Governor signs bill to move Court of Claims

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder

Governor Rick Snyder has moved lawsuits challenging some of his administration’s most-controversial policies to a new panel of judges on the state Court of Appeals. The governor has signed a bill that shakes up the court that hears big lawsuits against the state.

Some of the lawsuits that will be moved challenge the emergency manager and right-to-work laws. Governor Snyder says he signed the bill because one county’s voters – mostly Democrats in Ingham – should not be choosing the judges that decide so many big cases against the state.

“It really allows statewide representation in terms of judges across the state to hear cases as opposed to the 3 percent of the population that’s represented by Ingham County judges,” he said.

The Court of Claims has been located in the Ingham County circuit for four decades. The shakeup moved very swiftly through the Legislature once it was introduced a couple weeks ago. Under the new system, the Michigan Supreme Court (which has a 5-2 Republican majority) will name four Court of Appeals judges to act as judges on the Court of Claims. Those judges will continue to hear appeals, as well.

An Ingham circuit judge told The Detroit Free Press the new law is “payback” for decisions against Republicans and the Snyder administration.

Judge William Collette told the newspaper he is “disillusioned at the manner in which this legislation came about, the manner in which it was shoved down the throats of the people of Michigan and the damage it’s going to cause the entire judicial system.”

“This is nothing but payback for having the gall to stand up to them.”

The governor says he will likely support a “clean-up” bill to ensure jury trials already underway in the Court of Claims are not disrupted.

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