Court of Claims Legislation Developments


Senate Bill 652, restructuring of the Court of Claims and altering its jurisdiction, was introduced on October 24, passed on November 6 with immediate effect, and signed by the Governor on November 13 as Public Act 164 of 2013. The text of the new act is here.
Some key elements of the PA 164 are:
Transfer of the Court of Claims from the jurisdiction of the 30th Circuit Court to the Court of Appeals (COA).
Court of Claims consists of four COA judges from at least two COA districts, assigned by the Supreme Court.
Transfer of all matters pending in the Court of Claims as of the amendatory act's effective date (November 12, 2013) to the clerk of the Court of Appeals, acting as the clerk of the Court of Claims, for assignment to a Court of Appeals judge sitting as a Court of Claims judge.
Expansion of the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims to demands for monetary, equitable, or declaratory relief or any demand for an extraordinary writ against the state or any of its departments or officers, and transfer any of these pending matters in any court on notice by the state to the Court of Claims beginning on the amendatory act's effective date (November 12, 2013).
Where was the State Bar on this issue?
The swift passage of this legislation did not allow the State Bar to advocate a position before the Legislature under the provisions of Michigan Supreme Court Administrative Order 2004-01, which restricts formal action on legislation until 14 days after notice has been posted on the State Bar website. (The 14-day waiting period typically is not a problem; the State Bar's normal timeframe for the adoption of policy position encourages effective notice to members, widespread input, and careful review and consideration of all viewpoints. The Board of Commissioners is exploring options for achieving these goals within an expedited timeframe, under extraordinary circumstances.)
Although the State Bar could not take a position on SB 652, we were able to serve as a resource for timely, reliable information about the bill to interested members, sections, and local bars. Importantly, despite the bill's swift enactment, the legal community as a whole has been actively engaged in providing input. Two sections of the State Bar—the Appellate Practice Section and the Negligence Section—were able to adopt positions under their own bylaws in time to offer testimony before the House committee considering the bill. Their positions, and the subsequent position of the Elder Law section, can be accessed here.
Our members have identified a range of concerns with the legislation and have communicated their views in a number of ways to the Legislature, the Governor, and the Supreme Court—and to us. A "trailer bill," HB 5156, has been introduced to address the right to jury trials affected by PA 164. The Board of Commissioners will discuss the bill at its meeting on Nov. 22, and can adopt a position as early as Dec. 2, in time for legislative hearings on the bill. You can communicate your views on the bill to the State Bar here.
The day after the bill's signing, pursuant to the new act, the Michigan Supreme Court issued an order appointing four judges of the Court of Appeals to sit as the Court of Claims for terms expiring May 1, 2015. They are:
Hon. Michael J. Talbot (Court of Appeals District 1)
Hon. Pat M. Donofrio (Court of Appeals District 2)
Hon. Deborah A. Servitto (Court of Appeals District 2)
Hon. Amy Ronayne Krause (Court of Appeals District 4)
Judge Talbot has been appointed chief judge.
Look for further developments on Court of Claims restructuring in the SBM Blog or on the Public Policy Resource Center. As a reminder, the State Bar's NewsLinks provides a daily round-up of news of interest to lawyers, and our weekly Public Policy Newsletter (sign up here) describes ongoing public policy developments.