Dems target Young’s environmental record in MSC campaign

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert P. Young Jr., up for re-election to the high court this fall, favors oil and gas companies over the environment, a Michigan Democratic Party video suggests.

“Misinformation and outright lies,” was the Young campaign’s immediate response, according to an Associated Press report.

In a press statement accompanying the video’s release yesterday, party chair Mark Brewer said:

Bob Young is nothing more than a puppet for the oil and gas industry.

His disastrous rulings throughout his career show his priorities lie with Big Oil, not with Michigan and its residents. We need a Supreme Court Justice who will stand up to Big Oil and protect Michigan and that’s not Bob Young.

In her AP article, Kathy Barks Hoffman does a good job of evaluating the Democrats’ case-law-based arguments against Young.

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MDP Chair Brewer slams MSC Justice Young

MDP Chair Mark Brewer

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer

Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer is getting a jump start on the silly season of politics.

Brewer jabbed at Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert P. Young Jr. in a press release issued yesterday. Young, who is running for re-election to the MSC this fall, doesn’t care about the average working Joe or Josephine, says Brewer.

Young, along with a majority of the justices, reversed the Michigan Court of Appeals in Alderman v. J.C. Development Communities, a construction-accident case in which Randy Alderman, a subcontractor’s employee, was badly burned when a crane hit a power line.

MSC Justice Robert P. Young Jr.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert P. Young Jr.

At issue was whether the general contractor was liable to Alderman under the common-work-area doctrine. Under Ormsby v. Capital Welding, Inc., 471 Mich. 45 (2004), the doctrine requires proof of four elements:

  • (1) that the defendant contractor failed to take reasonable steps within its supervisory and coordinating authority;
  • (2) to guard against readily observable and avoidable dangers;
  • (3) that created a high degree of risk to a significant number of workers; and
  • (4) in a common work area.

Judge Edward Sosnick of the Oakland County Circuit Court said Alderman hadn’t made his case, reasoning that Alderman and the other five members of his crew were the only ones in the area. According to Sosnick:

At most, six employees of one subcontractor were exposed to the risk of electrocution. This is not sufficient to establish a common work area.

The COA panel, Judges Donald S. Owens, Deborah A. Servitto and Elizabeth L. Gleicher, disagreed.

Plaintiff presented evidence that this construction project was rather large and that his employer was not the only subcontractor working in the vicinity of the power lines on the date of this accident. …

Plaintiff’s crew may have been the only subcontractors working on lot 273 when the accident occurred, but the power lines did not merely run along the one lot. They ran along several lots under active construction, and electricity is commonly understood to be hazardous.

The crane could easily have torn down the power lines, creating a hazard to anyone within striking distance of the fallen lines, or could have caused a fire. The risk of harm associated with a crane hitting the power lines is high and is not as narrow as defendant would suggest.

The risk at issue is the potential harm to be had if the crane hit the power lines — not merely the harm to be had if the crane made contact with the power lines and someone was involved in the electrical circuit between the power lines the crane.

In an order issued last week, Young and four other justices reversed, using language that generally tracked Sosnick’s when he initially dismissed the case:

The risk of injury at issue here was the risk of electrocution from a subcontractor’s crane coming into contact with power lines above the construction site.

The only employees exposed to the risk of electrocution were two to six employees of one subcontractor, including the plaintiff, and therefore there was not a high degree of risk to a significant number of workers.

Brewer, on the Democratic Party’s website, was quick to pounce, painting Young as a friend of insurance and business interests and a working-class enemy:

On Law Day, which is intended to celebrate the benefits to all Americans of the American legal system, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bob Young again denies those benefits to injured workers.

In an order released Friday, April 30th, Young and his colleagues denied relief to a construction worker, severely burned and nearly electrocuted on the job, because there was “not a high degree of risk to a significant number of workers.” …

“If six employees at risk of electrocution is ‘not a high degree of risk to a significant number of employees’ according to Young, how many workers doing what dangerous job is enough?” asked Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer. …

“To Young, only insurance companies, corporations and their CEO’s, the people who fund his campaigns, are entitled to legal protection.”

But Brewer’s rhetoric proves a little too much.

Could you imagine Brewer leveling the same broadside against MSC Justice Michael F. Cavanagh, who has had the warm support of the Democratic Party in elections past? Not in this lifetime.

But Cavanagh joined Young, and Justices Elizabeth A. Weaver, Maura D. Corrigan and Stephen J. Markman in reversing the COA and reinstating Sosnick’s dismissal. Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly and Justice Diane M. Hathaway would have denied leave to appeal the COA’s decision.

That might make one think that Alderman is not about one justice looking for an opportunity to kick someone when they are down and, instead, is better understood as a principled disagreement about the scope of a legal doctrine that forecloses one avenue of relief.

The silly season of politics is upon us.

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Poll could be sign of trouble for Taylor’s MSC re-election bid

A Marketing Resource Group-Inside Michigan Politics poll shows that if the Michigan Supreme Court election were held right now, it would be a tight race between Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Diane Hathaway, the Democratic candidate, and incumbent Chief Justice Clifford Taylor, the Republicans’ choice.

The MRG-IMP poll shows 15 percent of those surveyed would either vote for, or are leaning toward, Hathaway. Taylor polled 14 percent. The poll’s margin of error is +/- 4.1 percent. There’s a big chunk of undecided voters, 68 percent.

So, is it a meaningless pre-election poll?

Far from it, says MRG’s Director of Research Services Paul King and IMP’s Bill Ballenger.

King said he was not surprised by the large percentage of undecided voters at this stage of the game. What did surprise him is that Taylor didn’t get a bigger pop from the poll. King explained that the question asked those responding to choose between “Incumbent Justice Cliff Taylor” and “Diane Hathaway.” The incumbency designation should have translated into a better percentage for Taylor.

How come it didn’t?

Here’s the scene where maybe I should be eating a slice of humble pie. In past posts, here, here, here and here, I’ve been less than supportive of Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer’s handling of the MSC campaign.

But King speculated that Brewer’s shots at Taylor may be responsible for Taylor’s poorer-than-expected showing in the poll.

Ballenger echoed King’s speculation about Brewer’s campaign efforts. He added that Justice Elizabeth Weaver’s constant sniping at Taylor and the rest of the “majority of four” (Justices Maura Corrigan, Robert Young and Stephen Markman), has prompted “internecine squabbling,” which has “given the court a black eye.” This also presumably works to Taylor’s disadvantage, said Ballenger.

When Ballenger made his comments, he mentioned he was en route to Washington, D.C.

What’s going on in Washington, Bill?

“The secretary of the treasury has asked for my help.”

Ever the jokester, that Bill Ballenger.

Okay, so what’s Taylor’s next move?

“He’s got over a million in campaign funds. I suggest he start spending like a drunken sailor.”

Not so sure he was joking that time.

8.22.08: What they’re saying …

“This is a travesty of justice.”
– Dianne Byrum, frontwoman for Reform Michigan Government Now!, quoted in The Detroit News.
Well, how else would you expect her to respond to the Michigan Court of Appeals decision that halted the RMGN’s ballot proposal dead in its tracks? The RMGN folks promise endless appeals, starting today with the Michigan Supreme Court.

***

“If they wanted to do this legally, they could have come up with eight different proposed amendments. [Michigan Democratic Party Chair] Mark Brewer held a constitutional convention in his basement instead and came up with this.”
– Robert LaBrant, Michigan Chamber of Commerce vice president and chief architect of the opposition to RMGN’s proposal, quoted in The Detroit Free Press.
The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled there is a great difference between amending the Michigan Constitution, which can be accomplished at the polls, and wholesale revisions, which require convening a constitutional convention. The COA said the RMGN proposal was most definitely a revision. The proposal would alter four articles of the Michigan Constitution by modifying 24 existing sections and adding four new ones. According to the common wisdom, Brewer had a big hand in drafting the proposal.

***

“I think it’s been so male-dominated that it’s going to take years to make up that difference.”
– Danielle Hall, career and professional development coordinator for Cooley Law School, quoted in The Oakland Press.
Hall was reacting to the statewide statistic that 27 percent of the sitting judges are women. In Oakland County, the percentage could jump to more than 50 percent on the circuit court bench, depending on the outcome of two judicial contests in November. Nine of 19 circuit judges are women. Two male judges are retiring. In the August primary, the two female candidates looking to fill the openings outpolled their nearest competitors by a 2-1 margin.

***

“You might as well pull the trigger and shoot me now.”
– Nate Craft, former hit man, quoted in The Detroit News.
More than 20 years ago, Craft bargained down a first-degree murder charge and life sentence in exchange for his testimony against his former employer, the Best Friends drug gang. He was released from federal prison this spring but was denied participation in the witness protection program. Worst yet, says Craft, the terms of his probation require him to live in Michigan for the next two years. He spends his days peering out his windows and looking over his shoulder.

It’s good to be an MSC chief justice seeking re-election . . .

. . . just ask Cliff Taylor. Or better yet, check out his campaign finance filings.

record-breaking contributions to his re-election campaign.

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Clifford Taylor: campaign contributions are rolling in.

According to information collected by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, Taylor has raised more than $1.4 million this year, “setting a new record for a Michigan Supreme Court candidate’s campaign committee.”

The Michigan Republic Party takes the lead on a list of Taylor’s top contributors, followed by everyone else you’d expect: the Prince/Devos family, groups representing business concerns, restaurant operators, realtors, insurers, banks, the medical profession, and Dykema Gossett.

Meanwhile, the Michigan Democratic Party, staring hard at the Sept. 5 kickoff date for their state party convention, is still scrambling for a top court candidate to nominate and shower with money.

The party’s unfruitful search for someone to square off with Taylor has been well-reported, and has prompted Susan J. Demas, blogging in Capitol Chronicles, to suggest that the “obvious choice” has been in front of the Democrats all along. Check out her tongue-in-cheek suggestion that MDP Chair Mark Brewer should go for it.