Michigan's highest court is the state supreme court, consisting of seven justices elected for eight-year terms; the chief justice is elected by the members of the court. The high court hears cases on appeal from lower state courts and also administers the state's entire court system. The 1963 constitution provided for an 18-member court of appeals to handle most of the cases that previously had clogged the high court's calendar. Unless the supreme court agrees to review a court of appeals ruling, the latter's decision is final. As of 1999, 28 appeals court justices are elected from each of four districts for six-year terms. The supreme court appoints a chief judge of the appeals court.
The major trial courts in the state as of 1999 were the circuit courts, encompassing 210 judicial seats, with the judges elected for six-year terms. The circuit courts have original jurisdiction in all felony criminal cases, civil cases involving sums of more than $10,000, and divorces. As of January 1998, the circuit courts have a "family" division to better serve families and individuals.
Michigan Presidential Vote by Political Parties, 1948–2000
|YEAR||ELECTORAL VOTE||MICHIGAN WINNER||DEMOCRAT||REPUBLICAN||PROGRESSIVE||SOCIALIST||PROHIBITION|
|*Won US presidential election|
|NEW ALLIANCE||WORKERS LEAGUE|
|IND. (PEROT)||TISCH IND. CITIZENS|
The circuit courts also hear appeals from lower courts and state administrative agencies. Probate courts have original jurisdiction in cases involving juveniles and dependents, and also handle wills and estates, adoptions, and commitments of the mentally ill. The 1963 constitution provided for the abolition of justice-of-the-peace courts and nearly all municipal courts, although the Detroit "Recorders Court" was not abolished until 1996 in a controversial move supported by the Republican governor and legislative majority but opposed by most Democratic leaders. To replace them, 101 district courts, some consisting of two or more divisions, have been established. These courts handle civil cases involving sums of less than $10,000, minor criminal violations, and preliminary examinations in all felony cases.
Prisoners in state or federal correctional facilities numbered 48,371 in June 2001, an increase of 2.2% over the previous year. The state's incarceration rate stood at 484 per 100,000 inhabitants. Detroit received adverse publicity during the 1970s as the "murder capital of the world," with more murders and other violent crimes than any other US city. Violent crimes (murder, non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, and aggravated assault) reached a peak of 2,226 offenses per 100,000 population in 1976. Michigan had an overall 2001 crime rate of 4,081.5 per 100,000 population, including a rate of 554.7 for violent crime and 3,526.8 for property crime.
In 1846, Michigan became the first state to abolish capital punishment, and recent efforts to restore capital punishment have failed.