LANSING — The Detroit Caucus stood in solidarity yesterday against an attempt to strip the city of Detroit of one of its 30 district court judges. Senate Bill 525 reflects the July 2017 Judicial Resource Recommendations (JRR) to eliminate judgeships from the 36th District Court. The Detroit Caucus stood adamantly opposed to this legislation since its introduction, citing the city’s dire need for maintaining its 30 judgeships.
“In the city of Detroit, the 36th District Court continues to undergo challenges with the incredible caseload that it manages,” said state Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit), chairwoman of the Detroit Caucus. “This legislation would only further disenfranchise city of Detroit residents who often have civil cases and landlord tenant issues beyond their control, and will now be forced to stand in long lines and endure wait times simply to have their cases heard, all the while infringing on their constitutional rights! This will serve as a detriment to all Detroit citizens.”
“As the city of Detroit continues to make its comeback, removing a judgeship from the 36th District Court would only work to slow the incredible progress we’ve seen over the years,” said state Rep. Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit). “The court is currently plagued by long lines and crowded courtrooms, and judges are already stretched thin by the sheer number of cases before the court. Reducing the number of judges at this court would be a disservice to the city.”
Joining the Detroit Caucus in opposition to this legislation is the city of Detroit and the 36th District Court judges themselves. These critics of SB 525 have called into question the formula used by the JRR to support its recommendations, which relies on average annual case filings. However, the court has clarified that new case filings do not comprise the entirety of their dockets: many of the cases that judges hear on a daily basis are stemming from older cases that have yet to be adjudicated. What’s more, in the last seven JRR reports, four of them have included recommendations to increase the number of judgeships in the 36th District Court.
“Not only is the 36th District Court facing exorbitant caseloads, but many of the cases that it handles deal with incredibly complex issues that require judges to spend greater time on them, further exacerbating their workload,” said state Rep. LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit). “The courthouse staff and personnel are smart workers who understand the need for them to get their work done right the first time in order to keep up with the court’s fast pace. However, reducing the number of judgeships assigned to the court would only make it more difficult for them to serve the people of Detroit, therefore, eliminating any judgeships within the 36th District Court would be preposterous.”
“It is not uncommon for judges to cover two to three dockets in a day, at times leaving residents in empty courtrooms waiting for their case to be heard while that judge is covering in another courtroom. This legislation will only make things worse for our city’s judges and residents,” said state Rep. Tenisha Yancey (D-Detroit), a former assistant Wayne County prosecutor. “This is a bad move for Detroit, and it does not affect Detroiters only. The public deserves better than what this legislation has to offer.”