Courts and the buildings that housed them were once an essential part of the community. Often the Courthouse was the only public building in the region large enough for a town meeting. Many Courts shared their space with other important agencies, such as schools, libraries, and of course, the police. As villages grew to become cities, and the Courts grew as a consequence, this relationship slowly disappeared. In the end, Courts became something outside of the community, no longer connected...
Michigan's legislature, recognizing the need for a local judicial presence within the community, created a new type of Court: the District Court. Unfortunately, District Courts, due in part to jurisdictional restrictions that limited their ability to cope with larger community problems and their ever-increasing caseload, were never able to restore the idea of the Court as a local institution. Many now believe this lack of a community connection is at least a contributing factor in the decline in public trust in the criminal justice system.
In 1998, the Judges and staff of the 52-1 District Court held three town hall meetings. We asked what the people we serve thought of their Court, and were told at those meetings that the Court needed to focus upon the larger needs of the community and not simply upon how well we were managing our dockets. Those meetings convinced the Judges and staff of the Court of the need for a new partnership with the community. In response, we asked the Michigan Supreme Court to assist us in creating such a new partnership. The Supreme Court responded by designating the 1st Division of the52nd District Court as a pilot court in the areas of trial court performance standards and community outreach. In effect they gave us a mission to recreate the 52-1 District Court as a Community Court. And that is just what we are committed to do. We hope to reach into the neighborhoods we serve and restore the Court to its rightful place as a focal point of community life.
We will do this in some new ways. The Court's new website and our annual report to the community, one of which you are reading right now, are just two examples. The new Sobriety Court is yet third.
We will also do this in some old ways. We will be working with advisory committees that will allow citizens to tell us what they think about various issues facing the court. We have already created three such committees, one to advise us about Sobriety Court, another to advise on domestic violence and one more to help with teen alcohol and drug use. We have also started to use the courthouse for education programs about alcohol and drugs. So, our courthouse has once again become a meeting place.
These programs and those more completely described in the following pages are the start of the 52-1 District Court's effort to rekindle the concept of the court as an important part of the community. We are looking for volunteers to help us. If you are interested, please contact the court in writing. Our address is 48150 Grand River Ave., Novi, Mi. 48374. Whether you are able to help or not, remember the 52-1 District Court is a part of the community, serving you.