Duncan v. State, Docket No. 307790.

Citation300 Mich.App. 176,832 N.W.2d 761
Decision Date02 April 2013
Docket NumberDocket No. 307790.
PartiesDUNCAN v. State of MICHIGAN.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan (US)

300 Mich.App. 176
832 N.W.2d 761

State of MICHIGAN.

Docket No. 307790.

Court of Appeals of Michigan.

Submitted Dec. 12, 2012, at Lansing.
Decided April 2, 2013, at 9:05 a.m. Leave to appeal sought.

[832 N.W.2d 764]

Frank D. Eamon PLLC (by Frank D. Eamon), Mark Granzotto, PC, Royal Oak (by Mark R. Granzotto), Michael J. Steinberg, Kary L. Moss, and Mark P. Fancher, Detroit, for plaintiffs.

Bill Schuette, Attorney General, John J. Bursch, Solicitor General, Richard A Bandstra, Chief Legal Counsel, and Ann M. Sherman and Margaret A. Nelson, Assistant Attorneys General, for defendants.



[300 Mich.App. 182]Defendants, the state and the Governor of Michigan (collectively “the state”), appeal by leave granted the trial court's order dated December 15, 2011, denying the state's motion for summary disposition. For the reasons set forth in this opinion, we affirm and lift the stay previously imposed by this Court.

[832 N.W.2d 765]


This case returns to this Court after a remand by our Supreme Court to the trial court. Plaintiffs filed suit challenging the sufficiency of the state's indigent criminal defense system and sought, through a class action, injunctive relief to improve the quality of indigent representation throughout Michigan. Plaintiffs' proposed class consists of present and future indigent criminal defendants who require counsel appointed through our indigent criminal defense system. The state previously moved for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(4), (7), and (8), arguing, among other [300 Mich.App. 183]things, that plaintiffs' preconviction claims were nonjusticiable because plaintiffs (a) had failed to meet the certification requirements of a class action, (b) had failed to properly plead a valid cause of action against the state, and (c) lacked standing. The trial court disagreed and certified plaintiffs' class.

On appeal, a majority of this Court held that

on the basis of the pleadings and at this juncture in the lawsuit, plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged facts that, if true, establish standing, establish that the case is ripe for adjudication, and state claims upon which declaratory and injunctive relief can be awarded. Finally, we hold that the trial court properly granted the motion for class certification. [Duncan v. Michigan, 284 Mich.App. 246, 343, 774 N.W.2d 89 (2009).]

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Whitbeck opined that the state was entitled to summary disposition for the following reasons: (1) granting relief to plaintiffs would violate the separation of powers, (2) plaintiffs had failed to state a proper claim for relief, lacked standing, and had pleaded unripe claims, and (3) plaintiffs' action was incorrectly certified as a class action. Id. at 346, 371, 376, 385–388, 395–399, 774 N.W.2d 89 (Whitbeck, J., dissenting).

The state sought leave to appeal in our Supreme Court. In Duncan v. Michigan, 486 Mich. 906, 780 N.W.2d 843 (2010), our Supreme Court ordered as follows:

Leave to appeal having been granted and the briefs and oral arguments of the parties having been considered by the Court, we hereby vacate the trial court's order granting the plaintiffs' motion for class certification and remand this case to the Ingham Circuit Court for reconsideration of the plaintiffs' motion for class certification in light of this Court's opinion in Henry v. Dow Chemical Co., 484 Mich. 483 [772 N.W.2d 301] (2009).

As to the defendants' appeal of the decision on their motion for summary disposition, we hereby affirm the result [300 Mich.App. 184]only of the Court of Appeals majority for different reasons. This case is at its earliest stages and, based solely on the plaintiffs' pleadings in this case, it is premature to make a decision on the substantive issues. Accordingly, the defendants are not entitled to summary disposition at this time.

We do not retain jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court subsequently granted reconsideration and reversed this Court's decision for the reasons stated in Judge Whitbeck's dissenting opinion. Duncan v. Michigan, 486 Mich. 1071, 784 N.W.2d 51 (2010). However, our Supreme Court later reinstated its original order affirming this Court's decision and remanding the matter to the trial court. Duncan v. Michigan, 488 Mich. 957 (2010).

On remand, the trial court held a status conference and decided to permit the parties to conduct discovery before deciding plaintiffs' motion for class certification. Before a single deposition was taken, however, the state renewed its motion for summary disposition, arguing the following:

[832 N.W.2d 766]

(1) discovery was inappropriate because the Supreme Court had remanded for consideration of plaintiffs' pending class-certification motion and not a renewed motion with the benefit of discovery, (2) plaintiffs' claims should not be certified as a class action, (3) plaintiffs lacked standing, (4) plaintiffs had failed to state a proper claim for which relief could be granted, (5) res judicata barred plaintiffs' claims, and (6) plaintiffs could not object to the state's challenges because of judicial estoppel. The trial court denied the state's motion, holding that (a) it was premature to decide plaintiffs' class-certification motion because Henry required the court to take discovery before deciding a certification motion, (b) it could not reconsider the state's MCR 2.116(C)(8) motion or plaintiffs' standing because both this Court and our Supreme Court had already decided those matters in plaintiffs' favor, and (c) the state had failed to establish any of the elements of res judicata.

[300 Mich.App. 185]II. ANALYSIS

The state first argues that the trial court erroneously failed to dismiss plaintiffs' motion for class certification when it denied the state's motion for summary disposition. The state suggests that the trial court inappropriately ordered discovery and insists that plaintiffs “have not met their burden of establishing that each certification prerequisite has been satisfied.” We reject this argument.

We review de novo a trial court's decision on a motion for summary disposition. Auto Club Group Ins. Co. v. Burchell, 249 Mich.App. 468, 479, 642 N.W.2d 406 (2001). “[T]he analysis a trial court must undertake in order to determine whether to certify a proposed class may involve making both findings of fact and discretionary determinations”; therefore, we review a trial court's factual findings regarding class certification for clear error and the decisions within the trial court's discretion for an abuse of discretion. Henry, 484 Mich. at 495–496, 772 N.W.2d 301. State courts “have broad discretion to determine whether a class will be certified.” Id. at 504, 772 N.W.2d 301. An abuse of discretion occurs when the trial court's decision falls outside the range of principled outcomes. Maldonado v. Ford Motor Co., 476 Mich. 372, 388, 719 N.W.2d 809 (2006). The interpretation and application of a court rule is a question of law that we review de novo. Snyder v. Advantage Health Physicians, 281 Mich.App. 493, 500, 760 N.W.2d 834 (2008).

For a court to grant a motion for class certification, the requirements of MCR 3.501(A)(1) and (2) must be satisfied. Henry, 484 Mich. at 488, 496–497, 772 N.W.2d 301.MCR 3.501(A)(1) requires that a proposed class of plaintiffs establish the following elements: (1) the class is sufficiently[300 Mich.App. 186]numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, (2) the common questions of fact or law predominate over matters relevant to only individual plaintiffs, (3) the claims of the class representatives are typical of the claims available to the entire class, (4) the class representatives will fairly and adequately represent the interests of the entire class, and (5) the class-action mechanism is superior to other methods of adjudication. Id. at 496–497, 772 N.W.2d 301. In evaluating the “superiority” element, MCR 3.501(A)(2) requires consideration of the following nonexclusive factors:

(a) whether the prosecution of separate actions by or against individual members of the class would create a risk of

(i) inconsistent or varying adjudications with respect to individual members

[832 N.W.2d 767]

of the class that would confront the party opposing the class with incompatible standards of conduct; or

(ii) adjudications with respect to individual members of the class that would as a practical matter be dispositive of the interests of other members not parties to the adjudications or substantially impair or impede their ability to protect their interests;

(b) whether final equitable or declaratory relief might be appropriate with respect to the class;

(c) whether the action will be manageable as a class action;

(d) whether in view of the complexity of the issues or the expense of litigation the separate claims of individual class members are insufficient in amount to support separate actions;

(e) whether it is probable that the amount which may be recovered by individual class members will be large enough in relation to the expense and effort of administering the action to justify a class action; and

[300 Mich.App. 187](f) whether members of the class have a significant interest in controlling the prosecution or defense of separate actions.

The trial court cannot rubber-stamp allegations in a pleading that baldly proclaim that the class-certification requirements have been satisfied, but the trial court also cannot evaluate the merits of the plaintiffs' claims. Henry, 484 Mich. at 502–503, 772 N.W.2d 301. “A court may base its decision on the pleadings alone only if the pleadings set forth sufficient information to satisfy the court that each prerequisite is in fact met.” Id. at 502, 772 N.W.2d 301. “If the pleadings are not sufficient, the court must look to additional information beyond the pleadings to determine whether class certification is proper.” Id. at 503...

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