Judicial Disqualification in Michigan
Michigan’s judicial disqualification framework is supplied by Michigan Court Rule 2.003, which provides that a judge may raise the issue of disqualification on his own motion. If he does not, a party or attorney may seek to compel the judge’s removal by filing a written motion, supported by an affidavit, setting forth all known grounds for the requested relief. If the motion to disqualify is filed in a court having two or more judges, and the challenged judge denies the motion, the judge must, on request of a party, refer the motion to the chief judge, who must then decide the motion de novo.
In Michigan, should a motion be filed in an untimely manner, the right to disqualification will not automatically be deemed to be waived; but untimeliness is a factor in deciding whether the motion should be granted.
Under the current Michigan rule, personal bias for or against a party or attorney is a valid ground for seeking judicial disqualification, but a mere “appearance of bias” is not. Thus, a party who wishes to challenge a Michigan judge for bias must overcome a heavy presumption of judicial impartiality. Parties have occasionally attempted to circumvent the procedural requirements of Rule 2.003 by seeking what is known as an “order of superintending control” from the Michigan Court of Appeals. But this type of process, which is similar to a writ of certiorari, has traditionally been used only to determine if an inferior tribunal had jurisdiction; and, if so, whether it exceeded that jurisdiction. Thus, the procedure specified by Rule 2.003 is generally considered to be the exclusive one for seeking to disqualify a Michigan judge.
1. For a 2014 Michigan Judicial Institute pamphlet focused on the subject of “Judicial Disqualification in Michigan” click here
2. For a 2009 Brennan Center for Justice piece (“Recusal Reform in Michigan”) describing the changes to Michigan Rule 2.003 which were then in process click here
3. For a comprehensive overview of recusal and disqualification law in Michigan which is updated annually see Flamm, R., Judicial Disqualification: Recusal and Disqualification of Judges, § 28.24. See also this 2008 Order from Michigan’s Court of Appeals denying a motion to recuse seven appellate court justices citing Richard E. Flamm, Judicial Disqualification (Second Edition). To locate Michigan libraries that have the current edition of Judicial Disqualification click here