Michigan Court Records
How do Michigan Courts work?
The Supreme Court is the highest legal power in the state of Michigan, and mainly reviews the decisions made by the Court of Appeals, weighing in on any conflicts and precedents when needed. The Court of Appeals in turn reviews any contested decisions in the inferior state courts. There include the 83 superior or trial courts across the 83 Michigan counties.
Civil Cases and Small Claims
In Michigan, civil cases are those in which the petitioner is looking for more than $250,000. However, civil courts also deal with non-monetary disputes such as name changes, restraining orders, and property disputes. Around 150,000 civil court records are filed on average each year. On the other hand, small claims courts in Michigan deal with cases in which the petitioner is looking for below $3,000. Just under 150,000 of these cases are filed each year, and can include dispute over warranties, deposits, and loans. The small claims court can also order a defendant to do something, like pay back a loan.
Appeals and court limits
There are many differences between the appeals process and court limits in both small claims court and civil cases. In small claims cases, a person does not have to be a US citizen to file or defend, and can hire an interpreter if they do not have a good grasp of the English language. However, you cannot use pretrial discovery or have a lawyer accompany you and file papers for you in small claims court. In civil cases all of these things are allowed. Either party can also appeal in civil court, compared to just the defendant in small claims court. Small claims cases must be complete within 30-70 days, compared to the 120 days allowed in civil cases. Filing fees also differ, with a cost of $30-$100 in small claims court, and $180-$320 in civil court.
Why are court records public?
The Michigan Freedom of Information Act was passed back in 1889 by the state legislature. The most recent amendment to the act was in 1977, since which point courts have favoured disclosure with only a few exemptions. The act was put in place to ensure that members of the public could access public records. The person requesting access to records is also not required to give a reason for why they are doing so. This is because the Freedom of Information Act states that it is a fundamental right for Michigan residents to have access to government records at all levels. This promotes accountability and a sense of openness. The law is similar to the Michigan Open Meetings Act which governs how public meetings are conducted.
A person can request records at:
Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan Hall of Justice
925 W. Ottawa Street
Lansing, MI 48915
Phone: (517) 373-0120