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Introduction to Federal and State Court Systems: State Court Systems (Michigan)

One Court of Justice

Article VI, Section 1 of the Michigan Constitution, states, “The judicial power of the state is vested exclusively in one court of justice[.] . . . “


Michigan Trial Courts

  • Three basic divisions: civil, criminal, and family
  • Civil division handles general civil cases over $25,000
  • Criminal division handles felony criminal cases
  • Family division may hear cases in domestic relations and/or juvenile matters
    • Domestic relations division handles cases regarding divorces, custody, parenting time, support, and paternity
    • Juvenile division hears adoption, juvenile delinquency, and child abuse and neglect (termination of parental rights) cases
  • Hears appeals from district court and administrative appeals
  • Hears criminal misdemeanors cases and preliminary hearings in felony cases
  • General civil cases up to $25,000
  • Small claims and landlord-tenant cases
  • Civil infractions (i.e., traffic, parking, municipal or state civil infractions)
  • Court of limited jurisdiction
  • Handles guardianship, conservatorship, protective proceedings, estates, trusts, and mental health cases
  • Jury trials are permitted
  • Court of limited jurisdiction
  • May hear misdemeanor cases and preliminary stages of felony cases in criminal matters
  • General civil claims up to $1500
  • Landlord tenant proceedings
  • Civil infractions (i.e., traffic offenses, municipal or state civil infractions)
  • May conduct marriages

Michigan Intermediate Appellate Level

  • Michigan's intermediate appellate court
  • There are four districts within the Michigan Court of Appeals
    • Example: District I sits in Detroit and includes Wayne, Monroe, and Lenawee counties
  • 27 judges (Note--current court size is limited to 24 judges, which will be accomplished through attrition)
  • Hears appeals by right from circuit court, court of claims, probate court, and other tribunals pursuant to law or rule
  • Considers applications for leave to appeal and grants leave to appeal as a matter of discretion
  • Cases are heard by panels of 3 judges
  • Published opinions can be found in the Michigan Appeals Report (Mich App) or the North Western Reporter (NW)
  • Court of limited jurisdiction
  • Hears civil action cases brought against the state of Michigan and/or its agencies (examples include medical malpractice, highway defects, contracts, constitutional claims, etc.)
  • 4 Court of Appeals judges are assigned to the Court of Claims by the Michigan Supreme Court, but each case is heard by a single judge
  • Operates much like a circuit court but there is no right to a jury trial

Michigan Supreme Court

  • Court of last resort
  • Cases come mainly from the Court of Appeals
  • Supreme Court has discretion in determining which cases it will hear
  • One chief justice and six justices hear cases as one panel
  • Hears approximately 100 cases per year generally involving an interpretation issue regarding the Michigan Constitution or a point of law upon which the lower courts are in disagreement
  • All decisions are published and may be found in Michigan Reporter (Mich) or North Western Reporter (NW)