MSC gives parties in Grand Traverse Prosecutor v. Meijer, Dickinson Wright 35 days to file briefs

The Michigan Supreme Court has given parties in In re Investigative Subpoenas, Grand Traverse County Prosecutor v. Meijer Inc. and Dickinson Wright Employees 35 days to file brief amicus curiae.

The court directed the parties to address the effect, if there is any, of the  U.S. Supreme Court’s January decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. In Citizens United, court overturned the 20-year-old Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce , 494 U.S. 652 (1990). It also threw a wrench into to a case in Northwest Michigan, Grand Traverse Prosecutor v. Meijer Inc.

In that case, Grand Traverse Prosecutor Alan Schneider got the go-ahead in November to pursue a felony investigation of the campaign finance violations, when the Michigan Court of Appeals stated that a lower court had improperly dismissed an action by Schneider to compel Meijer Inc. and Dickinson Wright to comply with investigative subpoenas related to violations of MCL 169.254, which prohibits corporations from making election campaign contributions.

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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.

Op ed: SCOTUS Citizens United decision

Interesting opinion piece by the Detroit Free Press’s Brian Dickerson:

It’s a curious fact that no currently serving U.S. Supreme Court justice has ever run for political office. Americans who’d overlooked that historical anomaly got a powerful reminder last week when a divided court authorized a global corporate auction for the services of elected officials.

I’m not suggesting that any of the incumbent justices are political innocents, or incapable of playing in the deep end with professional Machiavellians such as Rahm Emanuel or James Baker. This is, after all, largely the same cast of characters who brought us Bush v. Gore — a ruling that, if it accomplished nothing else, disabused Americans of any delusion that life-tenured judges are above partisan politics.

SCOTUS ends corporate campaign contribution prohibitions

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down corporate and union campaign finance restrictions in a 5-4 decision today.

In doing so, the court overturned the 20-year-old Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce , 494 U.S. 652 (1990). It also threw a wrench into to a case in Northwest Michigan, Grand Traverse Prosecutor v. Meijer Inc.

The court’s decision today in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission will allow corporations to make spending from their corportate funds on thing such as television ads in favor of, or against, a candidate. It will not affect, however, restrictions on direct contributions to candidates.

The Grand Traverse case will be affected by the decision. In that case, Grand Traverse Prosecutor Alan Schneider got the go-ahead in November to pursue a felony investigation of the campaign finance violations, when the Michigan Court of Appeals stated that a lower court had improperly dismissed an action by Schneider to compel Meijer Inc. and Dickinson Wright to comply with investigative subpoenas related to violations of MCL 169.254, which prohibits corporations from making election campaign contributions.

Said Schneider today in an e-mail to Michigan Lawyers Weekly:

Corporate contributions and expenditures was the principal violation focused upon by our investigation. The decision will preclude prosecution for that violation as the prohibition of that conduct was found to be unconstitutional. Sec. 54 of the MCFA was the subject of Austin v Chamber of Commerce. The decision in Citizens United, overuling Austin will apply to the 24 states which currently prohibit corporate spending

However, later, Schneider told the Traverse City Record Eagle that while the ruling will impact his pursuit of campaign funding violations by Meijer, it won’t kill the case entirely. See that story here.

For background on the Meijer case, see the Michigan Lawyers Weekly Jan. 4 story.