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​Court History

The Michigan Court of Appeals was created by the Constitution of 1963, Article VI, section 1, under which the State of Michigan has "one court of justice:"
The judicial power of the state is vested exclusively in one court of justice which shall be divided into one supreme court, one court of appeals, one trial court of general jurisdiction known as the circuit court, one probate court, and courts of limited jurisdiction that the legislature may establish by a two-thirds vote of the members elected to and serving in each house.
When the Court of Appeals first began operation in 1965, the bench was comprised of nine judges: Chief Judge T. John Lesinski, Chief Judge pro tempore John W. Fitzgerald, and Judges Robert B. Burns, John H. Gillis, Donald E. Holbrook, Thomas Giles Kavanagh, Louis D. McGregor, Timothy C. Quinn, and John D. Watts. Ronald L. Dzierbicki was Clerk of the Court. Offices were originally located only in Lansing, Detroit and Grand Rapids. An office in Southfield opened in 1995, and was moved to its current location in Troy in 2004.
In 1969, the Legislature increased the size of the bench to 12 judges, and further increases occurred in 1974 (18 judges), in 1988 (24 judges), and in 1993 (28 judges). During this same period, annual filings ranged from a low of 1,235 in 1965 to a high of 13,352 in 1992. For the past several years, annual filings have averaged around 6,200. As a result of the lower filings, legislation was enacted in 2012 that reduces the number of judgeships to 24 through future attrition. 
Since its inception, the Michigan Court of Appeals has distinguished itself as an innovative institution. Its central staff of research attorneys was the first of its kind in the United States. Its mainframe docket computer system was a national prototype when it was implemented in 1978. That legacy system was retired in July 1999 in favor of a client/server browser system that allows the Court to take full advantage of electronic filing and other future technology advances.
Organizationally, the Court has continued to evolve as well. Originally, all filings were processed through the Lansing office of the Court, and new files were only distributed among the outlying district offices of the Clerk after jurisdiction was confirmed in mandatory cases and leave was granted in discretionary matters. In 1998, this process was decentralized, and the district offices of the Clerk are now capable of fully processing all cases. Case management has been substantially streamlined and each case is now moved towards final disposition as quickly as possible under the timelines set by the court rules.
The Court's Internal Operating Procedures were first published in 1998 (see 231 Mich App lix - cxxxvii) and have been updated numerous times since then. Their use by attorneys and individuals appearing before the Court in pro per has improved the Court's ability to resolve each case more quickly and efficiently.
The Court of Appeals' mandate guides its continued evolution as a critical element of the justice system in Michigan: "[T]o secure the just, speedy, and economical determination of every action and to avoid the consequences of error that does not affect the substantial rights of the parties." Michigan Court Rule 1.105.
Photo of A Matter of Right Bookcover

A History of the Michigan Court of Appeals

By Charles E. Harmon

This 102-page book covers the full history of the Michigan Court of Appeals, from its inception in the early 1960's through to the first days of the 21st Century. Dozens of photographs are juxtaposed with a recounting of each decade of the Court's existence. The book contains tables of Court statistics, charts of evolving district boundaries, summaries of significant cases and decisions from each period, biographies of judges and administrators, and interviews with current and former members of the Court.
A Matter of Right is available for purchase ($25.00 each) by sending a check or money order, made payable to the State of Michigan. Please enclose the name of the publication, as well as the quantity you would like to purchase, and mail to:


Michigan Court of Appeals
Finance Department
Michigan Hall of Justice
P.O. Box 30022
Lansing, MI 48909-7522