Sharply divided MSC amends judicial disqualification rule

The Michigan Supreme Court has published amendments to MCR 2.003 – Disqualification of Judge.

The upshot is that if a justice is challenged on conflict-of-interest grounds and decides no conflict exists, a party to the proceeding can ask that the entire Court vote on the matter.

The Court approved the amendments at its Nov. 5 public administrative conference although no order adopting the amendments was issued at that time.

The Court’s 4-3 order, issued last week only hours before the start of the long Thanksgiving weekend, consists of 3 1/2 pages of actual amendments and 54 1/2 pages of concurring statements, dissenting statements and appendices.

A sampling:

In adopting this rule, the Michigan Supreme Court has, for the first time in its long history, reduced to writing a rule to govern when a justice should not vote on a case. In the past, the justices wrote rules on recusal but applied them to other judges only, not to themselves.
Some of use have long believed that the interests of the legal community and of the general public are best served if a Supreme Court recusal rule is put in writing. In that way, all can see and understand something that has long been shrouded in mystery: how recusal works in the Michigan Supreme Court.
Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly

For the first time in our state’s history, duly elected justices may be deprived by their co-equal peers of their constitutionally protected interest in hearing cases. Starting today, those contesting traffic tickets will enjoy greater constitutional protections that justices of this Court. …
This is truly a sad day for this Court, the citizens of Michigan, and for the judicial elective system that our citizens have mandated.
Justice Maura Corrigan

Voting for the amended rule: Kelly and Justices Michael Cavanagh, Elizabeth Weaver and Diane Hathaway. Voting against: Corrigan, and Justices Robert Young and Stephen Markman.