State/Local Funding

  • The Michigan Judiciary has a mix of state and local funding. 
  • The state pays for the appellate courts, the administrative office of the courts, and for the salaries of the trial court judges and for some trial court technology.  Trial court clerical staff and judicial support staff, courthouses, operating expenses and equipment are funded locally.
  • The state budget includes appropriations for a trial court case management system (funded through local user fees and used by approximately 70% of the local trial court locations) and a judicial technology improvement fund of approximately $4.5 million that funds various projects benefitting local trial courts such as a judicial data warehouse, e-ticket payment, e-filing, and installation of video conferencing equipment.
  • Many of the local trial courts have faced reductions in recent years, some significant, but information on specific courts would require reviewing each court's budget.  For the largest district court in the state, in the city of Detroit, the adopted budget for FY 2008-09 was a gross budget of $44.2 million with 392 FTEs ($21.5 million revenue funded).  The adopted FY 2012-13 budget is $33.0 million with 285 FTEs ($17.6 million revenue funded).

State Revenue and Appropriations

  • Total state and federal grant appropriations for the Michigan judicial system increased from $256 million in FY12 to $271 million in FY13.  The state general fund appropriation increased from $8.5 billion to $9.0 billion.  The percent of state general funds allocated to the judiciary increased from 1.85% to 1.90%.
  • The FY 12/13 budget includes a $5 million increase in funding for a Swift and Sure Sanctions program (funded at $1 million in FY 11/12) to expand it beyond four pilot courts.  This program is modeled after Hawaii's Opportunity Probation with Enforcement program (HOPE).
  • The budget situation in the next three years is likely to stay relatively the same.

Funding Principles for Judicial Administration

  • The Judicial Branch does not submit its budget directly to the Legislative Branch.  The annual Executive budget recommendation includes budget recommendations for both the Legislature and the Judicial Branch in addition to the Executive Branch.  The Judiciary has a good working relationship with the budget office, and if the courts succeed at justifying increases to them, the Legislature has been more receptive to such changes.  If not, they still have an opportunity to try to convince the Legislature during their legislative budget presentations.  This approach has also made it easier to incorporate necessary changes to personnel costs related to changes in wages and benefits into the budget.
  • The Judiciary does have authority to move funds between Judiciary line items.
  • The budget enables the court to provide and enhance needed technology. 

            1)  A judicial technology improvement fund of approximately $4.5 million is included in the Judiciary’s
                 appropriation to be used for technology innovations at the trial courts.  These include the
                 development of an upgraded case management system, e-filing, e-ticketing, a judicial data
                 warehouse, and video conferencing.  The Judiciary is developing requests for additional funding
                 in FY 2014 to accelerate the progress on these projects.

  • The introduction of technologies has enabled the courts to provide better service to others in government and to the public. 

            1)  The Judiciary has been working with the Michigan Departments of Corrections, Human Services, State
                 Police, and Community Health to reduce travel between prisons and mental health facilities and courts
                 through video conferencing and to more effectively share information between agencies and the
                 courts.  A new and better-organized web site debuted October 2012 to provide better access to 
                 information.  A self-help web site was also introduced in 2012.  The citizens have benefitted by 
                 being able to pay traffic tickets on-line.  Attorneys have improved access to courts who have 
                 implemented e-filing.

Steps Taken to Address Tough Economic Times

Staffing Levels: 

Over the past four years, the number of judges has decreased 1%; the number of central office staff has increased 3%. 

Service Reductions:  State Judicial Branch employees had six unpaid furlough days in FY 2009.

Compensation:  Over the past four years, the state-funded courts have frozen the salaries of judicial officers and court staff and furloughed court staff.  The last salary increase for judges was effective 1/1/2002. State Judicial Branch employees received a 2% salary increase effective 4/1/2007 and did not receive another increase until 10/1/2013 (3%).  Employee contributions to health insurance costs have increased from 5% in FY 2008 to 10% in FY 2009 to 20% in FY 2013.  In the coming year, salaries of judicial officers will remain frozen.

Efficiency Measures:  The Michigan courts have begun implementing e-filing and an enhanced case management system.  They enable law enforcement to file e-citations.  Persons can make e-payment of fees.  The courts have created virtual self-help centers.  In the coming year, the courts will begin to implement an electronic document management system and continue to expand the other technology efficiencies.

Restructuring:  Over the past four years, Michigan has consolidated the number of districts and reallocated judges to districts based upon weighted caseload.  They have made changes to jurisdiction to share judicial workload.   

Business Processes:  The courts are implementing videoconferencing of incarcerated defendants and detained juveniles.  In the coming years, they will implement an enhanced caseflow management program. 

Centralization:  The courts are in the process of centralizing traffic citation processing.

Special Commissions:  In 2009, the State Bar of Michigan formed a Judicial Crossroads Task Force including 28 lawyers and judges.  The task force issued a report in 2011 which included recommendations to reduce judgeships where needed, create specialized dockets such as business, and putting in a standardized statewide computer case-management system.  An Indigent Defense Advisory Committee has recommended new standards and increased funding for court-appointed criminal attorneys.

The Michigan courts are in a better position than four years ago to provide access and timely justice.  The financial situation in the state appears to have stabilized.  Steps taken to improve efficiencies, particularly through technology and the use of performance measures, leave the courts better positioned to provide access and timely justice. 

Reports and Articles

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