January 01, 2018

From the Bench: State Supreme Court: Like SCOTUS, at Least in Part

Hon. David Viviano

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The parallels between the work of the Michigan Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, or SCOTUS, are many. Like SCOTUS, the Michigan Supreme Court is the final arbiter of the law in Michigan. Like SCOTUS, the Michigan Supreme Court has broad discretion to decide in what cases we will hear argument and issue opinions. Like SCOTUS, the Michigan Supreme Court oversees the promulgation of the rules of procedure that govern our courts (although, unlike SCOTUS, we have the final word). Like SCOTUS, we make all of our decisions as a full court and by majority rule. Like SCOTUS, we hold confidential conferences where we make decisions together about cases. So much for the similarities—I think you may find the differences between a state supreme court and SCOTUS more interesting.

One of the greatest distinctions between the federal and state courts is the number and the breadth of disputes that we see. In an average year, some 30 million cases are filed in the state courts, while only about 1 million cases are filed in the federal courts. Jurisdiction in the federal courts is strictly limited. Thus, in practice, most people who need to have their disputes resolved by a court have them resolved in the state courts.

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