Changes to the Michigan Court of Claims
Introduced October 24, 2013 and passed on November 6, 2013, Senate Bill 652 restructures the Michigan Court of Claims, altering its jurisdiction to become a function of the Michigan Court of Appeals after forty years of functioning within the Ingham County Circuit Court. Governor Snyder signed the Bill on November 12, 2013 as Public Act 164 of 2013 (the "Act").
The Court of Claims has jurisdiction for all demands against the State of Michigan for monetary, equitable or declaratory relief or any demand for an extraordinary writ against the State or any of its departments or officers, as well as any counterclaims brought by the State or any of its departments or officers. Additionally, the Court of Claims has the jurisdiction to appoint and utilize a special master as the court considers necessary, and to hear and determine any action challenging the validity of a notice of transfer from the Court of Claims docket in the Ingham County Circuit Court.
Prior to the Act, the Court of Claims was a function of the circuit court, and any judge elected by the people within the Ingham County Circuit could serve as judge for the Michigan Court of Claims. After the enactment of the Act, the Michigan Court of Claims will now be under the jurisdiction of the Michigan Court of Appeals, and the Michigan Supreme Court justices are required to appoint four Court of Appeals judges from the various districts of the Court of Appeals to serve on a two year term. On or about November 14, 2013, the Michigan Supreme Court appointed the following Court of Appeals judges to serve on the Court of Claims for terms expiring May 1, 2015:
- Hon. Michael J. Talbot (Court of Appeals District 1 - Detroit)
- Hon. Pat M. Donofrio (Court of Appeals District 2 - Troy)
- Hon. Deborah A. Servitto (Court of Appeals District 3 - Grand Rapids)
- Hon. Amy Ronayne Krause (Court of Appeals District 4 - Lansing)
The Michigan Supreme Court selected Judge Talbot to serve as the "chief judge".
As of November 12, 2013, any matter pending within the jurisdiction of the Michigan Court of Claims or subsequently filed will be transferred to the Michigan Court of Appeals. New lawsuits may be filed in any Court of Appeals district; however, the clerk of the Court of Appeals will assign a judge under a blind draw.
Notably, the previous Court of Claims filing fees were not changed to the higher Court of Appeals fees, and can still be paid by cash, check or money order. In addition, the Michigan Circuit Court rules shall continue to apply to matters before the Court of Claims, although the Michigan Supreme Court may adopt special rules for the Court of Claims.
Consistent with the practice in the "old" Court of Claims, in accordance with MCL § 600.6431 and the substantive notice requirements therein, a claimant may not file a claim against the State unless the claimant files a written claim or notice of intent to file a claim in the office of the clerk of the Court of Claims (now the clerk of the Michigan Court of Appeals in any district) within one year of the accrual of such claim (or within six months of the date of the occurrence giving rise to any actions for property damage or personal injuries). As a general warning, this requirement to file a written claim or notice of intent is not treated lightly, and, as stated by the Michigan Supreme Court in McCahan v Brennan, et al ., 492 Mich. 730 (2012), "such statutory notice requirements must be interpreted and enforced as plainly written" despite any actual knowledge the State has of the possibility of a claim.