When you think about the Supreme Court, you probably think about groundbreaking laws, many of which have made history. However, you might not think about individual states and how each state’s Supreme Court operates. As it turns out, every one is quite unique in their own way, although they also have many things in common. With regard to the Michigan Supreme Court, there are several things that make it rather interesting. If you never thought that it was possible for the government entity whose job is to make laws, to be interesting and even quirky at times, then you should read through this list of 15 interesting facts about the Michigan Supreme Court. Chances are, you’ll have an entirely different outlook on things once you’re finished.
1. It’s located in that state’s Hall of Justice
As a matter of fact, the Hall of Justice refers to a section of town in Lansing, the state’s capital, where this and many other law buildings are located. The idea is to have all of the buildings in close proximity to one another in order to make it easier for them to conduct day-to-day operations. In addition, it also makes it easier for individuals who are required to make stops at any of these buildings, as they can typically park in a singular location and then go throughout the complex in order to obtain or drop off research as well as work on cases. Of course, the Supreme Court of the state itself is a rather exclusive building. As such, it is highly uncommon for people to find themselves there unless they have a bona fide reason for being there, such as being a justice who serves on that state’s Supreme Court.
2. There are seven justices that preside over it
Speaking of justices, the Michigan Supreme Court currently operates with seven of them at any one given time. However, that hasn’t always been the case. As a matter of fact, they have changed the number of justices that serve at any one given time several different times over the course of their existence. At this particular point in time, it doesn’t look like they plan on making any major changes to the way that they operate. However, more will be discussed about that later on.
3. It’s considered the court of last resort within the state
As you might have already guessed, the Michigan Supreme Court is considered the last resort for any cases that are being heard within the state. Just like the Federal Supreme Court, they do not decide cases that haven’t already been heard elsewhere, with one major exception. That will also be discussed later on. Typically, the cases that they decide have already been through the court system in the state. As such, it was either impossible to arrive at ruling for one reason or another, such as in the case of a hung jury or they are deciding a case that has been highly contested throughout the state for a number of years. In most cases, this is the situation. When cases go through the Michigan court system without being resolved or the same case is appealed several times over, the Michigan Supreme Court will often step in because that is the only way to definitively decide a particular case. It’s also worth mentioning that they don’t necessarily operate in the same manner as other court systems within the state. As opposed to bringing in juries and such, they decide on cases based on the opinions of the seven justices that are serving at that point in time. In other words, the case may be decided in favor of or against based on the opinions of those seven individuals. If a case is discussed and four of the seven justices want to rule in a particular manner, then that is the deciding factor. Of course, the case can be appealed again, but only by taking it directly to the Federal Supreme Court, as that is the only court that is higher than each individual state’s Supreme Court.
4. They often settle cases that have been ongoing for a number of years
As you can imagine, they typically settle cases that have been tied up in litigation for years. It isn’t like they have cases that typically go directly to them after only going through the court system for a few months. These are the types of cases that have typically been floating from one court to another throughout the state for quite some time and have been appealed several times over. Even still, they decide a significant number of cases each and every year. As a matter of fact, the sheer number of cases that they have, which will be discussed later on, speaks volumes about the way that the court system operates as well as the fact that it’s not always a cut-and-dried decision when deciding how a case goes.
5. They get approximately 2,000 cases every year
Remember, they get a significant number of cases each and every year. Typically, they see about 2,000 cases every year. Considering the fact that they serve as the Supreme Court for a single state, this is a significant number of cases because they aren’t seeing minor cases that are eventually decided within a lower court system. In order to better put that into perspective, consider this fact. There are only 365 days in the year. They typically get roughly 2,000 cases on a yearly basis, sometimes a bit more. When you look at it in that context, you realize that they would have to decide slightly more than six cases a day, provided that they worked seven days a week throughout the entire year. Since that obviously isn’t the case, it becomes easier to understand what workload the justices are facing because they have to fit the number of cases that they get into the number of days that the court is actually in session.
6. They decide on cases involving judicial or attorney misconduct
Remember how the overwhelming majority of their cases are those which have already made their way through the court system with little or no decision, as well as those that have been appealed several times over? If you will look back, there was one major exception to that rule and this is it. The Supreme Court in Michigan deals with cases of both judicial and attorney misconduct. In other words, if any judge or attorney within the state is accused of possible misconduct, this is a case that goes directly to the Supreme Court in Michigan as opposed to floating through lower courts within the state before being handed over to the Supreme Court. That’s because they have a judicial section that operates strictly for these purposes. In addition, there is legal verbiage for the state of Michigan that dictates that their Supreme Court will handle any and all cases of judicial and attorney misconduct directly.
7. They have their own official publication
Believe it or not, they have their very own official publication where each and every one of their rulings are published on an annual basis. It’s not the most creative moniker in the world, but the name of the publication is Michigan Reports. If you are looking for information about a particular ruling, you can find it in this publication, provided you know what year that ruling was made.
8. All of their ruling are also published in a private publication dedicated to their efforts
Of course, this isn’t the only publication that is dedicated to the Michigan Supreme Court and its rulings. There is another private publication that also exists solely for this purpose. It’s called the “North Western Reporter.” You might be asking yourself why there is a need for two publications that are dedicated to the Michigan Supreme Court rulings. It’s important to make the distinction that while there are two that exist within the state, only one of them is an official publication that is endorsed by the Michigan Supreme Court itself. Since the other one is a private publication, you may be able to find information about the rulings, but it’s also highly likely that you will find a great deal of opinion on each of those rulings as well. If you’re looking for straight facts and little else, it’s probably best to stick with the official publication and make your own conclusions.
9. The establishment is more than 200 years old
People often get tripped up on the age of the Michigan Supreme Court because it wasn’t officially designated until 1836, making it almost 200 years old. However, it was actually made an official entity as far back as 1805, meaning that it’s currently more than 200 years old. Why is there such a difference? It has everything to do with the fact that when it was first designated in 1805, Michigan was a territory and not a state. Once Michigan officially became a state, it was re-established in 1836. However, it has been operating in one capacity or another for more than 200 years.
10. Judges typically serve for several years there
Once someone is appointed to serve as a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, it usually is an appointment that lasts for a number of years. As a matter of fact, their justices are designated to serve for a term of eight years. Obviously, there are exceptions to this rule. If one of the justices becomes too sick to do his or her job or in a worst-case scenario, passes away, then a new justice will be brought in. Otherwise, they typically serve their entire term of eight years before anyone else is elected to serve in their place.
11. They were once the only court in the entire state
Back when the state was just getting started, the Michigan Supreme Court was indeed the only court in the state. Imagine what it must have been like to decide all of the cases that went through the state at any given point in time. The truth of the matter is that there weren’t as many cases then as there are now because there were far fewer people living within the state compared to today’s numbers. However, it’s interesting to note that there was a point in time when this wasn’t just the highest court in the state, but the only one in operation.
12. They’ve changed the way they operate many times over the years
In addition, they have changed the way that they conduct their operations a number of times over the years. At one point, they only operated with five justices until they decided that the state had grown to a point where it was necessary to have more. They eventually added a sixth justice and today, they have seven of them. By the same token, there was a time when their justices served for a period of 10 years as opposed to only serving for eight. Eventually, they decided that it was better to add more justices and reduce the amount of time that each one would serve as opposed to having fewer of them serve for a longer time. This was a decision largely made to reduce the chances of burnout because the caseload has become so high.
13. However, they haven’t made any such changes since 1969
It’s interesting to note they haven’t made any such changes since their last one in 1969 when they went from a period of 10 years to only eight years of service. Since then, the court has operated in much the same fashion with few, if any major changes.
14. They operate on the basis of semi partisan elections
As previously mentioned, the court operates on the basis of popular opinion according to the seven justices that serve. Since there are seven of them, that means that there will always be an uneven number of Republicans and Democrats serving at any one given time. That has caused a lot of people to believe that they purposefully vote one way or another depending on what their fellow party members are doing.
15. Not many people even qualify to serve there
It isn’t easy to qualify to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court. In order to qualify for the position, individuals have to be a resident of the state. They also have to have practiced law for the last five years or more and they can’t be more than 70 years old at the time they are appointed. As you can imagine, there aren’t a lot of people that fit all of these qualifications. That’s one of the things that makes it so special.