LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Rejecting accusations of politicking, Republicans speedily passed legislation Wednesday to have appellate judges decide all lawsuits filed against the state instead of Lansing-area judges known for putting a temporary stop to GOP-enacted laws.
The bill approved 57-52 almost entirely along party lines by the Republican-led House would immediately transfer pending and future Court of Claims cases — those seeking at least $1,000 in damages from the state — from the Ingham County Circuit Court to the Michigan Court of Appeals, where four judges would hear the cases instead.
Those judges also would gain immediate jurisdiction over lawsuits against the state now overseen by county judges in Ingham and elsewhere — constitutional challenges, civil rights claims, and alleged freedom of information and open meetings violations.
Because no changes were made a week after the legislation cleared the GOP-controlled Senate and just two weeks after it was introduced, the bill is expected to be enrolled shortly and sent to Gov. Rick Snyder. The Republican governor will sign it.
"I believe that's a good piece of legislation because it's about broadening the base (of) having judges that will represent all of Michigan," Snyder told reporters Wednesday after signing a tax cut for car and boat buyers. "I think it's great we're going to have an opportunity to have judges from all parts of Michigan hear those cases and decide those cases."
He brushed aside suggestions that his signing the legislation would appear to be self-serving.
"I just try to do the right thing, and politics are politics," Snyder said.
His signature will cap swift legislative action, as Democrats, Ingham judges, trial lawyers, the State Bar of Michigan and even a retired GOP legislative aide raised concerns to no avail that it is unconstitutional and a blatant power grab that could initially cause chaos in the court system.