All court of appeals, circuit, probate, and district court judges are members of the Judicial Conference of the State Bar of Michigan. The executive committee of the Judicial Conference meets bi-monthly to conduct the business of the conference. The 27-member committee includes nine members elected from the Michigan Judges Association, nine from the Probate Judges Association, and nine from the District Judges Association.
The Judicial Conference devoted a significant amount of time this past year studying the issue of whether and in what manner appellate judicial selection in Michigan should be modified. To ascertain the view of the bench, the Conference, with the assistance of Public Sector Consultants, conducted a confidential survey of all judges. In a nutshell, the survey revealed a desire for a less politicized selection system for judges. Significantly, the survey also revealed that judges generally did not agree on what degree of change is necessary, nor did they generally agree on which method of judicial selection is best. As of this writing, the members of the conference have been unable to reach a position on this important issue. Accordingly, the conference will continue to study this matter.
Another very important item of business of the Judicial Conference for the past year has been to assist in the planning of the Third Invitational Bench/Bar Meeting. The Bench/Bar meeting provides a special opportunity for lawyers and judges to communicate candidly with each other in an informal setting. This year's meeting was held in Mt. Pleasant in May, and was very successful. The Bench/Bar Conference is a significant way to foster communication between lawyers and judges. The members of the Judicial conference believe the good communication between lawyers and judges is essential to the fair and efficient administration of the court system. The members of the Judicial Conference are committed to continuing their support the Bench/Bar meetings.
A major part of the continuing work of the conference is to review proposed legislation and court rules at the request of the State Bar and make specific recommendations to the officers of the Bar about the impact of such matters on the public and the judicial system. In connection with its review of proposed legislation, the Judicial Conference took an active role in reviewing and recommending changes to the proposed cyber court. With some modification, the Conference believes the cyber court could provide litigants and lawyers the opportunity to resolve certain disputes in a unique and effective manner.
A significant issue for consideration before the Judicial Conference is Senate Joint Resolution R, a proposed constitutional amendment that would completely merge the probate court into the circuit court. The Conference is presently studying the issue and is working with all three judges associations for a solution to issue of the merger of the probate and circuit court. At this time the Conference has not formulated a position but it is anticipated that a significant amount of time and resources will be devoted to this issue in the coming year. The Conference will be examining this matter from the perspective of what solution will provide the best access to justice for the public and the bar.
The Judicial Conference is committed to improving the delivery of justice to the citizens of the state of Michigan and will continue to be a willing and active participant in the good works of the State Bar.