Felony docket going back to 36th District Court center

36th District Court.

Detroit's busy 36th District Court is moving its preliminary examinations and other felony hearings back to its own building on Madison Street in downtown Detroit, court officials announced Tuesday.

The felony preliminary examinations and docket will be heard at the 36th District Court facility starting Oct. 1, Chief Judge Nancy Blount said in a press statement Tuesday.

As part of the restructuring of the court from May 2013 through September 2014, the felony preliminary exam docket, some judges and staff were transferred to Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, where the Wayne County Circuit Court criminal division is housed. 

Frank Murphy Hall of Justice sits a couple of blocks away from the 36th District Court building on Madison near Ford Field. 

“... There were simply not enough courtrooms to accommodate the dockets," Blount said in the statement Tuesday. "This was a temporary solution to a major problem. This administration has made great progress in improving services and accessibility to the public, increasing efficiency, and renovating space to conduct all dockets, fastidiously, in our facility.”

A sign posted at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice notifies visitors that the 36th District Court is moving felony hearings to its building on Madison next month.

Four 36th District Court judges conduct preliminary examinations and felony hearings such as probable-cause conferences as part of the restructured 36th District Court, which was organized by then-Court of Appeals Judge Michael Talbot, who was appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court as special judicial administrator of the 36th District Court in 2014.

Talbot was appointed following a 2013 review of the court that found a $4 million deficit and alleged chronic mismanagement.

Blount added: "We are very thankful to the 3rd Circuit Court for accommodating us during the renovation period. We also appreciate the cooperation and patience of the 3rd Circuit Court, our other justice system partners, and the public.”

Kelli Moore Owen, administrator of 36th District Court, said: "We are very excited for the move of the dockets, judges, and staff back to our facility. It has been a long-awaited achievement of having our entire operations back in one facility.."

She added: "The time is right for this change, and it is important for our court to maintain autonomy, operate independently, and manage our dockets and staff in the same manner as the other district courts in Wayne County.” 

Some object to the move back. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said she opposed to return felony preliminary examinations to 36th District Court.   

She said reasons for staying at Frank Murphy include:

•Allowing law enforcement witnesses and attorneys from the Prosecutor's Office and defense bar to "more efficiently appear for multiple court events each morning in both courts."

•Reduced case delays and adjournments shorten the time defendants are in the Wayne County Jail, which reducing costs for housing, transporting and guarding prisoners.

•The Sheriff's Office staff only need to deliver felony defendants to one building instead of two, saving time, money and resources for "both courts, the Wayne County Sheriff and city of Detroit."  

•Efficiencies for 36th District Court and Circuit Court clerk’s offices by having staffs "coordinate file and docket entry tasks, case handling and security ..."