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A Better Partnership
December 23, 2015

COA holds that the Court of Claims does not have jurisdiction over production company's challenge of Michigan Film Office certification denial

In the consolidated case of Teddy 23, LLC v. Michigan Film Office, Nos. 323299 and 323424, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the Revenue Act confers subject-matter jurisdiction to the Court of Claims for decisions issued by the Department of Treasury (Department), and not the Michigan Film Office (MFO).  Additionally, the court held that the Court of Claims Act does not alter avenues of relief for administrative agency appeals.
 
The MFO is an entity within the Michigan Strategic Fund, which was a public body within the Department that functioned independently.  MCL 208.1455(1) provided MFO with the authority to enter into an agreement with an eligible production company to allow the company to receive a tax credit if certain requirements were met, including obtaining a postproduction certificate of completion from the MFO.  Teddy 23 is a production company that obtained preliminary approval for a tax credit and used the expected tax credit as security to obtain a loan. 
 
Teddy 23 submitted a request to the MFO for a postproduction certificate of completion and the request was denied because the Department concluded Teddy 23 substantially misstated its expenditures.  The MFO provided Teddy 23 with a letter stating any rights of appeal begin December 11, 2013.  Subsequently, an employee of the Department sent an email to Teddy 23’s counsel stating that the MFO had extended its appeal period and “based on her informal count of the 60 day period” the appeal period was set to expire on February 10, 2014.  The Department’s employee asserted that when she referenced “60 day period,” it was in response to a conversation she had with Teddy 23’s counsel and at no time did she advise Teddy 23 on issues of jurisdiction or appeals periods.
 
On February 10, 2014, Teddy 23 filed an action against the MFO and the Department in the Court of Claims.  The Court of Claims dismissed the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and the plaintiffs filed a delayed application for leave to appeal, arguing that they were improperly denied a postproduction certificate of completion and that they did not file a circuit court action sooner because defendants induced them to believe the Court of Claims had jurisdiction to review the MFO’s decision.  The circuit court denied plaintiffs’ delayed application for leave to appeal.
 
Thereafter, the Court of Claims concluded that the Department made no “assessment, decision, or order,” which was required to vest the Court of Claims with subject-matter jurisdiction.  Furthermore, the court noted that the Court of Claims Act explicitly states that the Court of Claims has no jurisdiction to review an administrative agency’s decision.  Therefore, the Court of Claims granted the defendants’ motions for summary disposition and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

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