Wexford County Prosecutor Discusses Recommended Changes to Michigan Trial Court System

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A new report says Michigan needs to make big changes in how it funds its trial court system.

The Michigan Trial Court Funding Commission was created in 2017.

It followed a Michigan Supreme Court Case called People vs. Cunningham that said courts could not collect costs from defendants to fund court operations.

The most significant recommendation from the commission calls for all trial court fees to be collected into one general fund and then distributed to courts across the state based on case load. The current system sees that money stay within the individual district or circuit courts. The commission says that created an incentive for judges to impose high court costs on defendants.

“How it was being funded, the amount of the costs being assessed varied greatly from county to county. What the Cunningham case and the commission were most focused on was a potential ethical concern of incentivizing judges to assess higher court assessments or higher court costs to pay for their program,” said Wexford County Prosecutor Jason Elmore.

The commission also called on the state to fund major technology upgrades for courts and create a uniform employment system where judges, court administrators and probate registers would become state employees.

“By eliminating that you eliminate disparity, you improve efficiency of collection and distribution of those costs across the state, but you also eliminate the ethical concern of giving some judges or the perception of judges to incentives how much the access individual defendants,” said Elmore.

The final of the recommendation of the commission was creating a panel to put their ideas into action.

“The correction needs to eliminate the disparity, eliminate those incentives and make it standardized across the entire state,” said Elmore.