Detroit court returns to local control after troubleshooter cuts costs, improves operations

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DETROIT — Detroit's once-troubled 36th District Court is returning to local management after a 16-month overhaul that cut millions in costs and brought many changes, from self-serve kiosks to pay fines to an end to free parking for judges.

The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday ended the assignment of special administrator Michael Talbot. Nancy Blount, already the chief judge of 36th District Court, now is in charge of running it.

Talbot was appointed in May 2013 after the National Center for State Courts found a culture of financial instability, bad customer service and inadequate use of technology. He is credited with reducing costs by nearly $6 million, partly through pay cuts, layoffs and insurance changes.

The court handles a variety of matters: traffic tickets, lawsuits up to $25,000, landlord-tenant disputes and initial hearings in major felonies. More than 1 million cases are handled each year.

"There were a lot of people who wanted to do a good job here but had little to no direction. So they made up their jobs," Blount said in a report summarizing improvements. "And they had no concept of how their jobs fit into the broader scheme of case processing until now."

The court's 31 judges must pay for parking and be on the bench by 9 a.m. so clerks can process files without having to work overtime, the report says.

Talbot will turn in his keys at a news conference Thursday. He's also a judge on the Michigan appeals court.

"A smoothly functioning judiciary is a critical layer of the foundation of a thriving city," Blount said.


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