Judicial election reform buzz getting louder

Proponents of the notion that the way we select and elect our judges in Michigan is broken and needs fixing have been creating a lot of buzz recently.

Yesterday, State Rep. Lamar Lemmons, Jr. (D-2nd District) introduced a state constitutional amendment that would level the playing field by eliminating the now-constitutionally mandated incumbency designation on judicial ballots. Lemmons’ proposal has been sent to the House Judiciary Committee.

The value of the incumbency designation should not be underestimated.

“In the last 20 years, at least 95 percent of all judges in Michigan seeking re-election have been returned to office,” says Bill Ballenger, the venerable publisher of Inside Michigan Politics. Ballenger has kept tabs on such things in his newsletter since 1987.

Earlier this week, the Midwest Democracy Network rolled out an online book, “Democratic Renewal – A Call to Action from America’s Heartland”. The book assesses the scene in the Great Lakes states, and has plenty of observations about perceived wrongs and how to right them. Rich Johnson, the Executive Director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, wrote the book’s Michigan section. Among Johnson’s proposals:

  • Ethics law should be extended to cover the legislative and judicial branches of government.
  • Michigan should establish a commission to evaluate the merits of a system of voluntary full public funding for all State election campaigns.
  • The Michigan Supreme Court should develop standards for recusal in cases involving individuals and interest groups who have substantial financial ties, whether personal or political, to any justices.

A previous blog noted Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver’s reform plan, which she floated on her private web site over the year-end holidays. Weaver’s proposals have received mixed reviews in the Kalamazoo Gazette and, more recently, in the Grand Rapids Press.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s