Rights and Responsibilities in Michigan Courts
Citizen Using the Court. As a citizen using the court, you have a number of basic rights such as the right to be represented by an attorney, to represent yourself in a case, and the right to barrier free access to the court. You should expect the court to treat you with fairness, respect, and courtesy and you should expect court proceedings to begin on time and proceed in an orderly manner. You should expect that the judge and attorneys in your case will be prepared to hear or try your case when court is convened to hear your matter.
The court should treat all persons who come before it equally, and you should not be subjected to discriminatory treatment on the basis of your race or gender or any other legally-protected characteristic.
You may request an interpreter if you are unable to communicate in English or if you are hearing impaired.
Crime Victim. If you have been a victim of a violent crime or injury, you have several rights. First, you have the right to be told when the accused will be in court. Second, you have the right to make comments in person or in writing about how the crime has affected you and what you think the sentence should include. Third, you have the right to be told if the accused is in a juvenile facility, jail, or prison, and if convicted, when the person becomes eligible for parole or release. Finally, you may have the right to be paid money for financial loss or injuries.
The Crime Victim's Compensation Board investigates victims' claims and provides compensation for losses resulting from physical injury. For more information, you should contact the prosecutor's office where the crime occurred.
Foster Parent. As a foster parent, you have the right to appeal the removal of a child from your home. You also have the right to be notified of each proceeding involving a child placed with you and to be heard at those proceedings. See Michigan Court Rule 3.921(B)(1).
Citizen Using the Court. If you are representing yourself in a case, you are expected to conduct yourself professionally and to follow the same rules an attorney would.
Juror. A juror is a person who has been selected for jury duty. A jury is a group of individuals randomly selected from the community, sworn in by the court, and asked to deliver a decision in a court proceeding. Jurors are an important part of the legal system.
Individuals called for jury duty are randomly selected using driver license and personal identification cardholder lists provided by the Secretary of State. If you have been selected, read the juror summons or notice carefully. It will explain where and when you must appear.
You must respond to the jury summons. Individuals who are exempt from serving on a jury are: 1) individuals who are not citizens of the United States; 2) individuals who no longer live in the city or county which issued the summons; 3) individuals who do not speak or understand the English language; 4) individuals with a physical or mental disability that would prevent them from serving; 5) individuals over the age of 70 who do not want to serve on a jury; 6) individuals who have served as a juror during the past 12 months; and 7) individuals who are have been convicted of a felony.
Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect. If you believe that a child is in danger of physical injury or is living in a seriously damaging home environment, call the Department of Human Services or any police agency. Reports made to the Department of Human Services are confidential.
Usually within 24 hours of the call, the Department of Human Services or police agency will begin an investigation. If either of these agencies feel that a child has been abused or neglected, they may file a petition with the family division of the circuit court. A petition alleging child abuse or neglect may result in the removal of the child from his or her parents or legal guardians. The parents or legal guardian may be required to participate in child abuse or neglect programs. Sometimes, the court may terminate the rights of the parents or legal guardian and place the child for adoption.
Medical or physical health care providers, social workers, teachers, and law enforcement personnel are required by law to report all suspected child abuse and neglect cases. These individuals must submit a report to the Department of Human Services.
Witness. A person who testifies at a court hearing is a witness. As a witness, you may have seen an accident, witnessed a crime, be asked to describe the character of someone you know, or be directly involved in a trial. You may be appearing because you volunteered to do so, or you may have received a subpoena or court order directing you to appear in court. You must obey the subpoena or face legal penalties.
If you have been subpoenaed to appear as a witness, the subpoena will tell you where and when to appear. If you are not called to testify on the specified day, the judge may extend the terms of the subpoena.
Witnesses who have been subpoenaed are paid a witness fee and a rate for mileage. The payment is usually received with the subpoena. See MCR 2.506(G)(1). The witness fee is currently $12.00 per day and $6.00 per half-day (MCL 600.2552).
As a witness, you will be asked to answer some questions regarding your knowledge of the case. Here are some suggestions that may help you as a witness: stay calm; be on time; answer only the question being asked; do not guess or speak out of turn; and most importantly, always tell the truth.