NewsKnow the Law


Know the Law- Michigan court system

Posted at 9:02 AM, Nov 03, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-03 09:02:52-04

With the midterm election upon us, there are several judges you’ll likely see on your ballot for court positions. But do you know what each of the courts does? Grand Rapids attorney, Tom Sinas, explains the Michigan court system in detail.

Michigan Court System – 3 Levels

There are three levels in the Michigan court system. At the most basic, the trial court level is divided into District Courts and Circuit Courts. Circuit Courts have the broadest jurisdiction. This is where matters go when they’re litigated at the ground level. The Circuit Court hears significant civil cases as well as felony cases, and family and probate cases. Judges here have very busy dockets.

The second level in the Michigan court system is the Court of Appeals. Every Michigan resident has a right to appeal their case, and this is the first place they’ll go when doing so.

Finally, the third level is the Michigan Supreme Court, which is our highest court. The Supreme Court only hears cases the Justices choose to hear.

Election Time – Judicial Seats Up For Grabs

Here’s what voters need to know regarding upcoming judicial elections. In Kent County, 2 open seats are available in the Circuit Court. There are four candidates running for the two open seats. The seats opened due to the retirement of two former Circuit Court judges.

There are also two seats available on the Supreme Court. We have two incumbents running for these seats, as well as four others challenging them. What’s unique about this particular race is none of the six candidates are elected officials; the two current incumbents were previously elected by the Governor. The two with the most votes after the midterm election will be appointed seats to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Prepping for the Midterms

It’s important to understand how you’ll vote and why you’re choosing to vote that way before you go to the ballot box. Oftentimes, the best way to educate yourself is to look at your sample ballot, which you can view online, and familiarize yourself with each of the candidates and issues individually.

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