Dems file ethics complaint against MSC Chief Justice Taylor

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer has a problem.

He’s vowed to do “everything necessary” to unseat Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Clifford Taylor in the November election.

An obvious starting point is to field a viable candidate, but so far, Brewer and his troops have come up empty-handed.

Without a candidate of his own to talk up, Brewer’s had to make do by talking down Taylor.

Here’s the latest gambit. Yesterday, the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee announced that Brewer filed a complaint with the Judicial Tenure Commission, claiming that a fundraising letter written on Taylor’s behalf by former Governor John Engler violated Canon 7(B) of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct.

“Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Cliff Taylor has again pursued unethical fundraising tactics to protect his endangered reelection to the Michigan Supreme Court,” asserts the Democrats’ press release.

Under the Canon, a committee soliciting judicial campaign contributions can’t ask a lawyer for more than $100. If a fundraising letter is not directed exclusively to lawyers, larger contributions may be sought but the letter must include this disclaimer:

“Canon 7 of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits a judicial campaign committee from soliciting more than $100 per lawyer. If you are a lawyer, please regard this as informative and not a solicitation for more than $100.”

According to a report in yesterday’s Michigan Information & Research Service newsletter, Engler’s letter asked for contributions of $250, $500 or $1,000 without the required disclaimer.

But MIRS had this to say, as well:

“Taylor campaign coordinator Colleen Pero provided MIRS with the ‘response letter’ that was mailed with the Engler letter, which included the disclaimer. The response letter needed to be completed and mailed in with a contributor’s check.
“‘We clearly followed every rule,’ Pero said. ‘The person who provided this to the Democrats didn’t bother bringing the rest of the package along.’”

It remains to be seen whether the JTC will find merit in Brewer’s complaint.

Also remaining to be seen is when Brewer will back off from the bombast. Creating illusions is an unfortunate element of the dark art of politics. But an assertion that Taylor’s re-election is “endangered” is simply untenable when no practical alternative has been presented.

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