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Michigan Legal Research: Sources of Law in Michigan

An overview of the sources of law in Michigan, including primary law resources and state-specific secondary resources.

Michigan Constitution

The Michigan Constitution is the foundational document of state law, enumerating rights and reserving protections.

The Constitution is available in commercial databases, online via free and governmental websites, and in print in the Law Library.


The Michigan Legislature is the body charged with creating statutory law. The Legislature consists of an upper house (Senate) and a lower house (House of Representatives). Bills must be passed by both the House and the Senate to become law. Once a bill is adopted by the Legislature and signed into law by the Governor of Michigan, it is first published as a slip law. Slip laws have no alterations or reorganization of content and appear exactly as passed.

Next, the law will be published as a session law. Session laws are all laws passed during that session of the Legislature and are published in chronological order.

Lastly, the law goes through codification, a process in which the law is broken into topical pieces and organized into different titles of the State code according to subject area. Thus, when a law has been codified it will generally not appear in the code in its original form at passage. The official code for Michigan is the Michigan Compiled Laws (M.C.L.).

Rules & Regulations

Rules and regulations are promulgated by Michigan administrative departments and agencies. Although not legislative, they are primary law with the weight of any other type of law. Agencies also release other types of administrative documents (manuals, memos, circulars, notices etc.) with varying degrees of authority.

Case Law

Court decisions from Michigan state and federal courts are available in both print reporters at the Law Library, as well as from commercial databases (Lexis, Westlaw, Bloomberg Law). Free or low-cost sites such as Justia and FindLaw also provide access to reported Michigan court decisions. Many courts also post decisions on the court's website.

State courts in Michigan consist of lower, appellate, and the Michigan Supreme Court. Trial courts in Michigan are also called circuit and district courts, but are different from federal circuit/district courts. There are 57 circuit courts and around 100 district courts in Michigan.

Fig. 1 - Map of the Eastern and Western Districts of Michigan (Western = Blue, Eastern = Yellow), Source: LARA

Federal courts include the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and two District Courts (Eastern and Western).


Map of U.S. Showing All Circuit Court Locations

Fig. 2 - Map of the 12 Circuits of the Court of Appeals, Source: Federal Bar Association