Thomas H. Bleakley, PLLC (by Thomas H. Bleakley ) for plaintiffs. Dana Nessel, Attorney General, Fadwa A. Hammoud, Solicitor General, and Jonathan S. Ludwig, Assistant Attorney General, for defendants.
Thomas H. Bleakley, PLLC (by Thomas H. Bleakley ) for plaintiffs.
Dana Nessel, Attorney General, Fadwa A. Hammoud, Solicitor General, and Jonathan S. Ludwig, Assistant Attorney General, for defendants.
Before: Cameron, P.J., and Beckering and Ronayne Krause, JJ.
Ronayne Krause, J. Plaintiffs are various taxpayers, residents, and parents of children in Detroit who generally contend that defendants have engaged in a longstanding practice of mandating certain educational services without providing funding for those services in violation of the Headlee Amendment, Const. 1963, art. 9, §§ 25 through 34. The dispute in this appeal concerns the division of jurisdiction between the Court of Claims and the circuit courts; specifically, which court has subject-matter jurisdiction over Headlee Amendment claims. The Court of Claims concluded that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction and ordered the matter transferred back to the Wayne Circuit Court. Although the Court of Claims properly relied on binding caselaw, we reverse and remand.
This Court has previously and unambiguously held that the Court of Claims lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over Headlee Amendment claims. Riverview v. Michigan , 292 Mich. App. 516, 808 N.W.2d 532 (2011). Riverview relied on MCL 600.308a(1), which provided, and continues to provide, that a Headlee Amendment action "may be commenced in the court of appeals, or in the circuit court in the county in which venue is proper, at the option of the party commencing the action." After Riverview was decided, the Legislature amended the Court of Claims Act, MCL 600.1401 et seq. , in 2013 PA 164, effective November 12, 2013. In relevant part, former MCL 600.6419(1)(a) provided:
The [Court of Claims] has power and jurisdiction:
(a) To hear and determine all claims and demands, liquidated and unliquidated, ex contractu and ex delicto, against the state and any of its departments, commissions, boards, institutions, arms, or agencies.
The current version of MCL 600.6419(1)(a) provides:
Except as otherwise provided in this section, the [Court of Claims] has the following power and jurisdiction:
(a) To hear and determine any claim or demand, statutory or constitutional, liquidated or unliquidated, ex contractu or ex delicto, or any demand for monetary, equitable, or declaratory relief or any demand for an extraordinary writ against the state or any of its departments or officers notwithstanding another law that confers jurisdiction of the case in the circuit court . [Emphasis added.]
There is no serious dispute that the rule of stare decisis, under which published opinions of this Court have precedential effect, see MCR 7.215(C)(2), may be inapplicable when the Legislature significantly alters the statutory law underlying the decision. See People v. Feezel , 486 Mich. 184, 212-213, 783 N.W.2d 67 (2010) (opinion by CAVANAGH , J.); Lamp v. Reynolds , 249 Mich. App. 591, 604, 645 N.W.2d 311 (2002).
This Court has previously held that the current version of MCL 600.6419(1)(a) superseded MCL 600.4401(1). O'Connell v. Dir. of Elections , 316 Mich. App. 91, 108, 891 N.W.2d 240 (2016). This does not entirely resolve the issue before us. MCL 600.4401(1) addresses where mandamus actions against a state officer may be filed, which is not a matter addressed by Michigan's Constitution. See Const. 1963, art. 11, § 5. In contrast, MCL 600.308a(1) expanded the jurisdiction expressly conferred on the Court of Appeals by our Constitution. See Const. 1963, art. 9, § 32. Furthermore, this Court in Riverview held that despite the broad "statutory grant of jurisdiction to the Court of Claims" found in former MCL 600.6419(1)(a), MCL 600.308a(1) controlled because the latter statute was more specific and operated as an exclusion of jurisdiction to other tribunals. Riverview , 292 Mich. App. at 520, 524-525, 808 N.W.2d 532. In short, there are enough differences between MCL 600.308a(1) and MCL 600.4401(1) that we decline to extend the holding in O'Connell by rote.
Nevertheless, we find an ambiguity in the pertinent statutes because MCL 600.308a(1) and MCL 600.6419(1)(a) irreconcilably conflict. People v. Hall , 499 Mich. 446, 454, 884 N.W.2d 561 (2016). We note that there is also an irreconcilable conflict between two rules of statutory construction. All other things being equal, a more specific statutory provision controls over a more general statutory provision; however, again all other things being equal, a more recent statutory provision controls over an older statutory provision. See Huron Twp. v. City Disposal Sys., Inc ., 448 Mich. 362, 366, 531 N.W.2d 153 (1995) ; Malcolm v. East Detroit , 437 Mich. 132, 139, 468 N.W.2d 479 (1991). It appears to us that MCL 600.308a(1) is more specific with regard to the Court of Appeals’ jurisdiction, whereas MCL 600.6419(1)(a), which addresses the Court of Claims’ jurisdiction, is the more recent statutory provision. Finally, repeals by implication have long been disfavored and will only be found if no other intention by the Legislature is possible. Int'l Business Machines Corp. v. Dep't of Treasury , 496 Mich. 642, 651, 852 N.W.2d 865 (2014) (opinion by VIVIANO , J.). However, the fundamental goal of statutory interpretation is to discover and implement the intent of the Legislature, and to that end, the "rules of construction" are merely helpful guides. Browder v. Int'l Fidelity Ins. Co. , 413 Mich. 603, 611, 321 N.W.2d 668 (1982).
Therefore, we ultimately arrive at the same conclusion as the Court did in O'Connell . We are persuaded that the Legislature intended to repeal MCL 600.308a(1) by implication when it enacted 2013 PA 164, even though MCL 600.308a(1) is clearly more specific and the Headlee Amendment is not mentioned anywhere in 2013 PA 164. Legislative analyses are of minor value, but our Supreme Court has recognized that they may nevertheless be helpful in resolving a close question regarding an ambiguous statute. See In re United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit Certified Question , 468 Mich. 109, 115 n. 5, 659 N.W.2d 597 (2003). We have reviewed the legislative analyses of 2013 PA 164, and we find no mention of the Headlee Amendment. However, the legislative analyses do show a clear intention to extensively rewrite the Court of Claims' jurisdiction in the process of removing it from the Ingham Circuit Court. In other words, there is a strong inference that expanding the scope of the Court of Claims' jurisdiction was intentional and knowing. The phrase "notwithstanding another law that confers jurisdiction," MCL 600.6419(1)(a), only occurs once in MCL 600.6419, and significantly, that language was added by 2013 PA 164. At the same time, the Legislature added two provisions making express exceptions to the new grant of jurisdiction. See MCL 600.6419(5) and (6). We conclude that notwithstanding the specificity of MCL 600.308a(1), our reluctance to find a repeal by implication, and the lack of any mention of the Headlee Amendment in 2013 PA 164 or its legislative analyses, the Legislature did intend to repeal MCL 600.308a(1) when it amended MCL 600.6419(1)(a) in 2013. The pertinent rule of law in Riverview has therefore been overturned by the Legislature, and we are bound to follow the new rule. See United States v. Lee , 106 U.S. (16 Otto) 196, 220, 1 S.Ct. 240, 27 L.Ed. 171 (1882) (stating that government officers "are creatures of the law and are bound to obey it"); Gleason v. Kincaid , 323 Mich. App. 308, 317, 917 N.W.2d 685 (2018) ("Courts are bound to follow statutes and must apply them as written."). The Court of Claims properly found itself bound by Riverview , but it nevertheless incorrectly determined that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs' Headlee Amendment claims on that basis.
Finally, plaintiffs argue that the Court of Claims lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because they are entitled to a trial by a jury. We disagree. No right to a jury trial for Headlee Amendment claims is specified in any statute or provision of the Michigan Constitution. See Madugula v. Taub , 496 Mich. 685, 696, 853 N.W.2d 75 (2014) (stating that "[a] right to a jury trial can exist either statutorily or constitutionally"). The right to a jury trial may exist for claims "similar in character to" claims for which a right to a jury trial existed before the adoption of the Michigan Constitution. Id . at 704-705, 853 N.W.2d 75 (quotation marks and citation omitted). Nevertheless, we conclude that the Headlee Amendment itself precludes plaintiffs' argument because the act's initial grant of jurisdiction was only to this Court. Const. 1963, art. 9, § 32. Riverview , 292 Mich. App. at 521, 524, held that the Legislature was not precluded from treating the constitutional grant of jurisdiction as nonexclusive, which remains a rule of law that we are bound to follow. MCR 7.215(J)(1). However, this Court is fundamentally not a trial court, and it is fundamentally ill-equipped to handle trials of any kind, let alone jury trials—a fact that would have been obvious when the Headlee Amendment was approved by Michigan voters. The grant of jurisdiction to this Court shows that no right to a jury trial was anticipated.
Reversed and remanded. We do not retain jurisdiction. We direct that the parties shall bear their own costs on appeal. MCR 7.219(A).
Cameron, P.J., and Beckering, J., concurred with Ronayne Krause, J.