Community Outreach Court Guidelines

I.  Generally 

The Grand Traverse CommunityOutreach Court (“GTCOC”) is a collaborative program of the 86th District Courttailored to the unique needs of people experiencing homelessness or at risk ofhomelessness who, once they have entered the program, demonstrate sincere andsustained efforts to end or reduce their risk of homelessness by completing anindividualized action plan.

The purpose of GTCOC is to offerindividuals who are homeless or at risk of homelessness the opportunity toresolve certain civil and criminal infractions by crediting specific actionsintended to address the root causes of their homelessness and criminal historytoward fines, costs, bench warrants, and jail time.  GTCOC recognizes that everyone in ourcommunity benefits when there are viable options available to a personexperiencing homelessness to overcome potential barriers to housing andemployment, such as cumulative court fees. 

GTCOC operates under theauthority and discretion of the 86th District Court of Michigan (“Court”), Grand Traverse CountyProsecutor, Grand Traverse Sheriff’s Department, and Traverse City PoliceDepartment, in consultation with members of the defense bar, social serviceproviders, and members of the community who have experienced homelessness.   

These Guidelines areadvisory.  They are not intended toreplace or supersede state or local court rules.  In the event that a participant’s case isreturned to the traditional court system, all parties retain theconstitutional, statutory, and procedural rights available to them prior toparticipating in GTCOC.

II.  Applicant Eligibility 

Eligible participants includethose who have or are experiencing homelessness or otherwise struggling toafford life’s basic necessities and therefore at risk of homelessness.  The ReviewCommittee has discretion to prioritize applicants based on multiple factors,including applicant need and demonstrated willingness to complete the program.

To be eligible, applicants must have received servicesfor at least thirty (30) days from the date the applicant began receivingservices (“Date of Entry”) from the social service provider (“Provider”)through which the applicant applies for GTCOC.  

III.  OffenseIneligibility 

GTCOC has jurisdiction over arange of civil and criminal infractions based on the Court’s jurisdiction asdefined by statute, or as otherwise authorized by law.  However, the following categories of offenseswill notbe heard:

  • (A)  A driving offense involving any unlawfullevel of controlled          substance;
  • (B)  A driving offense involving any unlawfullevel of blood alcohol content;
  • (C)  Any sex offense, with the exception of minorincidents as determined by the Prosecutor’s office, such as indecent exposureand disorderly obscene conduct;
  • (D)  Any violation of the Sex Offender RegistryAct unless the homelessness of the program Participant is directly related tothe violation; and
  • (E)  Any offenses punishable by more than one (1)year of incarceration.  

IV.  Application Process 

Social service agencies andcommunity members refer all potential applicants to GTCOC through one of theProviders listed in the GTCOC Memorandum of Understanding.   

An applicant works with aProvider to complete an application.  TheProvider then sends the application directly to the GTCOC Coordinator, a persondesignated by the Presiding Judge. Applications will not be approved until an applicant has been receivingthe Provider’s services for at least thirty (30) days from the Date of Entry.

The following guidelines governthe application:

  • (A) Content:  Working with the Provider, the applicant mustinclude the applicant’s Date of Entry, identification and contact informationfor applicant and Provider, any known criminal history in any jurisdiction, andcontact information for any relevant parole and probation officers.
  • (B) Individualized Action Plan:  Applicant must attach a proposedIndividualized Action Plan that lists measurable goals and actions that addressthe root causes of the applicant’s criminal history and homelessness.  Samples are attached to the application.
  • (C) Submission:  Providers shall submitapplications to the GTCOC Coordinator.
  • (D) Confidential Records:  Applications will be presented to theReview Committee for consideration for admission to the program.  Only an admitted participant’s contactinformation and action plan will be entered into public court records.  To the extent that the records fall withinthe Nonpublic and Limited-Access Court Records guidelines (rev. Jan. 2014), therecords will not be entered into the public record.

V.  InitialScreening Process & Review Committee 

Applications are reviewed by aReview Committee consisting of representatives of the Court, Prosecutor’soffice, law enforcement, defense bar, social service providers, and members ofthe community who have experienced homelessness.  The Review Committee shall adopt aconfidentiality policy with respect to the matters discussed in the ReviewCommittee.   

When the Court learns of apotentially eligible applicant, the Court has the authority to adjourn anypending and adjudicated matters at the Court for sixty (60) days so theapplicant will have time to present himself/herself to a Provider to becomeeligible for GTCOC.  During that sixtyday(60) period, no actions shall be taken on pending or adjudicated matters untilan eligibility determination has been made by the Coordinator (if denied oninitial eligibility review) or Review Committee (full review).   

To prepare applications forscreening, the Coordinator will:   

  • (A)  Accept and maintain applications;
  • (B)   Research and document an applicant’s criminalhistory;
  • (C)    Conduct an initial screening of Applicant todetermine eligibility;
  • (D)     Inform the Presiding Judge, prosecutors, anddefense counsel of the application and the results of the initial screening(this may be done at the Review Committee); 
  • (E)    Schedule the applicant for initial review by theReview Committee; and
  • (F)    Contact the applicant’s Provider to invite theProvider to attend the next available Review Committee meeting.

At the next available meeting,the Review Committee will examine the applicant’s application, proposedIndividualized Action Plan, and ask questions of Provider to determine theapplicant’s eligibility and preparation to complete his or her IndividualizedAction Plan.  If an applicant is acceptedas a Participant, the Coordinator will contact the Provider with relevantscheduling details, including the next Readiness Conference and possiblehearing dates.  The Review Committee mayask that the applicant (with the assistance of a Provider) revise theIndividualized Action Plan before accepting the applicant into the program.

VI.  Readiness Conferences 

At meetings, the Review Committeewill review each Participant’s progress, which may be documented in writing,presented in person, or presented by teleconference or videoconference, by theParticipant’s referring Provider.  ReviewCommittee members may ask questions about the Participant’s progress.  When the Review Committee is satisfied thatthe Participant has made progress toward his/her goals but has notsubstantially achieved all goals in the

Individualized Action Plan, theReview Committee will recommend the Participant for a Status

Hearing.  If theReview Committee is satisfied that the Participant has achieved orsubstantially achieved all goals in the Individualized Action Plan, the ReviewCommittee will recommend the Participant for a Final Hearing.  The Review Committee has discretion torecommend that a participant be removed from the program for failure to makeprogress toward the Individualized Action Plan. Judges maintain ultimate discretion as to whether a participant will beremoved from the program.   

VII.  Hearings 

Hearings will be conductedoff-site in a manner consistent with state and local court rules and held onthe record.  The record willinclude:   

  • (A)  Entry of appearances by all parties;
  • (B)    Judge’s statement of charges;
  • (C)   Presentation of evidence demonstrating aParticipant’s efforts and success or challenges in complying with his or herIndividualized Action Plan;
  • (D)   The Prosecutors’ objections, if any;  
  • (E)   Judge’s findings of fact and law; and
  • (F)  Entry of judgment and orders as necessary andappropriate.

The purpose of a Status Hearingis for the court to obtain a status update from the parties, hold theParticipant accountable in accomplishing the goals set forth in theIndividualized Action Plan, and encourage the Participant.  The purpose of a Final Hearing is to grantrelief and celebrate the Participant’s success in achieving the IndividualizedAction Plan.   

In most cases, a Final Hearingthat grants comprehensive relief shall not be held until at least 90 days after a Participant’s Date of Entry,and typically will be scheduled after at least two Readiness Conference atwhich the Review Committee determines the Participant has made substantialprogress toward achieving his/her Individualized Action Plan.  The Review Committee has discretion as towhen to approve the Participant for a Final Hearing.

VIII.  Available Relief 

Possible relief from the GTCOCprogram may include:  

  • (A)   Setting aside default judgments;
  • (B)    Dismissal of unadjudicated cases;
  • (C)   Discharge of Participant from probation;
  • (D)    Closure of adjudicated cases;
  • (E)    Waiver of court costs and warrant fees and otherfees within the court’s authority;  
  • (F)  Waiver of Secretary of State fees aslegally permissible;  
  • (G)  Dismissalof bench warrants.

XIV.  Restitution Ineligible for Relief 

Restitution awards shall not bevacated without the prior written approval of the beneficiary of the unpaidrestitution.