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Most cases are resolved without a hearing
Alternative dispute resolution processes are now an integral component of many trial courts' case management systems, and litigants are increasingly exploring techniques that can help achieve timelier, cost effective, and mutually satisfactory settlements earlier in the litigation life cycle. At the Tribunal, the parties may voluntarily settle their case without going to a hearing. Further, Petitioners in the Small Claims Division can choose between informal settlement conference or mediation. Parties in the Entire Tribunal Division can opt for mediation to resolve their case.
Informal Settlement Conference (Small Claims Division)
A party with a case in the Small Claims Division may request an informal settlement conference. An informal settlement conference is a meeting between the parties to discuss issues in an effort to settle the case.
Who can Request
A petitioner or a local tax collecting unit may request an informal settlement conference. However, the parties may not request an informal settlement conference to discuss an appeal of a principal residence exemption that was denied by either the Michigan Department of Treasury or a County. It is also not available for non-property cases involving the Michigan Department of Treasury.
When to Request
An informal settlement conference may be requested after the petition has been filed and the Tribunal has issued a Notice of Docket Number.
The informal settlement conference must be requested before a Small Claims hearing has been scheduled.
How to Request
The request must made be in writing, served on the opposing party, and a copy of the request must also be filed with the Tribunal. The request must include a statement attesting to the service of the request on the petitioner or local tax collecting unit.
The statement must also identify the name of the person upon whom the request was served and the date and method that the request was served on that person.
Process when Petitioner Requests
The local tax collecting unit must schedule and hold the conference within 60 days after receipt of the written request.
The conference must be held by either telephone or at the offices of the local tax collecting unit.
If the local tax collecting unit does not schedule and hold the conference within 60 days after receipt of the written request, the petitioner may file a motion to compel the informal settlement conference with the Tribunal.
If the Tribunal issues an order to compel the conference, and the local tax collecting unit does not schedule and hold it, an expedited default hearing* will be scheduled.
*A default hearing is a hearing where the respondent is prohibited from providing any testimony or documentary evidence.
Process when Respondent Requests
The local tax collecting unit must schedule and hold the conference within 60 days after delivery of the written request on petitioner.
The conference may be held by telephone or at the offices of the local tax collecting unit.
A petitioner is not required to respond to the request for an informal settlement conference and is not required to attend the informal settlement conference.
If petitioner does not respond to the request or attend the conference, the petitioner's appeal will still continue to hearing where both parties may present testimony and evidence.
If the settlement conference is successful
The parties may enter into a Stipulation for Entry of Consent Judgment. The Stipulation must be filed with the Tribunal and a $25.00 filing fee paid, if a fee is required. A fee is required if the petitioner did not have at least a 50% principal residence exemption at the time the petition was filed.
The Tribunal will review the Stipulation and if it is acceptable to the Tribunal, it will enter it as the final order by issuing a Consent Judgment. The Consent Judgment adopts the parties Stipulation and closes the case.
If the Tribunal reviews the Stipulation and determines it is not proper, it will deny it by order. If the Stipulation is denied, the petitioner appeal will continue to a Small Claims hearing before a Tribunal Member or Administrative Law Judge.
If the settlement conference is not successful
If the parties cannot negotiate an agreement, the appeal will continue to a Small Claims hearing before a Tribunal Member or Administrative Law Judge.
Mediation (Small Claims and Entire Tribunal Divisions)
Mediation is the process that uses a neutral person, known as a mediator who meets with the parties to assist in identifying issues and help to explore ideas for a mutually acceptable settlement. If the parties reach a settlement, then they submit a Stipulation for Entry of Consent Judgment instead of having a hearing before a Tribunal judge to decide the case. If the mediation is not successful, then the case proceeds to a hearing before a Tribunal judge. The mediation process is voluntary, and the Tribunal will not refer a case to mediation unless the parties agree to participate in mediation and file proper notification of this agreement, known as a Stipulation for Mediation. The mediator may charge a separate fee for their services. The Tribunal maintains a roster of approved mediators. Parties may elect to use mediation whether their case is in the Small Claims Division or the Entire Tribunal Division.
For more information, see the Tribunal's mediation page.