Weaver proposes fix for MSC partisanship

Responding to a recent Lansing State Journal editorial, see MSC: ‘throroughly politicized’, former MSC Justice Elizabeth Weaver took to the LSJ’s editorial page this morning, touting a six-point plan concerning MSC elections and appointments:

1. No political party nominations. Supreme Court candidates would earn a spot on the ballot by petition – the same as other Michigan judges.

2. Election (not appointments) by district. The state should be divided into seven Supreme Court election districts, one justice coming from each, to allow the geographic diversity now clearly absent.

3. Public funding. Using tax check-off money designated for gubernatorial campaigns for Supreme Court campaigns.

4. Transparency and accountability in campaign finance reporting requirements. No secret or unnamed contributors and 48-hour reporting.

5. Term limits to achieve rotation. Only one term of a maximum of 14 years, and a justice never would be eligible for reelection or appointment.

6. For appointments, establish a Qualifications Commission composed of all stakeholders in the justice system.

Weaver’s opinion piece then fleshes out some of the details.

Weaver also says more sun needs to shine on the high court:

[W]e could enact all the reforms I’ve suggested but they will have little effect unless and until we can open our Supreme Court inner workings to public scrutiny.

Unnecessary secrecy, another issue for another day.

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Parties select MSC candidates

Over the weekend, Democrats and Republicans selected their candidates for the “nonpartisan” November judicial ballot.

Republicans picked Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Mary Beth Kelly, who Young touted on his Facebook page as the “perfect choice” for the job.

Democrats nominated newly minted Justice Alton T. Davis and Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Denise Langford Morris.

We’ve got a straw poll on the Michigan Lawyers Weekly home page. Weigh in on which two of the four candidates should be taking seats on the high court bench come Jan. 1.

COA Judge Jane Markey: MSC wannabe?

Jane E. Markey

Court of Appeals Judge Jane E. Markey

The stage may be set for Jane E. Markey, a Grand Rapids-based Michigan Court of Appeals judge, to seek one of the two Republican Party slots for the Michigan Supreme Court election in November.

Markey, according to The Grand Rapids Press, is interested in the nomination. Normally, MSC incumbents get their party’s nod but things are little different this time around for the GOP.

The GOP undoubtedly will nominate MSC Justice Robert P. Young Jr. to run for re-election. But Republican backing for Justice Elizabeth A. Weaver, who is also up for re-election, is far less certain.

She’s repeatedly broken ranks with Young and the other GOP-sponsored justices currently on the Court, Maura D. Corrigan and Stephen J. Markman.

In fact, Young doesn’t even want her on the ticket. He drew a line in the sand last January when he said, “They can nominate her, or they can nominate me,” referring to Republican convention delegates and Weaver, respectively.

The final straw may have been last week’s explosive public administrative hearing at the Michigan Supreme Court.

Corrigan, Young and Markman revealed that they asked the Judicial Tenure Commission to investigate Weaver for allegedly revealing internal deliberations about a case. The three say that Weaver violated Administrative Order No. 2006-8:

Deliberative Privilege and Case Discussions in the Supreme Court

The following administrative order, supplemental to the provisions of Administrative Order No. 1997-10, is effective immediately.

All correspondence, memoranda and discussions regarding cases or controversies are confidential. This obligation to honor confidentiality does not expire when a case is decided. The only exception to this obligation is that a Justice may disclose any unethical, improper or criminal conduct to the JTC or proper authority.

[Effective December 6, 2006]

Weaver says the order was never properly adopted and tried, without success, to get it rescinded at last week’s conference.

All of this bodes well for Markey and others who want a shot at a presumably open GOP top court slot.

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Granholm talks to CNN about Obama SCOTUS pick

Governor Jennifer GranholmGovernor Jennifer Granholm appeared on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday to file a demurrer concerning her chances for a U.S. Supreme Court nomination.

But she was quick to advise the Obama Administration, according to CNN’s politicalticker…, that it “would be ‘wise’ to consider someone outside the usual suspects on the federal appellate courts.”

Granholm told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley, “I think it’s a very wise move to consider experience that is not just from the judicial monastery.”

Who could she possibly be talking about?

The Michigan governor, whose final term ends this year, pointed to herself and Janet Napolitano, a former Arizona governor and current Homeland Security Secretary, as “people that have applied the laws that Congress enacts, that have seen their impact on people.”

“And, you know, for somebody to experience and see what everyday people are feeling and experiencing out there, I think is an important thing to consider,” she said.

“Now, whether that’s something that would trump judicial experience, etc. That’s obviously the president’s call. It’s safe to say that someone like me would be an unconventional nominee, at least in – in the recent appointments that have been made.”

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What will that money buy?

That’s what James J. Sample, associate professor of law, is asking in light of the recent US Supreme Court desision in Citizens United v. FEC.

Sample is one of the speakers at the American Board of Trial Advocates symposium at Wayne State Law School, Options for an Independent Judiciary.

“What will that money buy?” he asked, now that corporate and union campaign contribution restrictions have been lifted.

Well, he showed us. He showed us about a dozen of the more famous television ads for, and against, judicial candidates around the country, including the now-famous “sleeping judge” ads which blasted Michigan Supreme Court’s former chief justice Clifford Taylor, and which some say played no small part in his defeat when he ran for re-election in 2008.

And they’re off…

The morning session of the American Board of Trial Advocates symposium, Options for an Independent Judiciary, to discuss judicial elections is in full swing, and we’ve got our wi-fi issues squared away.

Everyone has their fingers crossed, hoping for a safe landing for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who is expected to speak at the event after lunch.

“Nothing is more essential to the trial system than an independent judiciary,” said ABOTA Michigan chapter president Loretta M. Ames in her opening remarks. “Confidence in our trial system there has been something of a lament in the state about the appearance of partisan influence of our highest courts.”

ABOTA has asked that there be no discussion about the makeup of the Michigan Supreme Court, judicial philosophies or specific decisions since it would detract from the focus.

Let’s make a deal: White, Murphy nominated to federal bench

In a deal designed to break an 11-year impasse of federal bench appointments involving Michigan nominees, President Bush has nominated Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Helene White to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

White was originally nominated by President Clinton in January 1997, but then-Senator Spencer Abraham (R-Mich) bottled things up and a confirmation hearing never took place before President Bush was first elected in 2000. Bush refused to re-nominate White.

Abraham lost his 2000 re-election bid to Democrat Debbie Stabenow. Long-serving Senator Carl Levin (D-Mich), and the newly elected Stabenow, put up a steady barrage of opposition to Bush’s federal judicial picks from Michigan, including the 2006 nominations of Detroit U.S. Attorney Stephen J. Murphy (pictured right) and Troy attorney Raymond Kethledge (pictured left) to the Sixth Circuit.

The bottleneck was cleared yesterday when Bush agreed to withdraw Murphy’s Sixth Circuit nomination and nominate White to the federal appeals bench instead. Murphy was then nominated for a seat on the Eastern District of Michigan’s bench. To sweeten the deal, there is an apparent agreement to confirm Kethledge’s Sixth Circuit nomination.

The Associated Press, The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News have more details.