Judicial officers could preside by video under MSC proposal

The Wizard of Oz

We’re fairly certain it won’t look like this.

Judicial officers could hold court via video conferencing equipment under a proposed Michigan Supreme Court administrative order.

The proposal would allow judicial officers, under certain circumstances, to preside from a remote location without the parties’ consent.

Remote participation by judicial officers shall be limited to the following specific situations:

1) judicial assignments;

2) circuits and districts that are comprised of more than one county and would require a judicial officer to travel to a different courthouse within the circuit or district;

3) district court districts that have multiple court locations in which a judicial officer would have to travel to a different courthouse within the district;

4) a multiple district plan in which a district court magistrate would have to travel to a different district.

The judicial officer who presides remotely must be physically present in a courthouse located within his or her judicial circuit, district, or multiple district area.

Under the proposed administrative order, multicounty circuit and district courts seeking permission to have judicial officers preside via video equipment must submit a proposed local court rule for the State Court Administrator’s approval. The State Court Administrative Office will monitor video equipment use and let the MSC know how things are working out.

The MSC is seeking comments about the proposal through Nov. 1. Refer to the proposal for more information about submitting comments.

MSC names new HR head

Troy A. Scott is the new Director of Human Resources for the Michigan Supreme Court, the Michigan Court of Appeals and the State Court Administrative Office.

He will also serve in an advisory role to the state’s trial courts regarding human resources issues.

Scott previously headed Dean Transportation’s HR department and served as the company’s general counsel since 2003.

In a press release issued earlier this week, State Court Administrator Chad Schmucker said, “Mr. Scott is both an experienced attorney and a human resources specialist, so he is well positioned to counsel the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and SCAO on employment matters.”

Scott is a University of Michigan graduate and earned his law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

MSC to Judge James: we won’t step down

All seven Michigan Supreme Court justices have denied a motion to disqualify them in a judicial disciplinary case.

Back in April, the Court exercised its powers of superintending control, and ordered 22nd District Court Judge Sylvia M. James to be placed on paid administrative leave after a State Court Administrative Office audit uncovered some irregularities in her court’s financial records.

James moved to disqualify the Supreme Court justices from participating in her Judicial Tenure Commission matter because she said the justices had suspended her, which could mean they’re biased against her.

Chief Justice Robert P. Young wrote in the Nov. 30 order denying James’ motion that there is a difference between suspension and being placed on paid administrative leave. And the Court had exercised its constitutional powers “to protect the public and the integrity of the district court until such time that an assessment of the implications of the audit can be determined. Administrative leave is not a disciplinary action, nor is the Court’s power to require a judge to take an administrative leave …”

Young’s colleagues also voted to deny James’ motion because they said that they are not personally biased against or for Judge James.

Chief Justice Young to address House Judiciary Committee

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. and Michigan State Court Administrator Chad C. Schmucker will give a presentation on the 2011 State Court Administrative Office Judicial Resources Recommendations to the House Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 10 a.m..

Earlier this year, the SCAO recommended eliminating 45 trial and four Court of Appeals judgeships. The proposal was backed by Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Judges Association, Michigan Probate Judges Association, Michigan District Judges Association and the Michigan Judicial Conference.

In addition to Young and Schmucker’s presentation, the committee will consider a package of bills that would implement some of the SCAO’s recommendations:

  • HB 5075 would eliminate a circuit court judgeship in the 27th Circuit, which covers Newaygo and Oceana counties. The bill would also eliminate district judgeships in Lake and Mason counties have the probate judges in those counties also serve as district court judges.
  • HB 5071 would eliminate judgeships in districts of Wexford/Missaukee and Grand Traverse/Antrim/Leelanau counties.
  • HB 5072 would eliminate judgeships in districts of Schoolcraft/Alger, Houghton/Keweenaw/Baraga and Ontonagon/Gogebic counties.
  • HB 5073 would eliminate one district judgeship in Ingham County and two in Genesee County.
  • HB 5074 would eliminate one district judgeship in Shiawassee County.
  • SB 416 would eliminated one circuit court judgeship in the 3rd Judicial Circuit (Wayne County), one district court judgeship in the 26th Judicial District (River Rouge and Ecorse) and one district court judgeship in the 85th Judicial District (Manistee and Benzie Counties).

    The bill also would split the existing 85th Judicial District into two distinct districts: the 85th-A and 85th-B. The 85th-A district would consist of Manistee County, while the 85th-B district would consist of Benzie County. In the 85th-A and 85th-B districts, the existing probate judges would take on the powers and duties of district court judges within their respective counties.

Three other bills that would eliminate other probate, district and circuit court judgeships are pending introduction.