Legislation Would Transfer the Court of Claims to the Michigan Court of Appeals
Senate Bill 652 was originally introduced in the Michigan Senate on October 24, 2013 by Senator Rick Jones and assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Since then, it has been on a fast track passing in the Senate 26 to 11 and passing in the House 57 to 52. It was enrolled on November 7th and presented to the Governor on November 8th. After approval by the Governor, Senate Bill 652 which would be given immediate effect, would transfer the Court of Claims from the 30th Judicial Circuit, Ingham County Circuit Court, to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
The following, from the Senate Fiscal Analysis, describes this major shifting of responsibility which also includes tax appeals from the Department of Treasury. Senate Bill 652 is separate and not in any way related to the Department of Treasury proposal to eliminate the Tax Tribunal and Court of Claims for tax appeals which I reported on my Tuesday, November 5th Blog. See link below:
The Court of Claims is the court with the jurisdiction over claims and demands against the State of Michigan and any of its departments, commissions, boards, institutions, arms, or agencies. It also has jurisdiction over any counterclaim on the part of the state against any claimant who brings an action in the Court of Claims.
Currently, under Chapter 64 the Revised Judicature Act, [MCL 600.308 et al.] the Court of Claims is created as a function of the Circuit Court for the 30th Judicial Circuit, Ingham County. A judge of that circuit, and any judge the State Court Administrator assigns into that circuit, may exercise the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims.
Under Senate Bill 652 , the Court of Claims would consist of four appeals court judges from at least two Court of Appeals districts assigned by the Michigan Supreme Court. An appeals court judge, while sitting as a judge of the Court of Claims, could exercise the jurisdiction of the Court of Claims. A judge assigned as a judge of the Court of Claims would be assigned for a term of two years and could be reassigned. The term would expire on May 1 of each odd-numbered year.
When a judge who was sitting as a judge of the Court of Claims left office or was otherwise unable to serve as a judge of the Court of Claims, the Supreme Court could assign a Court of Appeals judge to serve for the remainder of the judge's term on the Court of Claims. The Supreme Court would have to select a chief judge of the Court of Claims from among the Court of Appeals judges assigned to it.
All matters pending in the Court of Claims as of the bill's effective date would be transferred 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.
The Supreme Court would have power to make special rules for the Court of Claims.
Senate Bill 652 also would do the following:
- Allow Court of Claims sessions to be held in the various Court of Appeals districts, and allow a plaintiff to file a cause of action in the Court of Claims in any Court of Appeals district. The court's clerk would assign a cause of action filed in the court by blind draw to a Court of Appeals judge sitting as a Court of Claims judge.
- Require the Court of Claims to sit in the Court of Appeals district where the judge serving as Court of Claims judge otherwise sits, unless otherwise determined by the chief judge.
- Require, as now, the court to hold at least four sessions each year.
- Require all fees in the Court of Claims to be at the rate established by statute or court rule for actions in the circuit court, not the appeals court, and to be paid to the Court of Claims clerk.
- Delete a provision that requires the state to reimburse Ingham County for costs incurred in operating the Court of Claims.
- Grant the Court of Appeals original jurisdiction over challenges to the transfer of the Court of Claims from the 30th Circuit to the Court of Appeals.
The bill would rewrite the section describing the jurisdiction of the court. Under the bill, except as otherwise provided, the Court of Claims would have the jurisdiction to do the following:
- Hear and determine any claim or demand or any demand, statutory or constitutional . . . or any demand for monetary, equitable, or declaratory relief or any demand for an extraordinary writ against the state or "any of its departments or officers," notwithstanding another law that confers jurisdiction of the case in the circuit court.
- Hear and determine any counterclaim on the part of the state, or any of its departments or officers, against any claimant who brought an action in the Court of Claims.
- Appoint and use a special master as considered necessary.
- Hear and determine any action challenging the validity of a notice of the transfer of pending and future Court of Claims matters from the 30th Circuit Court to the Court of Appeals.
The bill would define "the state or any of its departments or officers" to mean this state or any state governing, legislative, or judicial body, department, commission, board, institution, arm, or agency of the state, or officers, employees, or volunteers of any of those entities, acting, or who reasonably believes that they are acting, within the scope of their authority while engaged in or discharging a government function in the course of their duties.
Under the Revised Judicature Act, the State Administrative Board is vested with discretionary authority, upon the advice of the Attorney General, to hear, consider, determine, and allow any claim against the state in an amount less than $1,000.
The bill also contains statements that Chapter 64:
(1) does not deprive the circuit court of exclusive jurisdiction over appeals from the district court and administrative agencies as authorized by law and (2) does not deprive the circuit court of exclusive jurisdiction to issue, hear, and determine prerogative and remedial writs under Article VI, Section 13, of the State Constitution.
Finally, and I repeat, Senate Bill 652 is separate and not in any way related to the Department of Treasury proposal to eliminate the Tax Tribunal and Court of Claims for tax appeals.