

Reengineering Courts, Increasing Efficiency

•In 2013, 15 courts received grants to test innovations. The Court Performance Innovation Fund (CPIF) Grant, encourages Michigan’s trial courts to create and test groundbreaking programs.

•Business court dockets are now established. In 17 countries, the court appointed one or more judges to handle business-to-business disputes with a goal of timely and predictable solutions. These courts have already generated more than 60 published opinions.

•Courts share resources. Courts in 64 of Michigan’s 83 counties have concurrent jurisdiction plans or are developing them.

•Multi-court chief judges provide leadership. The Court has promoted greater efficiency and consolidation by appointing 46 chief judges to oversee two or more courts. Historically, there was a different chief judge for each of the 244 trial courts and only nine multi-court chief judges as recently as 2011.

Review of Judicial Misconduct

Article 6, Section 30 of the Michigan Constitution creates the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission. This is an agency within the judiciary, having jurisdiction over allegations of judicial misconduct, misbehavior, and infirmity. The Supreme Court is given original, superintending control power, and appellate jurisdiction over the issue of penalty (up to and including removal of judges from office).[2]


The Michigan Supreme Court can be dated back to the Supreme Court of Michigan Territory, established in 1805 with three justices. These justices served for indefinite terms. In 1823, the terms of justices were limited to four years.

The Michigan Supreme Court was the only court created by the first Michigan constitution in 1837. It had three members and each also oversaw one of the three judicial circuits, located in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo. The court needed a quorum of two to operate and members were appointed to seven-year terms by the governor with the consent of the senate. In 1838, Justice William A. Fletcher proposed a new plan for the court that the legislature approved. This increased the number of circuits to four and thus expanded the bench to four justices, but left the quorum at two.

In 1848, the court was expanded to five justices and the 1850 Michigan constitution provided that they be elected for six-year terms. In 1858, the Circuit Courts were split from the Supreme Court, so justices now only served on the Michigan Supreme Court and reduced its size to only four justices, one of whom was the Chief Justice.

In 1887, the court was expanded to five justices each serving for ten years. The court was again expanded in 1903 to eight justices serving terms of eight-years. In 1964, the new state constitution set the number of justices on the court at seven.


The Supreme Court consists of seven justices who are elected to eight-year terms. Candidates are nominated by political parties and are elected on a nonpartisan ballot. Supreme Court candidates must be qualified electors, licensed to practice law in Michigan for at least five years, and under 70 years of age at the time of election. Vacancies are filled by appointment of the Governor until the next general election. Every two years, the justices elect a member of the Court to serve as Chief Justice.

The Michigan Constitution allows vacancies on the state Supreme Court to be initially filled by the Governor, with that appointee serving until the next general election, at which time the elected winner is seated to fill the remaining portion of the vacated term.[3]

Current Justices[edit]

Following the 2012 election, the court had a 4-3 conservative Republican majority, with Robert P. Young, Jr. serving as Chief Justice. The resignation of Justice Diane Hathaway in January 2013 created a 4-2 majority, and her position was filled by David Viviano, a Republican appointed by fellow Republican governor Rick Snyder creating a 5-2 majority.[4]

The current Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court are:

Name Elected/Appointed Term expires Appointing Governor Party Affiliation Law School Attended
Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. 1999 January 1, 2019 John Engler / Elected Republican Harvard University Law School
Michael Cavanagh 1982 January 1, 2015 Elected Democrat University of Detroit Mercy School of Law
Stephen Markman 1999 January 1, 2021 John Engler / Elected Republican University of Cincinnati College of Law
Mary Beth Kelly 2010 January 1, 2019 Elected Republican University of Notre Dame Law School
Brian K. Zahra 2011 January 1, 2015 Rick Snyder / Elected Republican University of Detroit Mercy School of Law
Bridget Mary McCormack 2012 January 1, 2021 Elected Democrat New York University Law School
David Viviano 2013 January 1, 2015 Rick Snyder Republican University of Michigan Law School

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • Noto, Scott A. A Brief History of the Michigan Supreme Court. (Lansing: Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, 2001).

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°44′01″N 84°33′56″W / 42.733664°N 84.565431°W / 42.733664; -84.565431