Michigan Supreme Court


About the Michigan Supreme Court

Experienced Legal Representation for Michigan Criminal Appeals

Attorney Scott Grabel has experience working for the Michigan Court of Appeals and has more than 10 years of experience successfully handling appeals cases for people convicted of federal and state crimes throughout the state of Michigan. Criminal appeals are highly specialized and need a criminal defense firm that understands the intricacy of how to identify high quality issues on behalf of clients and argue for them in the most aggressive and persuasive fashion to convince the appellate court to lower the court’s decision. Scott Grabel has also been asked to speak as an expert on Court TV’s Best Defense.

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Purpose and Functions of the Michigan Supreme Court

  • Called the "Court of Last Resort" because it is the highest court in Michigan (the United States Supreme Court is the only court higher than a state supreme court).

  • The Michigan Supreme Court is comprised of seven elected justices that serve eight-year terms.

  • Considers applications for leave to appeal, mainly from the Court of Appeals. More than 2,000 applications for leave to appeal are received by the Supreme Court each year.

  • Most applications request review of a decision made by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

  • Grants appeals based on its own discretion during a term that starts August 1st and runs through July 31st of the following year.

  • The court hears oral arguments in Lansing beginning in October of each term. Decisions are released throughout the term, following oral arguments.

  • The cases that are heard are selected based on the sole discretion of the Supreme Court.

  • Establishes rules for procedures and practices in all courts and serves as the general administrative supervisor of all courts in Michigan.

Generally, "Cases that are accepted for oral argument may be decided by an order, with or without an opinion. These orders may affirm or reverse the Michigan Court of Appeals, may remand a case to the trial court, or may adopt a correct Court of Appeals opinion."(2)

Applications and Time Limitations

Applications for appeals of criminal case decisions must be filed within 56 days after a Court of Appeals decision has been entered.

Applications for leave to appeal before a decision has been made by the Court of Appeals are discouraged and will only be granted in cases of the highest public importance and only when the need for immediate action by the Michigan Supreme Court is evident. Applications are limited to 50 pages.

Motions for reconsideration of orders must be filed within 21 days.

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Initial Review of Applications

The District Commissioners’ Office reviews applications to ensure that repeat issues are not continually being addressed. Cases are selected from the applications and an initial report is prepared for the justices on each application.

Each month, the District Commissioners’ Office reports on approximately 200 applications for leave to appeal.

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Conference Consideration

Approximately one-third of the applications reported by the commissioner are scheduled for conference consideration. Conference considerations are scheduled during February and August.

In order to be considered:

  • At least one justice objects to the recommended order; or

  • The commissioner recommends the case be given direct conference consideration; or

  • The recommendation is to grant leave to appeal or peremptory relief.

Justices often exchange memorandums about cases, and/or discuss cases inside and outside of the conference consideration forum. However, formal decision on applications takes place in the conference.

Most applications for leave to appeal are denied. Other possible actions include (but are not limited to):

  • Taking peremptory action (ending the right of an action; closing the matter);
  • Asking the opposing party to respond;
  • Holding the case in abeyance (suspending or temporarily setting aside action);
  • Request further analysis by the reporting commissioner or a justice;
  • Placing the case on a session calendar for oral argument;
  • Issuing an opinion per curiam (and opinion issued in the name of the court instead of the opinion of specific judges); or
  • Considering granting leave to appeal.

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The Deciding Vote

A majority vote—four or more—is required on most actions; however, some decisions require five votes. These include taking peremptory action, or to issue an opinion per curiam.

Oral Arguments

The court may request or allow oral arguments to be made on selected applications. If the court orders oral argument, parties are permitted to submit a supplement brief (limited to 50 pages). The brief typically must be filed within 28 days. After oral arguments have been heard, the court again considers the application.

Another Possible Delay

If a majority of justices is inclined to grant leave to appeal, the case is placed on "deferred status." A separate conference—usually scheduled several times per year—is held to make a final decision on the cases on deferred status. How soon a final decision is made is hard to predict as conferences are scheduled when enough cases are deferred to warrant the scheduling of a conference.

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Other Factors

Grant Orders: The court may grant leave without limiting opportunities to address issues raised on the application, or limit issues to be address, or specify issues the court wants parties to address.

Post-Order Consideration and Motions: If an application is held in abeyance, supplemental briefs are requested, the Supreme Court remands the issue, and the commission will prepare a supplemental report that is processed in the same way as the original application.

Motion for Reconsideration or Clarification: A motion for reconsideration must be filed within 21 days and will be initially assessed by a new commissioner (not the same commissioner who prepared the original application report.) The motion for reconsideration is processed in the same manner as the original application.

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Continued Discussion

The justices continue to discuss their preliminary opinions to establish a preliminary majority. The case is assigned to a justice in the preliminary majority who then prepares an initial draft of the opinion. This initial draft is then circulated to the other justices, usually within six weeks after oral argument.

Discussion exchanges continue, mostly by written memorandums and the preliminary opinion may be revised many times before it is eventually voted on at an "opinion conference."

The draft opinion is then recirculated (usually within three weeks).

An opinion remains on the opinion agenda until all justices are satisfied with the draft of the parts he/she supports. Once all justices are satisfied, the Office of the Reporter of Decisions prepares a draft syllabus that is then edited and approved by the justice authoring the opinion.

The Final Opinion

Once a final opinion is reached, it is released. The parties in the appeal are sent copies of the decision via mail. Michigan Supreme Court decisions are also posted on the court's website and published in the Court of Appeals opinion search engine. The Court of Appeals also has a listserv that sends out announcements of new decisions.

Finally, the opinion is published in the Michigan Reports.

This may still not be the end of a case. An attorney may file a motion for rehearing, and some cases end up in the United States Supreme Court.

More Information about the Michigan Supreme Court and Appeals

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