Guide to the Courts: Nebraska & Michigan

Guide to the Courts: Nebraska & Michigan

Nebraska's Court System

Nebraska Supreme Court

The Nebraska Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and six associate justices. The Chief Justice, who represents the state at large, is appointed by the Governor from a statewide list of candidates selected by a judicial nominating commission. The six remaining associate justices are chosen by the same judicial nominating commission procedure but each represents one of six districts. These judicial districts are approximately equal in population and are redistricted by the legislature after each census.

The Supreme Court's basic responsibilities are to hear appeals and provide administrative leadership for the state judicial system. The Supreme Court has the authority to be the original court in which a case is heard under certain circumstances. The Supreme Court also hears all appeal cases regarding the death penalty, the sentence of life imprisonment, or cases where constitutional questions are raised. Appeals are brought to the Supreme Court from the Court of Appeals, district courts, county courts, juvenile courts, Workers' Compensation Court, and administrative agencies. Upon the granting of a petition for further review, a Court of Appeals case is moved to the Supreme Court for review and disposition.

Besides appeals, the Supreme Court is responsible for the regulation of the practice of law in Nebraska. The Supreme Court handles the admission of attorneys to the Nebraska State Bar Association. This membership is mandatory in order to practice law within the state. Another responsibility of the Supreme Court includes the monitoring and appointment of attorneys to serve on local committees of inquiry, as well as state committees on discipline and professional responsibility.

Nebraska Court of Appeals

In November 1990 the voters of the state of Nebraska approved the amendment and the Court of Appeals was established on September 6, 1991.

The Court of Appeals consists of six judges appointed by the Governor from lists submitted by judicial nominating commissions. From those six judges, a chief judge is appointed by the Supreme Court to serve a one year renewable term. The districts from which the Court of Appeals judges are appointed are the same as those used for the six Supreme Court Associate Justices.

The Court of Appeals is divided into two panels consisting of three judges each. The panels decide separate cases to expedite the processing of appeals. The composition of the panels changes periodically so that all the judges work with each other at some time.

The appeal process requires all cases (except cases in which a sentence of death or life imprisonment is imposed and cases involving the constitutionality of a statute) be appealed to the Court of Appeals rather than to the Supreme Court. In cases appealed to the Court of Appeals, a petition to bypass may be filed with the Supreme Court. If the Supreme Court deems it necessary, the petition will be granted and the case will be moved to the Supreme Court docket without first being heard by the Court of Appeals. Besides a petition to bypass, a petition for further review may be filed. This petition is filed after a case has been decided by the Court of Appeals and one of the parties involved is not satisfied with the ruling. The Supreme Court has the discretionary power to grant or deny the petition. If the petition is denied, the Court of Appeals'' ruling stands as the final decision. If the Supreme Court grants the petition, the case is then moved to the Supreme Court for review and disposition.

Nebraska's Trial Courts

District courts are trial courts of general jurisdiction and are organized into 12 judicial districts to serve all 93 counties of the state. Fifty-five district court judges serve these judicial districts.

Although the district courts have concurrent jurisdiction with county courts, they primarily hear all felony criminal cases, equity cases, and civil cases involving more than $51,000. District courts also function as appellate courts in deciding appeals form certain county court case types and various administrative agencies. When acting as an appellate court, the district judges review the county court record of testimony and evidence in order to rule on the appeal.(current as of July 2005)

Michigan's Court System

Michigan's Supreme Court

The Supreme Court is Michigan''s highest court. It consisting of seven justices, elected for eight-year terms. Every two years, the justices of the Court elect a member of the Court as chief justice.Cases come before the Court during a term that starts August 1 and runs through July 31 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.

Each year, the Supreme Court receives over 2,000 applications for leave to appeal from litigants primarily seeking review of decisions by the Michigan Court of Appeals. Each justice is responsible for reviewing each case to determine whether leave should be granted. The Court issues a decision in all cases filed with the Clerk''s Office. 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.

The Supreme Court''s authority to hear cases is discretionary. The Court grants leave to those cases of greatest complexity and public import, where additional briefing and oral argument are essential to reaching a just outcome.

In addition to its judicial duties, the Supreme Court is responsible for the general administrative supervision of all courts in the state. The Supreme Court also establishes rules for practice and procedure in all courts.

Michigan's Court of Appeals

The Court of Appeals is an "intermediate" appellate court between the Supreme Court and the Michigan trial courts. Final decisions resulting from a circuit or probate court hearing may be appealed to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals judges are elected for 6-year terms. Court of Appeals hearings are held in Detroit, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Marquette. Hearings are held before a panel of three Court of Appeals judges and at least two of the three judges must agree on the ruling. The panels are frequently rotated so that a variety of judicial opinions are considered. The decision of the panel is final except for those cases which the Supreme Court reviews.

Michigan's Trial Courts

The trial court with the broadest powers in the state is the circuit court. Generally, the circuit court will handle all civil claims involving more than $25,000 and all felony criminal cases. In regard to family law, the circuit court will handle all cases involving divorce, adoption, name changes, juvenile offenses, child abuse and neglect, paternity, etc. If a case has been appealed from another trial court or an administrative agency, it may also be heard in the circuit court.

Michigan's District Courts

In Michigan, the district court will handle the following types of cases: all civil cases involving claims up to $25,000, most traffic violations, all misdemeanor criminal cases, and landlord-tenant matters. Small claims cases are also heard by a division of the district court. In Michigan, there are several municipalities that have elected to retain a municipal court instead of creating a district court—including Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Park, Grosse Pointe, and Grosse Pointe Shores.

Michigan's Probate Courts

The probate court handles wills, administers estates and trusts, appoints guardians and conservators, and orders treatment for mentally ill and developmentally disabled persons.