Michigan's "One Court of Justice"

picture of ThemisMichigan's concept of "One Court of Justice" was introduced in 1963 by Article VI, Section 1 of the Michigan Constitution. Under this principle the judicial system functions as an integrated unit consisting of one supreme court, one court of appeals, one trial court (known as the circuit court), and several trial courts of limited jurisdiction.

Each court performs a certain role within the judicial system according to the jurisdiction given to it by the Michigan Legislature. This jurisdiction is outlined in various Michigan statutes. In addition to establishing "One Court of Justice", the Michigan Constitution authorized the appointment of a state court administrator to assist courts with administrative duties and tasks.

Organizational Structure

The Otsego County Judicial System is comprised of three different constitutional or statutory courts. These courts are the 46th Circuit Court, the 87-A District Court and the Otsego County Probate Court. The Michigan Supreme Court appoints a chief judge in each of these courts who is empowered to exercise administrative authority over court staff and court operations of the respective court.

With the approval from the Michigan Supreme Court, all of the elected judges serving Otsego County entered into an agreement called a Concurrent Jurisdiction Plan, whereby the entire judicial system operates as a unified trial court within Otsego County. This merged court system results in a more efficient use of judges and court personnel, simplifies case handling, reduces repetition, provides for better service to the citizens in Otsego County, continues to curtail the rising costs of the judicial system where practical, and results in a reduction of receivables due the court.

Judges are elected for six-year terms and judicial workloads are based on time, event and location. With the exception of centralized administration, court personnel are generally assigned to a specific division. However, based on needs, staff is transferred between divisions as necessary at the direction of court administration.

One court administrator is appointed to assist the three chief judges with all administrative matters of the judicial system. The court administrator meets regularly with all judges to discuss and review policies, goals and objectives of the unified trial court, analyze problems, and to seek solutions to challenges when needed. To assist the court and provide a conduit for communications between the courts and county commissioners, the court administrator meets regularly with commissioners to discuss issues. The court administrator regularly meets with staff to provide updates on changes in laws, court procedures and to keep staff informed of events that affect the Otsego County Judicial System.

Court policies, procedures and rules are governed by one of the following authorities: Federal and Michigan Constitutions, Federal or Michigan Statutes, Michigan Court Rules, Michigan Supreme Court Administrative Orders, directives from the State Court Administrator’s Office, directives from state regulatory agencies, or local directives from the Chief Judges.

Budget Process

The Otsego County Judicial System is funded from a variety of sources. For general court operations a unified general fund court budget is approved for revenues and expenditures of the courts. In matters dealing with juvenile justice a separate Child Care Fund Budget is approved. Fro account monitoring purposes, a separate Friend of the Court budget is approved since some expenses are reimbursed (approximately 66%) by the State of Michigan based on a formula measuring child support collections state-wide. In addition there is a 215 Fund budget to offset some expenses for Friend of the Court operations.

Other budgets encompass expenses for jury boards, law libraries, and various grants the court receives to run a Drug Court. All revenues collected by the Trial Court are deposited with the county treasurer. Revenues from the court are generated through various fees assessed for clerical filings, criminal or traffic judgments, and reimbursements from the State or from various grants. The State pays the salary of the judges. Court staff is classified on an employee classification system established by the State Court Administrative Office. Depending on the staff position and funding source, some salaries and benefits are reimbursed from 16.5% to 100% back to the funding unit.

Division Work Assignments

Based on Case Filing Type: (in alphabetical order by topic)

Topic Court
Adoptions Family Court
Child Protective Proceedings Family Court
Conservatorship Probate Court
Custody Matters Family Court
Decedent’s Estates Probate Court
Delinquency Family Court
Divorce Family Court if children are involved
Circuit Court if no children are involved
Driver’s License Restoration Circuit Court
Emancipation Family Court
Felony Criminal Cases Family Court if defendant is under 17 years old
Begin in the District Court if defendant is over 17 years old
Adult defendant trials are in the Circuit Court
General Civil Lawsuits District Court for claims of $25,000 or less
District Court for claims over $25,000
Guardianships Probate Court
Landlord/Tenant Cases District Court
Marriages District or Probate Court
Mentally Impaired Proceedings Probate Court
Misdemeanor Criminal Cases Family Court if defendant is under 17 years old
District Court if defendant is over 17 years old
Municipal Civil Infractions District Court
Name Changes Family Court
Parenting Time Family Court
Paternity Family Court
Personal Protection Orders Filed with the County Clerk; any judge will handle case
Small Claims District Court
State Law Civil Infractions District Courts
Support Hearings Family Court
Traffic and Parking Infractions District Court
Waiver/Parental Consent-Abortion Family Court
Wills and Trusts Probate Court