In and outs of the political campaigns, focusing on Michigan and Lansing, Tim Skubick will report regularly throughout the primary and then general election campaigns.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Hard Feelings On The High Court
In a historic move, the state's highest court opened its hermetically sealed doors to the media last week for one and all to see the election of the new Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court. It was not a pretty sight. It confirmed what everyone in this town has suspected for eight years. These guys don't like each other. Pick your adjective to describe the philosophical and personal tensions that permeates the high court membership. Last year, four republicans dominated the court. The two democrats and one maverick republican were not happy jurists. The maverick, GOP Justice Elizabeth Weaver, went public with her gripes about the "gang of four." Almost everyone concludes her comments did little to enhance the image of the court let alone foster a sense of collegiality among the seven. But things have changed---for the worse. Last November, in case you missed it, the four republicans were reduced to three with Chief Justice Cliff Taylor getting the boot from the voters aided by the now infamous "sleeping judge" commercial. The old gang of four minus one was still grousing about the commercial during the vote for a new Chiefy and sharp comments were aimed at the democrat who replaced Taylor as the new Chief Justice. The R's were not happy with Marilyn Jean Kelly for campaigning against Taylor and for not disavowing the commercial. Justice Robert Young Jr. calls the commercial a lie and has confronted Kelly trying to convince her to issue the same opinion.
She demurs telling the media she doesn't know if it was true or false.
That's not good enough for Young and his two pals. So instead of a unity building seven to nothing vote to install a new chief justice, it was a badly splintered 4-3 vote which got the court off to an ugly and partisan start to the new judicial year. The fact that they are feuding is one thing, but more critical is what impact will that have on the court's job of issuing reasoned and non-partisan decisions based on the law and not personalities that don't get along?