Thursday, April 13, 2023

Justice for All Annual Report Introductory Letter: Justice Brian K. Zahra and Angela Tripp, Co-Chairs, JFA Commission

To the People of Michigan: 

Each year, many people must navigate Michigan’s complicated civil legal system without the assistance of an attorney. Individuals are often dealing with issues that can significantly impact their lives such as debt collection, eviction, and child custody or support. The Justice for All Commission (JFAC) is dedicated to advancing reforms that will make the civil justice system easier to navigate while providing additional resources for those navigating the civil justice system without the assistance of legal counsel. 

For many people, accessing the services of legal aid providers can make a meaningful difference in the outcome of their legal issue. In 2022, the Commission released a report examining the value and impact of legal aid organizations on individuals navigating the civil justice system, as well the people of Michigan as a whole. Looking at 2019-2020, for every $1 invested in Michigan’s civil legal aid services, the people of Michigan received a 669% return on that investment in immediate and long-term financial benefits. While legal aid services alone will not eliminate the civil justice gap, ongoing investment in additional legal aid resources is a prudent strategy which often provides a lifeline to those navigating the system. 

In 2022, the Commission took a significant step forward in its efforts to make the civil justice system easier to navigate through the adoption of recommendations from the Process Simplification – Debt Collection Work Group. We are excited for the Commission to begin implementation efforts on these recommendations in early 2023. As these implementation efforts begin, we are also eagerly anticipating the presentation of additional recommendations from several of the Commission’s other committees and work groups that will continue to build upon these reform efforts. 

The breadth and depth of the civil justice issues being addressed by the Commission is substantial. As we begin the third year of Commission activities, we want to express a deep appreciation for the significant commitment of more than 150 volunteer work group/committee members and Commissioners. Working together we will achieve our goal of 100 percent access to the civil justice system in Michigan. 


PSC Annual Report FY 2022


In shifting from a maker of laws to an upholder of laws, I feel almost as though I have stepped through the looking glass.


When I served on the House Judiciary Committee, I learned about a host of issues affecting Michigan courts and focused much of my time on pushing for meaningful criminal justice reform. I also had the privilege of voting on state support of an array of beneficial programs, including problem-solving courts.


Now as the new Michigan Supreme Court liaison to problem-solving courts, I get to view these amazing programs through a whole new lens.


After reviewing some of the data shared in this report (and past reports), I am extremely impressed at the success rates of the programs. Year after year, these courts do much more than solve problems—they save lives.


But what struck me the most was that these pages are not merely filled with numbers and milestones; they are also filled with hope and humanity.


When Chief Justice Clement asked me to take on this role, she spoke passionately about the people who participate in these programs, as well as the people who operate them. The common refrain I kept hearing from her was “people.” And that is what PSCs are all about.


People who are getting second chances through these life-changing programs.


People who come to work every day prepared to help guide and lift up participants who, on any given day, might feel like giving up.


People who see a need in their community for a program that addresses underlying issues in certain justice-involved individuals.

People like Andrew, a past graduate of 55th District Sobriety Court in Mason, who commented about sobriety court:

“It taught me a lot about hope and faith, and gave me the tools to help other people in recovery. It showed me that there is hope even when I was pretty hopeless in the beginning.”

As I continue on my learning curve, I am looking forward to hitting the road and visiting PSCs across the state. I want to see the people who are affected by these programs and I want to help ensure that everyone who needs this kind of help is able to access it.


So “thank you” to all of the PSC judges, program coordinators, probation officers, peer mentors, law enforcement officers, attorneys, and counselors who make a difference every day through their work.


Hope to see you down the road!

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

A New Type of Jurist for a New Age of Michigan Courts: How a Futurist Approach Has Guided Justice Welch as an Attorney, in the Community, and on the Bench

By Ravynne Gilmore, Court Relations Program Coordinator, Public Information Office, Michigan Supreme Court

Justice Elizabeth M. Welch
Michigan Supreme Court's newest justice, Elizabeth M. Welch, might be best described as the justice for the times. No, she's not a social media influencer with millions of followers; rather, she brings to the state’s highest bench a varied and successful record as an attorney, a remarkable set of life experiences, and passion for community service. Justice Welch reflects the times because of her willingness to embrace technology to get her work done and to stay connected with a blended family.

Kalamazoo Community Leaders Combat Rise of Juvenile Delinquent Activity

By Henry Simon, Intern for Kalamazoo County Probate Judge Curtis Bell

In the years before 2017, community leaders in Kalamazoo began noticing an upward trend of juvenile delinquent activity.  These leaders reached out to the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS) in hopes of reversing this trend.  Upon analysis, KDPS realized that a small number of juvenile offenders was responsible for the majority of juvenile delinquency cases.  Many of those youths were already on probation.  Over the past four years, the Bridging Opportunities Program has focused on supporting these youths over the summer months.

Juvenile offenses have declined since the program’s inception in 2017.
(Source: Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety.)

St. Joseph County Court Administrator Sworn in as New President of National Association

By Stephanie Beyersdorf, Management Analyst, Field Services, State Court Administrative Office

Kathryn S. Griffin, 45th Circuit Court and St. Joseph County Probate Court Administrator, was sworn in as the new president of the National Association for Court Management (NACM) during its Annual Conference in San Diego by Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget M. McCormack.  NACM is a 1,500-member organization that promotes professional development, support, and education for court professionals from the United States, Canada, Australia, and other countries and from all levels and types of courts.

Chief Justice Bridget McCormack; Kathy Griffin; and Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia Stephens at the NACM Conference, where Griffin was installed as NACM President. 

Berrien County Family Reunification Celebrations

By Jean Lawrence, Intake Manager/Juvenile Register, Berrien County Circuit Court

During the pandemic, the Berrien County Circuit Court found an innovative and safe way to keep celebrating our reunified families involved in child protective proceedings.  Our Reunification Gift Basket Delivery program honored our reunified families in a fun and personal way.

Sample gift basket
Examples of items awarded to reunified families through the Reunification Gift Basket program.

Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative Brings Roundtable Learning Opportunity to Michigan

By Kristina Bryant, Principal Court Management Consultant, National Center for State Courts; and Executive Director, Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative

RJOI logo

The Appalachian/Midwest Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative (RJOI), of which Michigan is a part, was originally created in 2016 in response to the need for information, education, and resources to address the opioid epidemic in the region. Since then it has broadened its scope to include all substance use disorders and is educating the judiciary on how to best support those afflicted through recovery, rehabilitation, and jail diversion programs designed to keep families together, reduce recidivism, and save lives.

A Legacy of Law: Local Father-Daughter Judges Bring Justice on and off the Bench

By Sherri Kolade, the Michigan Chronicle

Editor’s note: Article reprinted with permission from the Michigan Chronicle.

It’s all in the hashtags:

#HistoryWasMade#ItsTimeForAChange. #1stFemaleJudgeOfHarperWoods#1stAfricanAmericanJudgeOfHarperWoods.

History was indeed made through Rebekah R. Coleman’s hashtags that she posted on Facebook last November after her historical win twice over in the race to become the next 32A District Court judge in Harper Woods. And now, as the first Black and first female judge in the city of about 14,000, she continues breaking barriers.

Michigan’s Office of Dispute Resolution Goes Global

By Stephanie Beyersdorf, Management Analyst, State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) Field Services

In late 2020, the SCAO's Office of Dispute Resolution was contacted by TASC Consulting & Capital, Israel’s largest consulting firm, on behalf of the Israeli Ministry of Justice.  The Israeli Ministry of Justice performs functions similar to the SCAO.  It also houses Israel’s Attorney General, Civil Legal Aid Administration, and nearly a dozen additional units of the Israeli government.  The Ministry and TASC wanted to learn about MI-Resolve, Michigan’s new online dispute resolution (ODR) system.

SCAO Trial Court Services Reimagined, Reintroduced As Field Services

Trial Court Services at the State Court Administrative Office SCAO has been restructured and renamed Field Services (  Refocusing and renaming Trial Court Services as Field Services is a recognition of the need to include a broad focus on the issues and reform initiatives affecting the courts, as well as the people who interact with courts at the most difficult points in their lives. Field Services will continue as a vital support to judges and court staff as it takes on these additional responsibilities.

As part of this strategy, SCAO is expanding cooperation with other branches of government and engagement with a wide range of judicial system stakeholders. Some of these efforts, such as the Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, have already yielded major reforms for Michigan, making us a national leader in criminal justice reform. This outreach and engagement will continue with respect to the work of the Justice for All Commission, the Michigan Judicial Council, the Task Force on Juvenile Justice, and other initiatives. 

The transition to Field Services is one more step in our partnership with trial courts as we work together as One Court of Justice to help Michigan’s judiciary become even more accessible, engaged, and efficient.