Michigan Supreme Court Extends Filing Deadlines in the Face of COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought significant, unprecedented uncertainty to many aspects of our day-to-day lives. Yet in the face of these challenging times, legal disputes continue to arise. The Michigan Supreme Court recently issued several orders designed to ensure continuity of legal services. These measures are aimed at protecting the health of litigants, court employees and the public—such as prospective jurors—while also preserving the judicial process to the maximum extent possible and minimizing disruptions.
While current circumstances will likely result in some delays to many proceedings, the court has expressed its desire to ensure continued access to the courts. To that end, on March 23, 2020 the Supreme Court issued Administrative Order No. 2020-3 (Order), tolling the deadline for commencement of certain legal proceedings as well as the deadlines to file responsive pleadings during the crisis. Pursuant to the Order, any statutory prerequisites for filing a complaint or a responsive pleading are suspended during the state of emergency declared by Governor Whitmer. The filing timeline for such pleadings will resume when the state of emergency ends.
Notably, the Order does not preclude courts from ordering an expedited response to a complaint or motion in order to hear and resolve an emergency matter requiring immediate attention. Similarly, while many local courts have delayed legal proceedings, the Order does not prohibit litigants from commencing proceedings when they choose, and the Order encourages courts to conduct hearings and other proceedings remotely. Many courts are issuing their own guidelines for doing so.
The Order has a significant impact on the deadlines for filing claims and asserting defenses in Michigan, and timing may be critical.