What is an informal hearing?
An informal hearing is a court proceeding held to decide whether you committed and whether you are responsible for the traffic offense with which you were charged. It is your opportunity to defend yourself, to ask questions, and to have witnesses testify in your favor. The testimony is under oath but the hearing is much less formal than a trial.
How is an informal hearing different from a trial?
The magistrate, rather than the district judge, usually presides over the hearing. Neither side may be represented by an attorney. There is no jury and no court reporter. The magistrate’s final decision will be based on preponderance, a 51 to 49 percent majority, of the evidence, not on proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In general, the atmosphere will be less formal than that of a trial.
What if I can’t make the informal hearing that is scheduled?
If you cannot appear for the informal hearing that is scheduled, you and the citing officer have the right to adjourn the hearing one time only. We need a letter requesting the adjournment at least seven days in advance from the date of the hearing. If it is a medical emergency you must contact the court and it will be at the courts discretion.
How do I defend myself at the hearing?
You may testify on your own behalf, have witnesses testify on your behalf, and ask questions of the witnesses against you. It is expected that any questions will be concise, courteous, and not argumentative. You should also present any documents or other physical evidence you might have that supports your case. In general, remember that your hearing is your “day in court”, so come prepared. Have your defense and questions ready.
How do I get my witnesses to appear?
You may ask witnesses to come in voluntarily, or if necessary, you may use the subpoena power of the court to obtain their attendance. Subpoena forms may be obtained from the court clerk.
Must I pay witnesses for appearing?
Yes, if you are the party subpoenaing the witness. Check with the court clerk to find out current witness fee amounts.
May the citing officer bring witnesses?
What are the possible outcomes of the hearing?You may be found:
What happens if the citing officer fails to appear?
If the officer does not appear, the case will be dismissed "without prejudice," which means there has not been a finding of responsibility for the charged offense. The officer may issue another citation for the same incident.
What happens if I fail to appear?
If you fail to appear, the court will enter a default judgment against you. This means the court will automatically find you responsible for the infraction charged, set the fine and costs, and mail you a judgment notice requiring you to pay, if you do not pay the judgment within 28 days, the court will send you a 14-day notice. If you do not pay within 14 days from the notice date, your driver’s license will be suspended by the Secretary of State and the court may issue a warrant for your arrest.
What about violation points?
Points are assessed by the Secretary of State’s office when it receives notice from the court that you committed a moving traffic offense. The magistrate who finds you responsible cannot adjust the number of points assessed against you.
Do I have the right to appeal?
If you are found responsible by the magistrate after an informal hearing, you have the right to appeal for a formal hearing before the district judge. If the judge finds you responsible after a formal hearing, you have the right to appeal again to circuit court.
How do I appeal the decision made at an informal hearing?
Within 7 days of the judgment, you must complete an appeal form and file it with the court, together with an appeal bond equal to the fine and costs imposed by the magistrate. You do not have to pay a filing fee for the appeal. If the magistrate reduces your charge and or fine and you still want to appeal, the charges and fines will go back to what they were originally.
What if I have further questions about informal hearings?
Ask any court employee. He or she will answer your question, or find you someone who can. There is one exception: we CANNOT give you legal advice.
How do I get information about personal protection orders?
Contact 17th Circuit Court at (616) 632-5067
How do I request that a “no contact order” be lifted ?
This is at the judge’s discretion. The victim in the case may submit a letter as to why he/she would like the no contact order to be lifted and provide identification. Letters will not be reviewed by Judges until after the 1st pre-trial and prosecutor assigned to the case has reviewed the letter.
How do I reschedule my court date?
All requests to reschedule a court date must be in writing for the judge to review. It is at the judge’s discretion. Please contact the court.
How can I obtain my criminal history?
Contact the Michigan State Police for your criminal history. https://apps.michigan.gov/ichat/home.aspx
How can I obtain my police report?
Contact the Kent County Prosecutors Office or the City Attorney’s Office handling your case to obtain your police report. The 63rd District court does not provide them.
Where do I get a copy of my Michigan driving record?
Contact the Secretary of State to obtain your driving record.
What is a Small Claims case?
A small claims case is a claim for a money judgment of up to $5,500.00. There are some topics which cannot be heard in Small Claims. These include: fraud, libel, slander, assault, battery, and other intentional torts.
How much does it cost to file?
The filing fee depends on the amount of money you are suing for. Please see the Filing Fees page. There may be additional fees to serve the paperwork as well, but you may ask that court costs be included into your judgment.
When will I have a hearing on my case?
Small Claims hearings are usually scheduled with a magistrate about 6-8 weeks after the claim is filed.
May I bring a lawyer?
No. Small Claims hearing are very informal; attorneys are not allowed to represent anyone in Small Claims. If you wish to hire an attorney, the case must be removed from Small Claims to General Civil some time before the Small Claims hearing is scheduled.
What should I bring with me to the hearing?
You should bring all of your documents, witnesses, and other evidence that you have to support or argue the claim.
What if we settle before the hearing?
If the dispute is settled or paid before the hearing, the plaintiff will need to file a dismissal.
What if the plaintiff/defendant doesn’t show up for the hearing?
If the plaintiff does not show up for the hearing, the magistrate will dismiss the case. If the defendant does not show up for the hearing, a default judgment will enter against him. He may request to have the judgment set aside by filing a Motion to Set Aside Default
What happens if the plaintiff wins?
If the plaintiff wins, the defendant has 21 days to pay the amount of the judgment to the plaintiff. If the defendant fails to do so, the plaintiff may begin collection activity on the 22nd day.
May I appeal a Small Claims judgment?
If your case was held before a magistrate, you have seven days to file an appeal to have your case held before a judge.
What do I need to do to start a Landlord Tenant case?
Before filing a Landlord Tenant case you must first serve a notice upon the occupants of the property to allow them a chance to move or pay up on their rent. If the occupants fail to comply with the notice served, then you may file the Summons & Complaint with the Court. The Complaint form should match the type of notice that was originally served.
Will I need to hire an attorney?
You are not required to have an attorney for Landlord Tenant cases unless you are a corporation or an LLC. You may wish to hire yourself an attorney if you are unfamiliar with the landlord tenant lawsuit process, Michigan Court Rules, and Michigan laws. If you choose to represent yourself, you are expected to abide by the requirements the same as an attorney would.
How much does it cost to file?
Please see the Filing Fees page. There will also be additional service fees that are incurred separately.
What does a Landlord Tenant Judgment mean?
The judgment will vary depending on the type of case filed, but generally the judgment gives the tenant(s) 10 days to vacate the property (or in some cases pay the rent owed) before the plaintiff may request to have a formal eviction done by a court officer.
How long do I have to move?
Unless the parties come to an agreement for a different length of time, you will have 10 days to move.
What is an eviction?
An eviction is the process of having a court officer come in to remove an occupant from a property that he/she is no longer legally allowed to occupy.
Can the judgment be appealed?
Yes. Appeals to Landlord Tenant judgments are done at 17th Circuit Court which is located at: 180 Ottawa Ave., Grand Rapids, MI 49503
The appeal process can be complicated and you may wish to hire an attorney for assistance, our clerks may not assist you with this process.
For a basic appeal checklist, please click here.
I have a default judgment entered against me. Can I have this set aside?
You may pay $20 to file a Motion to Set Aside the Default Judgment. Your motion will be held in front of a judge with the plaintiff in attendance as well. The judge will determine if the default judgment is to be set aside. Filing this motion does NOT guarantee the judgment will be set aside. If you wish to stop the eviction process while waiting on this motion to he heard, you will also need to post one month’s rent into escrow with the Court.
I was just served a Summons & Complaint. What do I need to do next?
Start by reading through the papers that you were served so that you understand the claims being filed against you. Follow the instructions on the Summons to file your written answer (response) with the court and the plaintiff/plaintiff’s attorney. For more information on how to respond, click here.
When will I have a court date?
Once a defendant responds in writing to the Summons & Complaint, a Settlement Conference date, and a trial date will be scheduled for in about six months. Notice of these dates along with discovery deadlines will be mailed to both parties. Please note that other hearings/motions may be filed by the initiative of either party before the conference and trial dates. Typically, both parties are required to attend these hearings/motions. The notice of these dates does NOT come from the court.
Do I need to hire an attorney?
You are not required to have an attorney for General Civil cases unless you are a corporation or an LLC. You may wish to hire yourself an attorney if you are unfamiliar with the civil lawsuit process, Michigan Court Rules, and Michigan laws. If you choose to represent yourself, you are expected to abide by the requirements the same as an attorney would.
Why do I have a default judgment entered against me?
When you are served (either personally, or by alternate service methods) you must respond in writing to the claims made against you within a certain time frame (either 21 days or 28 days depending on how you were served). When you fail to file this written response, you are considered to have defaulted, and the plaintiff may request to have a default judgment entered against you.
I have a default judgment entered against me. Can I have this set aside?
You may pay $20 to file a Motion to Set Aside the Default Judgment. Your motion will be held in front of a judge with the plaintiff in attendance as well. The judge will determine if the default judgment is to be set aside. Filing this motion does NOT guarantee the judgment will be set aside.
1950 East Beltline NE
Grand Rapids, MI 49525
Monday - Friday
8:00am - 5:00pm
Judge Sara J. Smolenski, Chief Judge
Judge Jeffrey J. O’Hara
J. Kevin McKay, Court Administrator