Pro se prisoners’ appeals will be considered filed when they place the legal documents in the prison’s outgoing mail system, under Michigan Court Rule amendments the Michigan Supreme Court adopted yesterday on a 5-2 vote.
From the staff comment to ADM File No. 2009-07:
The rule applies to appeals from administrative agencies, appeals from circuit court (both claims of appeal and applications for leave to appeal), and appeals from decisions of the Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court.
The amendments affect MCR 7.105, 7.204, 7.205, and 7.302 and take effect May, 1, 2010.
Why did the MSC do this? You may be shocked to learn that prison mail systems do not always operate as efficiently as the U.S. Postal Service. Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly presented her view on the situation in a concurring statement to the amendments:
This Court has seen numerous prisoner appeals rejected as untimely despite the fact that they were delivered to the prison mail system before the filing deadline. In one case in which the appeal was not timely received, the prisoner placed it in the prison mail system more than two weeks before the filing deadline. See In re Kinney, 483 Mich 944 (2009) (KELLY, C.J., concurring).
In dissent, Justice Maura Corrigan said the rule is unnecessary and noted that Michigan provides “inordinately generous” filing deadlines.
The prison mailbox rule that the Court now adopts, however, unnecessarily favors prisoners by extending their rights to appeal and thereby delays finality of their cases. The rule clearly does not engender equality of treatment, but establishes special treatment for prisoners only.
Young acknowledged that prisoners are not on equal footing with members of the general public.
Certainly, a dilatory prisoner may be more disadvantaged than a dilatory member of the public. However, imprisonment is not without its inconveniences. …
Rather than acknowledge that the generosity of our filing deadlines renders a mailbox rule unnecessary, the majority incentivizes delay by tardy filers who apparently cannot file their papers within either a 42-day period or a 365-day period. While the mailbox rule is premised on the federal system, the majority fails to acknowledge that inmates in the federal system have only 10 days in which to file their application.
It is one thing to ensure that imprisoned defendants have fair access to the courts. It is entirely another to reward a lack of diligence and cunctatory behavior.
Ok, anyone out there who has not sent a law clerk rushing to the courthouse with a last-minute, beat-the-deadline filing, please raise your hand.