Michigan Court of Appeals Rules that Judge Lacks Authority to Dismiss Criminal Case Based on Prosecution Deliberate Misstatements
Desperate to get an adjournment of an impending trial date, a Wayne County prosecutor falsely told Judge Michael Hathaway that the officer/witness had became disabled. The Court granted the adjournment and later learned the story was false. The reality was the officer as a witness in a District Court. Under long standing Michigan procedure Circuit Court dates take precedent over District Court dates. Learning of the deception, the trial court dismissed the case with prejudice (meaning that charges could not be rebrought). The Court of Appeals reinstated the charges stating. Even though a Circuit Court can dismiss a case for the deliberate misconduct of a civil litigant, the Court found that separation of powers prohibited them from doing this in a criminal case. In reaching this conclusion, the Court of Appeals relied on People v Morrow, 214 Mich App 158; 542 NW2d 324 (1995), a case stating that a judge cannot dismiss a weak (but theoretically sustainable) case over the objection of the prosecution. In reaching this ruling, the Court of Appeals did not address People v Taylor, 159 Mich App 468; 406 NW2d 859 (1987), which states that a Court has the authority to sanction a party for non-compliance with the rules of procedure. Instead, the Court granted the prosecution greater authority to engage in misconduct than is granted to other litigants. In this author’s opinion, the ruling is questionable. People v Gray, No 288052, 2009 WL 3401133 (Mich Ct App Oct 22, 2009).