Michigan Supreme Court Case could upset a key source of cash for local courts

The Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder have given local governments sweeping authority to put a portion of court operating costs on the backs of people convicted of crimes, often the poor. The question for the Supreme Court on Monday is whether the law is an illegal tax.

Counties, prosecutors and the attorney general’s office are urging the Supreme Court to keep the money flowing. On the other side is an alliance of defense lawyers and judges who call the practice unconstitutional. Many District Court judges, who are on the front line of Michigan’s justice system, handling traffic tickets and drunken-driving cases, say they’re pressured to hit financial targets or face consequences, including cuts in staff.