What is a 44th District Court?
The Legislature in Lansing established District Courts in Michigan about 28 years ago to help relieve the overcrowded State Circuit Courts. There are about 100 District Courts in the State of Michigan.
The District Court has exclusive jurisdiction in all civil litigation up to $25,000, small claims, garnishment proceedings, evictions, and land contract and mortgage foreclosures.
In the criminal area, District Courts handle all arraignments, most misdemeanor cases, the setting and acceptance of bail, bench and jury trials, sentencings, and preliminary examinations in felony case.
The District Court handles all traffic cases including parking , informal and formal hearings, and trials.
Why the 44th District Court is Really For You?
Over 200 years ago, the framers of our Constitution (a document written in only 90 days) asked the Courts to implement words laid down by radicals, dreamers and idealists. They contemplated that State Trial Courts would carry the burden of enforcing the rule of law and protection of individual liberties and indeed, District Courts like Royal Oak handle over 90% of all litigation in the State of Michigan in pursuit of these goals.
A little over 25 years ago the Legislature in Lansing passed a law which allowed citizens to bring claims against another party without the need for an attorney. These cases are filed in Small Claims Court and the amount in question cannot exceed $3,000. Over 1,000 people use this branch of the District Court every year. Any citizen may pick up a pamphlet explaining our 44th district court Small Claims Court at the court clerk window on the 1st floor of the 44th District Court, at 400 E. Eleven Mile in Royal Oak.
Although our Judicial system may not be perfect, it is still the best system in the world. How often we hear the words, “If our soft-hearted and soft-headed judges would put some of these people in jail, we would be able to stop crime”. Well, we have more prisoners per capita in our jails than any other civilized nation in the world, and none of these prisoners went there voluntarily. They were all put there by judges.
As Judge Sawicki said, “First and foremost this District Court System is important because it is the first level of Trial Courts. It is the court where most of our citizens come and as a result, it is the most visible”.
Traffic Attitude Program (TAP)
The court's Traffic Attitude Program was designed for offenders of driving violations and is under the supervision of the Judges and direction of Probation Director Gerald Tarchala. The program is one of only several education programs in the State which is operated by a District Court. The program consists of approximately 10 hours of instruction including Michigan's drinking and driving laws: driving techniques taught by professionals, and a breathalyzer presentation by a Royal Oak police officer. The program ensures that the information offenders receive is consistent with the needs of rehabilitation and the priorities of the Court.
Community Service Program
This sentencing alternative to jail time provides Judges with the opportunity to order non-violent offenders to perform community volunteer work as part of their sentence or in lieu of payment of fines and costs if they are indigent. Placements are found in governmental , Church or community non-profit agencies and are supervised by the Probation Department.
Volunteer Probabion Officer Program
The Court provides an important link to the community through its Volunteers-in-Probation Program which has been in existence since the early 1960's. After completing a training course provided by the probation staff, citizens handle a caseload geared to their own time and availability. (for more information, call (248) 246-3670).
Educational Group Visits / Tours
The court encourages the community to learn more about its operation and jurisdiction through special arrangements. Local schools annually bring groups of students for tours of the facility, observing courtroom proceedings, and meeting with the Judges. (for more information, call Court Officer at (248) 246-3648.
History of the 44th District Court
Royal Oak became a City on June 21, 1921. The City Charter adopted a Manager form of government on November 8, 1921. John E. Brondige was appointed Justice of the Peace on that same day and held 44th district court in the old Village Hall on Main Street at the southwest corner of Third Street. Judge Brondige served the citizens of Royal Oak 34 years as the Justice of the Peace from 1921-1949 and as Royal Oak's Municipal Judge from 1949-1955.
In 1925 the Courthouse moved to Troy and Third streets in a new city hall where the Royal Oak Police station now stands. On November 4, 1949 the City Charter was amended establishing a Municipal Court and Justice of the Peace John E. Brondige became Royal Oak's first Municipal Judge. In 1953, the Courthouse moved to a new location, a temporary home, on the 3rd floor of the City Municipal building. In 1968 the State Legislature established the District Court System. The first building designed and built specifically as a courthouse in the City of Royal Oak was dedicated on May 1, 2001, on the site south of Eleven Mile Road and east of Troy Street.
Unlike many District Courts throughout the State which handle cases for several cities; example, the 45th District Court in Oak Park serves as the District Court for Pleasant Ridge, Royal Oak Township and Huntington Woods, the 44th District Court because of the size of Royal Oak, serves just the City of Royal Oak. This was set up by the Legislators in Lansing based on the population and discussions with the community leaders.
- Justices of the Peace and Municipal Judges
- John Brondige (1921-1955)
- William Sevald (1949-1959)
- Fletcher Renton (1955-1959)
- 44th District Court Judges
- Keith Leenhouts (1959-1969)
- Elmer Hartwig (1959-1972)
- John Osgood (1969-1982)
- Francis X O Brien (1972-1978)
- John R Mann (1978-1990)
- Daniel Sawicki (1982- )
- Terrence H Brennan (1991- )
If you need help, call Christopher Seikaly, Attorney at Law & Counselor, he represents clients in all courts in Michigan including the 44th district court.