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Chief Justice Clement outlines Supreme Court budgetary needs

Michigan Supreme Court
Wikipedia Media Commons
Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan judiciary outlined millions in proposed budget changes to state lawmakers this week.

A large piece of that money would support a statewide case management system that had been previously discussed but not funded.

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Elizabeth Clement told the House Appropriations subcommittee on Judiciary it would make local courts more efficient.

“What we asked for last year and what we’re asking for and what we’re working on will be a system that we have where we can have every single court and all of their information in one place where we can pull that information so that policy decisions can be made from that,” Clement said.

Local governments that use the system currently pay user fees to take part. The $12.5 million request for general fund dollars for the statewide system would include $6.5 million to make up for the state taking over those costs. That’s among the recommendations listed by the Trial Court Funding Commission.

The commission’s report dates back to 2019.

During the appropriations hearing, state Representative Sarah Lightner(R-Springport) brought up the point that several task forces and commissions have found a need for the state’s court system to better handle its information.

“When we reference data, Michigan has done a terrible job with — I don’t want to say collecting it because we have it — it’s basically kind of processing it and figuring out what’s going on within our court system, within our jails, all of that,” Lightner said.

She expressed support for the court’s initiatives.

Clement also asked lawmakers to fund a new data transparency project. That would involve publishing collected court case data to a nationwide platform, then working with local communities on setting new goals.

Clement said creating that transparency framework has been harder than it seems.

“I would not be surprised if some judges are opposed because they are concerned about what the data might show. But that’s precisely why this project is so important. We need to see the data. All of Michigan needs to see the data and understand what it means. Then we can set goals together to improve the equity of our justice system,” Clement said.

She told lawmakers Michigan would be alone among states in terms of having an accountability and transparency system of this nature.

State Court Administrator Tom Boyd has been working on the project with the group Measures for Justice. He said the project is a long way from reaching the end but it could reveal a variety of information to the public.

“Potentially you would be able to see how individual courts compare to their neighbors as it relates to things like pleas and reductions of charges and the percentage of people of color related to the community versus those in the court system. Things like that,” Boyd said.

A third major funding area discussed before the committee was around $2 million for establishing a Juvenile Justice Services Division within the State Court Administrative Office. That also came from a task force recommendation.

Some smaller proposed changes in judiciary spending during the state’s next budget include money to beef up supreme court justice security, the state’s Justice for All initiative, and domestic violence support grants.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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