INTERNATIONAL UNION UNITED AUTOMOBILE V HELEN DORSEYAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED
AUTOMOBILE, AEROSPACE &
AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF
AMERICA and UNITED BROADCASTING
October 4, 2005
Washtenaw Circuit Court
LC No. 97-008442-CB
HELEN DORSEY, PAT CHOATE, and
EDWARD A. MILLER,
Official Reported Version
DANIEL SHERRICK, ROY WYSE, and JOYCE
Before: Meter, P.J. and Kelly and Schuette, JJ.
KELLY, J. (concurring in part and dissenting in part).
I respectfully dissent from the majority's conclusion that the trial court erred in denying
defendants' motion for a new trial. Under the circumstances presented in this case, I do not
believe that the divorce transcripts used by plaintiffs to impeach the testimony of Edward A.
Miller were part of a sealed record. In all other respects, I concur.
During Miller's divorce proceedings, Judge Ross Campbell issued an "Amended Opinion
and Order Sealing Court File and Records," stating in relevant part:
NOW, THEREFORE, for the reasons stated, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED,
that all of the files and records of this cause, including but not limited to the files
and records of the Friend of the Court, shall be and the same hereby are sealed . . .
Five years after the amended order was issued, further hearings were conducted regarding
alimony and child support. During these hearings, Miller testified before newly assigned Judge
Kurtis T. Wilder on a number of issues relating to his finances. In the present case, Miller
admitted that he lied under oath before Judge Wilder about his financial situation, his departure
from the job he held before he worked at United Broadcasting Network, his relationship with
Helen Dorsey, and his knowledge of Dorsey's income.
Defendants contend on appeal that they are entitled to a new trial because the transcripts
of Miller's prior testimony should not have been used to impeach his testimony in the present
case since they were part of a sealed record. In contrast to the majority opinion, I agree with
plaintiffs that this issue was not preserved and should not be reviewed. As noted by the
majority, unpreserved errors will not be reviewed by this Court unless lack of review would
result in manifest injustice. Napier v Jacobs, 429 Mich 222, 233-234; 414 NW2d 862 (1987).
To preserve an evidentiary error for appellate review, a party must object on the same ground
that it presents on appeal. Klapp v United Ins Group Agency, Inc (On Remand), 259 Mich App
467, 475; 674 NW2d 736 (2003); MRE 103(a)(1). In the trial court, defendants did not object to
admission of the transcripts1 on the basis that they were part of a sealed record; rather, they
contended that the transcripts were not admissible for the purpose of impeachment because they
did not impeach Miller's testimony in this case. Because defendants did not object at trial on the
same ground that they present on appeal, the issue is not preserved.
The majority excuses the preservation requirement because defense counsel did not know
that the record in Miller's divorce case was sealed. They surmise that, because defense counsel
was "surprised," it was not possible for counsel to preserve this issue by properly objecting. This
may be true, but, in my opinion, it is irrelevant whether defense counsel knew of the order
sealing the record or Miller's prior untruthful testimony. Defense counsel is not a party to this
action; Miller is. As a party, Miller either was or should have been fully aware of his prior
untruthful testimony and the order sealing the file. Whether by plan or negligence, he failed to
inform his trial counsel in the present case.
The transcripts were not admitted as a whole. Plaintiffs' counsel read portions of the
transcripts into the record during cross-examination of Miller.
While a less than candid client places an attorney in a difficult position during trial, the
negative consequences the party suffers as a result of his own lack of candor does not form the
basis for an error requiring reversal. There is no rule of law that requires a client to disclose
damaging information to his attorney. The client can choose whether to disclose this
information, though it would be universally agreed that a client's choice to conceal information
from his attorney is not a good one. Nonetheless, when counsel's hope for the client's full
disclosure is disappointed, it is not grounds for a new trial. See Rubenstein v Purcell, 276 Mich
433, 438-439; 267 NW 646 (1936) (no surprise when one's own witness causes the surprise by
changing testimony). As defense counsel candidly concedes, "He didn't tell us and we didn't
know." Any "surprise" on the part of defense counsel was caused by his client, not opposing
counsel. This is particularly true when all parties were on notice in the earliest stages of
discovery that the Miller divorce was an important issue. In short, Miller himself caused his
counsel to be surprised because he (1) lied under oath in a prior case about a matter relevant in
this case and (2) failed to inform his attorney about his prior lies. Because error to which the
aggrieved party contributed by plan or negligence cannot be error requiring reversal, Farm
Credit Services of Michigan's Heartland, PCA v Weldon, 232 Mich App 662, 683-684; 591
NW2d 438 (1998), I would decline to address this unpreserved issue.
Even if this issue had been properly preserved, I would further agree with plaintiffs that
the trial court did not err in ruling that the transcripts from the Miller divorce were not covered
by the sealing order. MCR 8.119(F) provides guidelines on sealed records and, therefore, is the
correct rule2 to apply in resolving this issue. MCR 8.119(F)(4) explicitly defines what comprises
a court record:
For purposes of this rule, "court records" includes all documents and
records of any nature that are filed with the clerk in connection with the action.
Nothing in this rule is intended to limit the court's authority to issue protective
orders pursuant to MCR 2.302(C). [Emphasis added.]
When interpreting a court rule, this Court applies the same legal principles that govern
statutory interpretation. In re KH, 469 Mich 621, 628; 677 NW2d 800 (2004).
When interpreting statutory language, our obligation is to ascertain the
legislative intent that may reasonably be inferred from the words expressed in the
statute. When the Legislature has unambiguously conveyed its intent in a statute,
the statute speaks for itself, and judicial construction is not permitted. Because
the proper role of the judiciary is to interpret and not write the law, courts simply
lack authority to venture beyond the unambiguous text of a statute. [Koontz v
Ameritech Services, Inc, 466 Mich 304, 312; 645 NW2d 34 (2002) (citations
The majority concedes that it is the "most relevant" rule. Ante at ___.
Applying these principles to the plain language of MCR 8.119(F)(4), it is clear that, in
order for something to be part of the court record, three criteria must be met. The contested item
must be (1) a document or record of any nature (2) filed with the clerk (3) in connection with the
action. According to the unambiguous terms of MCR 8.119(F)(4), the transcript at issue is
simply not part of Miller's divorce record because it was never "filed with the clerk in connection
with the action." Id. The majority opines that the rule is ambiguous because "reasonable minds
could differ concerning whether transcripts are included within MCR 8.119(F) as part of a sealed
record[.]" Ante at ___. I disagree. Although it is true, as the majority states, that "[t]he
language of this rule is very broad, including the words 'all' and 'of any nature,'" ante at ___, the
term "court records" remains defined as only those "documents and records of any nature" that
are actually "filed with the clerk in connection with the action." The transcripts at issue are not
records from Miller's divorce case because they were never filed with the court clerk in the
divorce or postjudgment proceedings.
Additionally, the majority's reliance on MCR 8.119(D)(4) is misplaced. That rule sets
forth the duties of the court clerk, and provides:
The clerk shall keep in such form as may be prescribed by the court, other
papers, documents, materials, and things filed with or handled by the court
including but not limited to wills for safekeeping, exhibits and other discovery
materials, requests for search warrants, marriage records, and administrative
activities. [Emphasis added.]
Again, the transcripts at issue were never "filed with or handled by the court . . . ." While I agree
with the majority that "[a] transcript could be considered a 'thing filed with . . . the court' for
purposes of this rule," ante at ___ (emphasis added), the transcripts in this case were not a
"things filed with or handled by the court . . . ." MCR 8.119(D)(4) does not encompass a thing
that merely has the potential to be filed. There is a crucial distinction between what could
theoretically be considered part of a record, and what actually is part of the record. MCR
8.119(D)(4) does not support defendants' position that the transcripts were part of the sealed file.
The majority also erroneously relies on MCR 8.108(F)(1), which states:
On order of the trial court, the court reporter or recorder shall make and
file in the clerk's office a transcript of his or her records, in legible English, of any
civil or criminal case (or any part thereof) without expense to either party; the
transcript is a part of the records in the case. [Emphasis added.]
The plain language in this rule clearly provides that a transcript becomes part of the record when
the trial court orders the court reporter to "make and file" the transcript in the court clerk's office.
Here, the trial court never ordered the court reporter to "make and file" the transcripts in the
court clerk's office. Rather, plaintiffs' counsel contacted the court reporter and requested a copy
of the transcripts.3 Therefore, MCR 8.108(F)(1) also does not support defendants' position that
the transcripts were part of the sealed file.
The majority also erroneously states that "MCR 8.108(D) states that a court reporter's
records are part of the record of each case." Ante at ___. The scope of MCR 8.108 is stated in
MCR 8.108(A), which provides: "This rule prescribes the duties of the court reporters and
recorders, the procedure for certifying them, the effect of noncertification, objections to
certification, and display requirements." MCR 8.108(D) specifically provides:
If the court reporter or recorder dies, resigns, is removed from office, or
leaves the state, his or her records in each case must be transferred to the clerk of
the court in which the case was tried. The clerk shall safely keep the records
subject to the direction of the court. The records are part of the record of each
case and are subject to inspection in the same manner as other records. On order
of the court, a transcript may be made from the records and filed as part of the
record in the case. [Emphasis added.]
On the basis of this plain language, it is clear that a transcript may be filed as part of the record
only on order of the court. In this case, the trial court in the divorce case never ordered that the
transcripts be filed as part of the record. Therefore, this rule does not support defendants'
I disagree with the majority's reasoning and conclusion on this issue. In the face of
unambiguous court rules, the majority misapplies the rules of statutory interpretation to reverse
the trial court's order denying defendants' motion for a new trial. The result is that Miller, an
admitted liar under oath, will get yet another opportunity to obscure the truth, albeit this time his
attorney will not be "surprised" when the transcripts are used to impeach him.
/s/ Kirsten Frank Kelly
I disagree with defendants' argument that the method by which plaintiffs obtained the
transcripts was improper. It is common practice across the courts of this state for a party to order
transcripts from a court reporter.