GENESEE COUNTY – A lawsuit challenging the planned closure and consolidation of the outlying 67th district courtrooms will move ahead following a decision by the Michigan Court of Appeals.
The court of appeals ruled Tuesday against Genesee County, rejecting the county’s request for an immediate dismissal of the lawsuit.
The legal action, filed by the judges of the 67th District Court, and supported by many municipalities in Genesee County, comes after the Genesee County Board of Commissioners decision Sept. 13 ordering the closure of the outlying 67th District Courtrooms, moving them all under one roof in the McCree Building, 630 Saginaw St., in downtown Flint.
The plan would shutter four courtrooms in Genesee County by the end of March.
The judges of the 67th District Court, with the support of officials in the affected municipalities, obtained a temporary restraining order last month against the county plan to close the satellite courts.
The plan, approved by the county commissioners, Commissioner Shaun Shumaker (R-Fenton Twp.) being the only dissenting vote, was intended to address deteriorating buildings housing various county offices.
The focus of the plan is to save enough money, without raising taxes or cutting staff, to repair and improve four state mandated buildings in the county – the Genesee County Circuit Court, the Genesee County Jail, the county motor pool and the Genesee County Community Action Resource Department (GCCARD) warehouse.
Those buildings will cost the county $82.9 million in expenses over the next nine years, according to officials, so the plan would close the six outlying 67th District Court buildings for a savings of $21 million over that period.
All of the money saved by these closures would be put into a capital improvement fund specifically to repair and update the four buildings in question.
The lawsuit argues the judges have the authority to determine necessary district court locations and a state law requires district court facilities in cities with a population of 6,500 or more – which includes Davison, Burton, Flushing, Grand Blanc and Fenton.
The appeals court also asked for a retired judge to oversee further proceedings.
Both parties have 21 days to file objections once the judge’s report is filed. – G.G.