44th District Court
The Royal Oak 44th District Court welcomes you to our home page. Our purpose here is to assist you in getting the most out of your court system. Simply click on a selection at the left, or a topic below, to choose the information you would like to view.
400 East 11 Mile Rd, Royal Oak, MI 48067, Phone: (248) 246-3600
44th District Court, 400 East 11 Mile Rd, Royal Oak MI 48067, Ph. 248-246-3600
Under supervision of the Chief Judge, Court Administrator serves as the executive officer for the 44th District Court. The Court Administrator is responsible for the administrative management of all non-judicial functions of the Court. This includes personnel management, fiscal management, scheduling and case management, record management, jury utilization and other administrative duties. The Court personnel includes the two Judges, twenty-two fulltime employees, seventeen part-time employees, and over 10 probation volunteers.
Maintains records on all misdemeanor and felony offenses and is responsible for the processing, scheduling and noticing of all Criminal cases in the court.
Responsible for maintaining records and processing all traffic civil infractions, parking violations, and code enforcement proceedings. Check here for traffic fines and points.
Maintains records on general civil, landlord/tenant and small claims cases and is responsible for the scheduling, processing and noticing of these cases.
This department is responsible for the supervision, counseling, and referral of defendants placed on probation. The Probation Department here at the 44th District Court is a full service probation department that also performs all alcohol screening assessments and presentence investigations.
History of the 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 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)
- 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 (1982-2012)
- Terrence H Brennan (1991- )
Derek Meinecke (2013 - )
Why is Jury Service Important?
The United States Constitution guarantees all people, regardless of race, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status, the right to trial by an impartial jury. Justice ultimately depends to a large measure upon the quality of the jurors who serve in our courts and that's why you are important.
What is My Duty as a Juror?
As a juror, you must be fair and impartial. Your actions and decisions must be free of any bias or prejudice. Your actions and decisions are the foundation of our judicial system.
How was I selected?
You were selected at random from a list of driver registrations who live in the City of Royal Oak.
Am I Eligible?
- Be a citizen of the United States
- Reside in the City of Royal Oak
- Be at least 18 yrs of age
- Be able to read and write
- Be of sound mind
- Not have been convicted of a felony
Who can be excused from Jury Duty?
You are entitled to be excused as a juror if you:
- Are over 70 yrs of age
- Are a caretaker of a person who is an invalid
- Can show a physical or mental impairment
- Inability to comprehend or to communicate in English
If you have a serious problem with the date you are scheduled to report, you may call the juror hotline at 246-3600 and ask for a postponement. If the judge does grant you a postponement, you will be given a new date to report, usually within 4-8 weeks. Since jury duty is a constitutional responsibility, requests for postponements are not taken lightly.
What are the Different Types of Cases?
There are two basic type of cases; criminal and civil.
- Criminal Case
- A criminal case results when a person is accused of committing a crime. You, as a juror, must decide whether the person charged is guilty or not guilty. The accused person is presumed innocent, and the City or State, represented by a prosecutor, must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt . The verdict must be 6-0 (unanimous).
- Civil Cases
- A civil case results from a disagreement or dispute between two or more parties. In a civil case, you, as a juror, must answer questions of disputed facts based upon the testimony and evidence admitted by the Judge. The answers to these questions are called the verdict. In civil cases, 5 out of 6 must agree on the verdict.
Will I be Paid for Being a Juror?
Yes. You will be paid $12.50 for a half day (until 12 noon), and $20 for a whole day plus .10 cents a mile from your home to the court.
Must My Employer Pay Me While I Am On Jury Duty?
Your employer is not required to pay you while on jury duty; however, employers are prohibited by law from firing an employee for serving on a jury nor can your job be affected by serving on a jury.
What Is The Juror Information System?
Your juror notice will give you a phone number (246-3646) that you are asked to call two working days before the trial is to begin. When you call this number you will hear a recorded announcement instructing you to either call back the next day after 5 pm or where and what time to report for jury selection.
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.
The Volunteers-in-Probation Program
In 1967 Look magazine designated Royal Oak as one of 7 cities in the United States to be called an All-American City. The reason for this singular honor was the work of a young Judge (Keith Leenhouts), the 44th District Court, and the court's Probation Department.
Like many Judges, Keith Leenhouts was discouraged by what was happening in the system; a defendant is brought in, tried, convicted, pays his/her fine and/or goes to jail, is put on probation, and then proceeds to go out and commit another crime within 3 years.
In 1960 Judge Leenhouts decided to begin a Volunteers-in-Probation program utilizing hundreds of community volunteers (he called them sponsors) to meet one-on-one with probationers for about 12 hours each month. Judge Leenhouts described this technique, one where volunteers introduce their inspirational personality into the life of the offender, to befriend him/her, listen to him/her, and guide him/her through his/her critical first brush with the law.
The results were astounding. The Royal Oak Court utilizing the volunteers-in-probation program, over a 5 year period, had only 14.9% repeat offenders while a comparable court of our size, not using this program, had 48.9% repeaters.
Because of this success, the Royal Oak Court gained National attention and eventually, in 1967, was given the title, All-American City.
Today, thousands of courts throughout the United States are using this program. When Judge Leenhouts retired from the Royal Oak Court, he became National Director of the Volunteers-in-Probation program and to this day, is still active and speaking throughout the country on the
merits of volunteers.
Citizens like yourself may volunteer to help in this program at the court by simply calling the 44th District Court Probation Director Gerald Tarchala at (248) 246-3670. By doing this, you will continue to make Royal Oak a better and safe place to live.
Click on this underlined title to read about "How to make small claims work for you".
You may visit the Small Claims Division during office hours (8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M.), Monday through Friday. The Small Claims Division is located on the 1st floor of Court building at the District Court clerk window. Click here for a Map on how to get to the courthouse. The telephone number is (248) 246-3600. If you are filing a new Small Claims case, please arrive at the Court no later than 4:00 P.M.
You may file a Small Claims action if the amount of damages is $5,000 or less. Before filing your claim, you should have some idea of what your chances are of collection. A Judgment for you does not mean that you will receive "automatic payment". It simply means that you have proven to the satisfaction of the Court that the person you sued owes you money.
The party you have sued may be penniless or bankrupt, may have gone out of business, or left town, may not earn enough for you to garnish their wages, or for other reasons it may be impossible to make the defendant pay. Income such as welfare, unemployment, social security, etc. can not be garnished. If you can't collect, then a judgment in your favor may turn out to be a hollow victory.
Here are a few of the most commonly asked questions about Small Claims Court...
Is Royal Oak's 44th District Court the right Court to file my Small Claims action?
The answer is YES if any ONE of the following statements are true:
- The defendant lives in the City of Royal Oak, or the defendant is a business that has its principal place of business in the City of Royal Oak.
- A person was injured or personal property was damaged in the City of Royal Oak.
- A defendant signed or entered into a contract in the City of Royal Oak, a contract of obligation was to be performed in the City of Royal Oak, or the defendant was a corporation and the contract was breached in the City of Royal Oak.
What form should I fill out and where do I get it?
What Fees will I have to pay?
Before Starting a Small Claims Lawsuit...
Before starting a Small Claims lawsuit in the 44th District Court, as the Plaintiff you should be aware:
- In most accident cases, the amount you may sue for is the amount not covered by insurance, not to exceed $500, and
- You give up the following rights:
- The right to have an attorney represent you,
- The right to a jury trial, and
- The right to appeal
- The defendant(s), however, may choose not to give up their rights and may demand before or at the time of the Small Claims hearing that the case be transferred to the court's regular Civil Division where attorneys are allowed. If that happens, you may want to consult your own attorney.
On the day and time you are scheduled to appear, report to the Court Clerk's window on the 1st floor. Bring with you any evidence and witnesses you wish to present.
- If the defendant appears and admits responsibility, a consent judgment is entered against the defendant.
- If the defendant fails to appear after proper service, a default judgment will be entered against the defendant.
- If you fail to appear, the case will be dismissed.
Collecting Money from a Small Claims Judgment
How much money can I collect?
You many collect the amount stated in your Small Claims judgment plus any interest that accumulated during the time the other party pays off the debt.
How can I collect my money?
- If the defendant has the money and is present at the hearing, he/she can pay you at that time.
- If the defendant does not have the money at that time, and both parties agree, the Judge/Magistrate can set up a payment plan.
- If the defendant does not pay the judgment as ordered, there are two procedures available to you: execution against property and garnishment.
What is an execution?
An execution allows a court officer to seize property belonging to the defendant which can be sold to pay your judgment. To file an execution against property, you may pick up a copy of the form (MC 19) at the court clerk's window (or go online to Court Forms: http://courts.michigan.gov/Administration/SCAO/Forms/Pages).
In order to do this however, you will have to wait 21 days after your small claims judgment was signed, pay a nominal fee, and need to know where the defendant lives and what assets he/she may have.
What is a Garnishment?
A garnishment allows you to collect your judgment by garnishing the defendant's wages, bank accounts, or other sources such as income tax refunds. You first must wait 21 days after your small claims judgment was signed before you pick up the form at the court clerk's window. Before you may do this however, you will need to know where the defendant works, where his/her assets are located, what bank/credit union the defendant uses, etc.
How it works
How to make Small Claims work for you?
A law was passed a few years back making it possible for citizens like yourself to sue someone in Court without a lot of expense. This Court is called Small Claims Court. In Small Claims Court all parties give up the right to have attorneys present, to have a jury trial, and to appeal a Judge's decision. Because of this, your costs to sue someone in Small Claims Court usually just run between $35 and $75. These costs can also be recovered by you if you win your case.
So how does you begin a Small Claims suit in Royal Oak's 44th District Court?
- If you live in Royal Oak or if the action took place in the City of Royal Oak, you come to this Court located at 400 E Eleven Mile Rd, and go to the glass windows of the Clerks office and ask for a Small Claims Form. Click here for a Map on how to get to the courthouse.
- After you fill out this Small Claims Form (either here or at home), you return it back to the Clerk, pay your filing fee, and the fee for certified mail. You may opt for a Court Officer to attempt personal service and you would be billed. This cost varies and is determined by the person being sued.
- The Court will send you a notice of the time that the Court will hear your case. (usually between 1 to 3 months because of the constant increases in small claim filings).
- Just before your Court Date, you should call the District Court and ask if the papers have been served. If that has been done, you are then all set to show up at Small Claims Court and present your case to the Judge.
And this is the real proof why Small Claims Court is for you.
The Judge lets you and the other party tell your sides of the story in your own words. This would be the time for you to present to the Judge any documents, pictures, or witnesses you might have to substantiate your lawsuit. After the Judge hears both sides and looks at all the evidence, he then makes a decision in the case.
But please remember this: SMALL CLAIMS COURT works for you if your lawsuit is valid, under $5000, and if the party you're suing is a responsible citizen or business with the resources to pay you if you are determined by the Judge to be in the right. If you are suing a con artist, someone penniless or bankrupt, or someone who has left town, you may win the Court case and get a judgment in your favor, but you might never collect and may want to reconsider whether to file or not.
The District Court is not a collection agency. But if you have a legitimate claim against a responsible business or individual, Yes, Small Claims Court does work for you. Be sure to pick up our free SMALL CLAIMS booklet at the Court Clerks office. This booklet explains in much greater detail everything you should know about filing a small claims lawsuit.
Traffic Violations - General
What is a Traffic Case?
If you violate the Michigan Motor Vehicle code and are issued a ticket by a police officer, you may be subject to fines and points on your driving record if it is a civil infraction. If your ticket is for a misdemeanor traffic violation, the penalty may include a jail sentence. Both civil infractions and misdemeanor tickets may be disputed in a court hearing or trial.
You may visit the Traffic Division during office hours, 8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., Monday through Friday. The Traffic Division is located on the 1st floor of the Court Building and the telephone number is (248) 246-3600. But first, please review carefully all information on both the front and back of the citation / ticket.
Minor traffic infractions such as moving and mechanical violations are handled in the Traffic Division. Misdemeanor and felony cases(drunk driving cases for instance) are handled in the Criminal Division.
Payment of Fines
The Court accepts payment by cash , check (unless your drivers license has been suspended), money order, credit cards (visa/master) or cashier's check. Checks and money orders should be made payable to the 44th District Court, and can be sent through the mail, remitted in person at the Court, or placed in the drop box in front of the Court Building or City Hall. Please include the ticket number on the check or money order.
Credit card payments can be made online via the internet at:
You need LAST NAME as it appears on the ticket AND ticket number OR driver's license number
Credit card payments can be made online via the internet at Government Payment Services, Inc or by calling 1-888-604-7888. You will need to provide the following:
- The 44th District Court 4-digit Pay Location Code # (3031)
- Your ticket or case number
- The amount owed
For information regarding your ticket/case/citation number and amount owed, call (248)246-3600 during office hours, 8:00 A.M. to 4:30 P.M., Monday through Friday.
To Plead Not Guilty
If you wish to plead not guilty, before your appearance date on the ticket, you must either:
- Call or write to schedule a Court Hearing date, or
- Write an explanation to the Judge.
Scheduling a Court Trial Date can be done in one of two ways:
- You may request a Court Hearing date at the court clerk's office on the 1st floor of the Court Building, on or before the due date written on the citation. On the day of your court hearing, report to the Clerk's Office 15 minutes prior to your scheduled courtroom appearance.
- You may write your request, your letter should include the statement that you intend to plead not guilty and would like a Court Hearing date. After the request is received, your scheduled Court Hearing date will be sent to you by mail within two weeks. If you do not receive the notice, it is your responsibility to call the court at (248)246-3600 and find out your date for your hearing.
Violations that may be Waived
If the officer checked on the ticket (waived), some violations like defective equipment are dismissed upon proof of correction, signed by a police officer, and the signed ticket being returned to the 44th District Court before the due date on the citation (ticket).
If your citation requires a mandatory appearance, MISDEMEANORS, report to the court clerk's office at 8:15 A.M. on the 1st floor of the Court Building, on any day prior to or on your due date. Failure to do so will result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.
Failure to Appear
Failure to appear in Court as you have promised or are required to will result in the following actions:
- An assessment of additional court costs.
- You will be charged with a failure to appear, which is a misdemeanor and is punishable by a fine, jail or both.
- The Court will notify the Secretary of State of your failure to appear. They will withhold the issuance or renewal of your driver's license and suspend your driving privilege until the case is formally closed.
Traffic Fines and Points
Read both sides of the citation you received. The Due Date on the front is important. Failure to respond by the Due Date may result in additional fines and costs, in addition to the possible issuance of an arrest warrant and/or suspension of your driver’s license.
Checks must be in U.S. funds, payable to the 44th District Court. No personal checks accepted if driver’s license is suspended. If using a credit card to pay via the web or by phone, you must go to www.govpayexp.com or call (888) 604-7888. (There is a small charge for this service.) The Court's Pay Location Code (PLC) # is 3031.
1-5 MPH over speed limit
6-10 MPH over speed limit
11-15 MPH over speed limit
Speeding in School Zone
Blockading / Impeding Traffic
Violation of Barricade
Disobey Stop Sign, Traffic Signal
Failure to Signal
Failure to Change Address
Failure to Stop – Assured Clear Distance
Failure to Yield Right of Way
Following Too Closely
Improper Lane Usage
No Seat Belt
No Child Restraint
Unsafe Start / Sudden Acceleration
Texting While Driving First Offense
Texting While Driving Second Offense
No Proof of Insurance
No Proof of Registration
No Operator’s License in Possession
|Fines & Costs*
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*A late charge of $45.00 will be assessed if not paid by the Due Date.
If an accident is involved, an additional $45.00 will be assessed.
If in a Construction Zone, an additional $45.00 will be assessed.
- All CIVIL INFRACTIONS may be paid on or before this date, in person or by mail. This date is not the date you must be at the Court or see the Judge. If you wish to contest the ticket and request a hearing, you MUST do so on or before the Due Date, either by phone, by mail, or in person.
- All MISDEMEANOR tickets, other than the exceptions noted on the back, must be resolved in PERSON, PROMPTLY at 8:15 am, on or before the Due Date.
- If an officer certifies on your copy of the ticket that the violation has been corrected and your copy of the ticket is presented to the Court on or before the Due Date, then the ticket will be waived without costs.
- If an officer certifies on your copy of the ticket that the violation has been corrected, but your copy of the ticket is presented to the Court after the Due Date, then a $45 late charge will be assessed.
- If the violation has not been corrected by the Due Date, then fines and costs will total $130 plus a late charge of $45.
NO PROOF OF INSURANCE
- If your vehicle was covered with insurance at the time the ticket was issued and you can prove it, and your proof is presented to the Court on or before the Due Date, then the ticket will be $25.
- If your vehicle was covered with insurance at the time the ticket was issued and you can prove it, but your proof is presented to the Court after the Due Date, the fines and costs will be $70.
- If a valid certificate of insurance is presented to the Court on or before the Due Date, and it shows that the vehicle is covered by insurance which was purchased after the ticket was written, the fines and costs will be $175 (not including any late fee).
- If a valid certificate of insurance cannot be presented to the Court on or before the Due Date, then fines and costs will be $175 (not including any late charges).
NO PROOF OF REGISTRATION
- If a valid, signed certificate of registration is presented to the Court on or before the Due Date, then the ticket will be waived without costs.
- If proof of a valid certificate of registration is presented to the Court after the Due Date, then a $45 late charge will be assessed.
- If proof of a valid certificate of registration is not presented to the Court, then fines and costs will be $130 (not including any late charge).
NO OPERATOR’S LICENSE IN POSSESSION
- If an officer certifies on your copy of the ticket that a valid operator's license was presented, and your copy of the ticket is presented to the Court on or before the Due Date, the costs will be waived.
- If a valid operator's license is presented to the Court on or before the Due Date, the costs will be waived.
EXPIRED OPERATOR'S LICENSE
Fines for this offense can be resolved if paid on or before the Due Date. To resolve otherwise, you must appear at the Court at 8:15 am, on or before the Due Date.
THIS SCHEDULE IS SUBJECT TO CHANGE WITHOUT NOTICE. THE SCHEDULE OF FINES AND COSTS COVER THE MOST FREQUENT VIOLATIONS, AND APPLIES TO PAYMENTS ACCEPTED ON OR BEFORE THE DUE DATE, BUT DOES NOT NECESSARILY APPLY TO CASES HEARD IN COURT.
MAKE ALL CHECKS PAYABLE TO THE 44th DISTRICT COURT.
44th District Court
400 East Eleven Mile Road
Royal Oak, Michigan 48067
Court Hours: 8:00 am - 4:30 pm weekdays, except holidays
What and Why
What is a 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 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 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".