Aug 27, 2010

Weaver gives up on reform but helps break up the Gang of Four

Republican heads all over the state exploded yesterday with the news that Republican Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver resigned and Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed Michigan Appeals Judge Alton Davis from Grayling to the bench, giving Democrats a 4-3 majority on the court for the first time in nine years.

Weaver has been vilified by Republicans with names like evil, a traitor and names I can’t repeat, and even the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus joined in the chorus with a misguided editorial called “Weaver gamed a system that begs for reform.” Reform the system is what Weaver has been pushing for years. She has been a Justice for two terns serving for 16 years and nominated by the Michigan Republican Party for her two terms.

The party indicated that they were not going to nominate the incumbent Justice at their convention Saturday. And exactly what was Weaver’s crime that she was not going to be nominated for a third term? On occasion she exercised some actual independence and did not always vote with the former Republican “Gang of Four.”

The Gang of Four once consisted of the activist judges Cliff Taylor, Robert Young, Stephen Markman and Maura Corrigan. “Sleepy Cliff Taylor” was unseated by Justice Diane Marie Hathaway in 2008, becoming the first incumbent Justice to lose in 24 years.

During that dark time the Gang of Four held sway, no insurance company lost a case, it 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 and destroyed product liability in the state.

The paper calls Weaver a “Maverick,” and claims that Weaver engaged “after years of squabbling that belie the high-court's image of decorum.” I guess if a maverick is someone who doesn’t march in lock-step with the four Republicans then she is a maverick. I don’t know why the squabbling is only Weaver’s fault and not of the Gang of Four (3).

Bur Weaver does agree with the Republican editorial board that the court needs to be reformed, and in fact, she has pushed for a less partisan way to choose Justices for years, including such things as term limits and other reforms. But to say she “gamed the system” is ridiculous, and smacks of sour grapes.

For on example of her attempt at reform, last October Weaver testified in front of the Senate Campaign and Election Oversight Committee in favor of Senate Bill 745 that would elect the state's seven Supreme Court justices from districts instead of on a statewide basis. Currently, most of the Justices are from southeast Michigan, and only Davis from the UP is an exception.

To show you how difficult it is to reform the court, the bill was introduced by a Republican candidate for Secretary of State, Sen. Michele McManus, R-Lake Leelanau, and supported by GOP boosters the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, but it still did not get more than a hearing in committee controlled by Republicans and remains there.

Elizabeth Weaver is my new hero.

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