May 2020 - Michigan Supreme Court Order Allows Discovery in Misdemeanor Proceedings

The Michigan Supreme Court has amended MCR 6.610, effective May 1, 2020, to allow discovery in misdemeanor proceedings in district court. ADM File No. 2018-23. The amended rule provides: 

(E) Discovery in Misdemeanor Proceedings. 

(1) The provisions of MCR 6.201, except for MCR 6.201(A), apply in all misdemeanor proceedings.

(2) MCR 6.201(A) only applies in misdemeanor proceedings, as set forth in this subrule, if a defendant elects to request discovery pursuant to MCR 6.201(A). If a defendant requests discovery pursuant to MCR 6.201(A) and the prosecuting attorney complies, then the defendant must also comply with MCR 6.201(A).

The Staff Comment to the amendment states: “The amendment of MCR 6.610 allows discovery in misdemeanor proceedings in the district court by creating a structure similar to the federal rules (FR Crim P 16[b]) in which a defendant’s duty to provide certain discovery is triggered only if defense counsel first requests discovery from the prosecution, and the prosecution complies.”

Concurring in the Order, Chief Justice McCormack wrote:

The rule the Court adopts today will promote efficiency, fairness, and justice in our district courts. Until today there was no required discovery in any misdemeanor cases; whether a defendant could obtain a copy of a police report before deciding to go to trial, for example, was left to the discretion of the prosecutor. Now, discovery will be available for defendants who request it, and those who do request it will provide the same to the prosecution. 

The Chief Justice also noted, 

“The benefits of this change are substantial. Early information helps resolve cases more efficiently, conserving the resources of both the parties and the courts.” She added that “[o]btaining discovery is key to determining whether to go to trial or proceed with plea negotiations. Early disclosure of the prosecution’s evidence allows a defendant to investigate, formulate a defense, and decide whether to plead guilty without delay.”

by John Zevalking
Associate Editor