Changes to caseflow management guidelines proposed

Cattle Drive
Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’ …
Keep movin’, movin’, movin’,
Though they’re disapprovin’,
Keep them judges movin’ Rawhide!

Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’
Though the files are swollen
Keep them dockets rollin’ Rawhide!

– Apologies to Ned Washington, lyricist of “Rawhide,” the theme song for the same-named 1959 hit television western series starring 29-year-old Clint Eastwood.

The Michigan Supreme Court is considering whether to scrap the current trial court caseflow management guidelines in Administrative Order 2003-7. The guidelines would be replaced with a new set, Proposed Administrative Order No. 2010-X, which gives trial courts more time to decide certain categories of cases and less time for others.

In AO 2003-7, the Court directed the State Court Administrator to come up with caseflow plans within the guidelines, gather information from the trial courts and assess whether the plans were effective. The order required the trial courts to follow along.

In the proposed order, the MSC has included this language to coax cooperation:

Trial courts are directed to report caseflow management statistics and data to enable the State Court administrative Office to assist trial courts in improving caseflow management. The State Court Administrative Office does not intend to use these data in a punitive fashion or to publish these data for public review.

And no dismissals, please, just to make the numbers look better but take your time if you must:

The Court does not encourage or condone the practice of trial courts dismissing cases for the sole reason that the case is likely to exceed the guideline. In addition, these guidelines do not supplant judicial discretion if, for good cause shown, a specific case of any type requires a time line that extends beyond the maximum permitted under these guidelines.

Apparently AO 2003-7 set the bar a little too high. Under the proposal, most of the guidelines are more generous that the existing ones. Some have been eliminated. From the proposed order’s staff comment:

The following list summarizes the changes that would be made by the proposed order.

  • 1. Add to the beginning of the order language about good cause for delays and remove related language from specific case categories.
  • 2. Move to the beginning of the order language about matters submitted to judge (this language currently exists at the end of the order).
  • 3. Eliminate all interim guidelines, leaving only initial and final guidelines.
  • 4. Decrease time for adjudicating 90% of mental illness petitions from 14 to 7 days. This time frame would apply to probate and circuit courts.
  • 5. Eliminate guidelines for miscellaneous cases in probate court.
  • 6. Decrease the percentage for preliminary examinations within 14 days from 100% to 80%. Add a 100% guideline for conclusion within 28 days. Extend the goals to include both commencement and conclusion of the examination.
  • 7. Increase the time for adjudicating 90% of divorce cases without children from 91 to 182 days.
  • 8. Increase the time for adjudicating 90% of divorce cases with children from 245 to 301 days.
  • 9. Eliminate guidelines for responding interstate registration cases.
  • 10. Increase the time for adjudicating name change from 91 to 126 days.
  • 11. Increase the time for adjudicating 90% of felony cases from 91 to 154 days.

Update March 24, 2010: Our friends at the State Bar of Michigan’s SBM Blog have posted some detailed information about the prep work done before the new caseflow management guidelines were proposed.

See, “Go With the Flow? Check Out the Michigan Supreme Court’s Proposed New Caseflow Management Guidelines.”


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