Copyright 1997 by the State Bar of Michigan
Michigan Bar Journal
76 Mich BJ 933
By the Committee on Libraries, Legal Research and Publications
Many Michigan attorneys may not even be aware of a significant research tool available to them--the records and briefs filed in the Michigan Supreme Court for the last 143 years. These records and briefs represent the combined work product of the Michigan legal profession on the issues covered by Michigan's highest court. Major collections of these records are housed at seven law libraries in the state.
What Documents are Available
The collections contain both the briefs submitted to the court pursuant to MCR 7.309 and the attached documentation. Together with the arguments and citations to primary and secondary sources, the collections contain legislative history, transcripts of depositions, copies of exhibits and copies of filed forms.
Why They are Important
In addition to their historical importance, Michigan Supreme Court records and briefs may be useful to attorneys in their practices. Research done by other attorneys can assist even the most experienced attorneys by accelerating the research process. The documents can be particularly helpful when an attorney is faced with distinguishing or extending a particular case. Because the documents contain precise questions, facts and arguments considered by the Court in reaching a decision, they can provide a basis for interpreting the scope of a result and for arguing the advisability of extending or limiting the case in a different factual setting.
The documents also may provide the practitioner a way of obtaining quick background in an unfamiliar area of law, a foundation for interpreting a statute, or a snapshot of useful trial techniques. In these and other ways, the documents can be a useful beginning point for developing arguments and furthering research once a critical case has been identified.
Where They Can be Found
There are several extensive collections in the state:
Detroit College of Law at Michigan State University (East Lansing). Holdings: 1934
Library of Michigan State Law Library (Lansing). Holdings: 1870
Oakland County Law Library (Pontiac). Holdings: 1976
Thomas Cooley Law Library (Lansing). Holdings: 1907
University of Detroit Mercy Law Library (Detroit). Holdings: 1906
University of Michigan Law Library (Ann Arbor). Holdings: 1859
Wayne State University Law Library (Detroit). Holdings: 1859
The collections in these libraries are bound using two different arrangements. The Detroit College of Law, State Law Library, Cooley Law Library, University of Detroit Mercy and the University of Michigan Law Library bind them according to the court term, document number and/or calendar number. The Oakland County Law Library and Wayne State University Law Library bind them according to the Michigan Reports volume and page number.
If you have questions about whether any of these libraries contain the specific brief you need you should contact the libraries directly. Their telephone numbers are listed in the Michigan Bar Journal directory issue.
Over the past few years the State Bar of Michigan Committee on Libraries, Legal Research and Publications has been studying the length, breadth and width of the collections of briefs and has come to the conclusion that there is no complete collection anywhere. In 1992, an estimate determined that there were over 7.2 million pages of information covering over 2,000 linear feet of shelving. Since then an additional 500 linear feet have been added for a total of a few feet less than a half-mile of research materials. Much of this half-mile is quickly turning to dust and is nearly unusable.
Margaret Leary, Director of the University of Michigan Law Library, has been coordinating an inventory of U of M's collection of briefs. As of March 1997 over 6,000 cases from 1859 to 1900 have been listed and analyzed for content and condition. Plans have been discussed for expanding the inventory to include the other major collections in the state since an inventory has value in itself by serving as a locating tool for researchers.