Jun 22, 2008
Gang of Four slams the door of justice in the face of citizens
BRIGHTON – If you’re an individual suing an insurance company or a corporation in Michigan you will lose. It’s as simple as that.
Since the Republican majority, known as the “Gang of Four,” took over the majority of the Michigan Supreme Court, an insurance company has not lost a case in a decade. The four activist judges – Cliff Taylor, Robert Young, Stephen Markman and Maura Corrigan - have gutted consumer protection laws, watered down environmental protection laws and weakened individual rights. The doors of justice have been slammed shut in the face of ordinary citizens and swung wide open for insurance companies and corporations.
“They have radically changed Michigan law,” said Ypsilanti attorney Doug Shapiro, at a recent forum on the Supreme Court sponsored by the Livingston County Democratic Party. “In 10 years, no one has won a case against an insurance company; if you are the plaintiff, you lose.”
The court’s decision has empowered insurance companies and made them less responsive to consumers.
“Insurance companies once had to act in the best fiduciary duty to the insurance, not just make money,” Shapiro said. “Not any more.”
As for a perfect example of that, Shapiro said in the past, people had a year to sue their insurance company after a claim was denied; ironically, to keep litigation down. Now, the clock starts ticking as soon as the incident occurs. The insurance company can put off the insured for a year, lose paperwork and simply delay a decision until the clock runs out. It also applies to someone who is mentally incapacitated because of the incident, overturning a 50 year precedent.
The gang of four has also expanded government immunity so much that government can only be sued if a pot hole is so large you have to climb out of it. Governments do not have to plow snow, maintain proper lighting and other basic safety issues. For example, the gang of four recently ruled the City of Lansing cannot be held liable in the 2005 death of 7-year-old Chantell Buckner, who was struck and killed by a drunk driver while walking along a curb because a city plow had covered the sidewalk with snow.
“There is no incentive for the government to address those safety things,” Shapiro said.
Shapiro also said the gang of four’s arrogant actions have destroyed product liability in the state.
“If you read the opinions, they mock the sense of justice,” Shapiro said. “Like the Bush Administration, justice is like the Geneva Convention, quaint.
“They have said it’s not the court’s duty to provide justice,” he said.
The gang of four were never elected, and were initially appointed. But, they are acting as a partisan, unelected four person legislature. Only Taylor is up for election, and there is a grassroots effort to defeat him and bring some fairness back to the court.
They know they have an uphill battle because incumbency for the Supreme Court is worth up to 30 percent of the vote. Plus, there is considerable ballot drop off, and most people don’t get that far down on the ballot.
The Justice Caucus has formed the “Supreme Challenge” to target Taylor. The Michigan Democratic Party has not named a nominee, but Orion attorney Marietta S. Robinson and 3rd Circuit Court Judge Deborah A. Thomas have been mentioned as candidates. Michigan Lawyers Weekly conducted an online poll, and both Robinson and Thomas trounced Taylor with more than 75 percent of the vote.