How I’ll be voting on the Michigan Supreme Court

I’d like to vote against Robert Young for Michigan Supreme Court tomorrow, but the stupid and offensive ads being run against him so piss me off that I’m going to find it difficult to do so. Here’s one of the ads in question, which I was subjected to three times in a single hour, while at the gym a few days ago.

I get that folks want this guy out of the Supreme Court for legitimate reasons, and that it’s difficult to vote an incumbent out, but I hate feeling as though I’m being manipulated. And I doubly hate that the people behind this ad just assume that the label of “Urkel” is a bad thing, as though the brilliant young man in short pants would be a less than serious jurist. But, I digress. Here, with a more serious take on Young, is a clip from letter that I received this morning from Ypsi attorney John Bredell:

It is rare, if ever, that I publically campaign for any candidate in any election — however, as you are likely aware, this election is a critical turning point in Michigan jurisprudence history.

Specifically, the Gang of Four totally rewrote fifty years of law in a matter of a couple of years – Michigan became the laughing stock of American Jurisprudence.

As demonstrated by the poll taken by Michigan Lawyers Weekly, the impact of the prior Engler Court “Gang of Four” has been obvious.

Question 1: Do you generally agree that the decisions and opinions of the Michigan Supreme Court majority are the result of an agenda that is better left to the legislative branch?
Yes 83.7%
No 16.3%

Question 2: Do you generally agree that the decisions and opinions of the Michigan Supreme Court majority suggest a pattern of bias that favors insurance companies and large corporate interests over those of ordinary citizens in civil litigation matters?
Yes 79.3%
No 20.7%

Question 3: Do you generally agree that the decisions and opinions of the Michigan Supreme Court majority have resulted in a pattern of denial of the right to trial by jury in the State of Michigan?
Yes 80.5%
No 19.5%

Examples of the Gang of Four theory of law are as follows:
• Infamous Nestle Waters North America case, the court ruled that the 1970 Environmental Protection Act wording, “The attorney general or any person may” sue to protect “the air, water, and other natural resources… from pollution, impairment, or destruction,” didn’t actually mean any person. The court said only those who could prove personal harm from such pollution could sue.
• Anyone recall Kriener? Short of being killed in a car accident, a motorist could not be found to have suffered what the Gang of Four considered a “serious impairment of an important bodily function.” It became so bad as to question whether death would meet the threshold.

The bottom line is that for a period of approximately ten years an insurance company rarely, if ever, lost a case. The Gang of Four — Cliff Taylor, Robert Young, Stephen Markman and Maura Corrigan — summarily gutted consumer protection laws, watered down environmental protection laws and weakened individual rights. The doors of justice were slammed shut in the face of ordinary citizens and swung wide open for insurance companies and corporations.

On November 2, 2010, you have the opportunity to cast a vote that will support our legal system — or you can allow it to slip back into the dark ages. I am asking that you vote for Justice Tom Davis and Judge Denise Langford Morris.

Bredell then went on to add that Young, “seems to always find a way to side with big business, big money and insurance companies.” Oh, and speaking of those big insurance companies, it’s worth noting that Young was once the Vice President of AAA Insurance.

As I don’t know Bredell, though, I decided to reach out to another friend, from whom I received the following.

What I can tell you is that the supreme court elections are technically non-partisan, but the parties put up specific candidates. Morris & Davis are the Dem candidates, Kelly & Young are the Rep candidates. Young & Davis are incumbents, and get marked as such on the ballot, which is a major advantage – each party is trying to protect their incumbent while picking off the other side’s. Currently the Dems have a 4-3 majority on the court.

The best part of this, though, is the soap opera around the incumbency. The Rs had a majority until this summer, but Justice Elizabeth Weaver spent all her time fighting with the other Republicans. She was going to be out this November – she was planning to run for reelection as an independent, which means she wouldn’t have a party machine behind her. She made a deal with Granholm, instead: Weaver would resign early, allowing Granholm to make a temporary appointment to fill the vacancy, on the condition that the appointment be from Northern Michigan. Granholm said, “deal!”, Weaver resigned, Granholm appointed Davis, and it just so happened that all of this happened the day before the ballot deadline – meaning that Davis, who’s been sitting for 2 months, gets to appear on the ballot as an incumbent, as if he’d been sitting for 8 years. Ta-da! The Dems suddenly pick up the incumbency boost and Weaver gets one last “fuck you” in to the party that she was bailing out of.

Ordinarily, I might be a little unhappy with this kind of game, but on the other hand, why the hell do we elect Supreme Court justices, anyways? That seems like a terrible idea, so I don’t mind having it dealt with at a higher level. Besides, I just kind of admire the balls of all involved.

So, long story short, I’ll be voting for Tom Davis and Denise Langford Morris tomorrow.

Oh, and if you’d like to see your ballot, as it will appear tomorrow, click here.

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  1. Posted November 1, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

    I forgot to mention it, but you can find some good analysis of the statewide ballot initiatives here.

  2. Knox
    Posted November 1, 2010 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    Does anyone in the family have suggestions as to who to vote for on the Ypsi district library board? Or actually who not to vote for. There are five people running and only four slots. Here are the five.

    Frances Doe
    Suzanne Gray
    Linda Gurka
    Marsha Kraycir
    Angela Moloney

  3. Knox
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Nothing? OK, I’ll be guessing… Now, which of these names seems the most evil?

  4. EOS
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 6:33 am | Permalink

  5. b
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    “while at the gym”….what? you? why?

  6. Edward
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    I don’t know about the state school board, but locally I’ll be voting against Bates and Horn.

  7. Posted November 2, 2010 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    For some reason it’s not on Publius, but there will apparently be a millage increase (?) for the Ypsi District Library on the ballot.

    According to a commenter on the op/ed, the “library” millage states that “A portion of the revenue collected will be required to be distributed to the City of Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority, the City of Ypsilanti Depot Town Downtown Development Authority, the City’s School Pictures Brownfield Redevelopment Authority and the Ypsilanti Charter Township Local Development Finance Authority”, which seems kind of sketchy to me. But that’s all I know about it — anyone have any info on this?

  8. Mike Shecket
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    I thought this was a pretty reasonable argument for a split vote for Davis and Kelly:

  9. Mike Shecket
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    Which, incidentally, would preserve the 4-3 “Democratic” majority on the Court.

  10. Meta
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    Thanks for that link, Mike.

    For those who aren’t likely to follow it, here’s the gist of it:

    Judges who are obligated to raise money and campaign for election are never far removed from the political currents of their times.

    But since 1997, when then-Gov. John Engler began appointing state Supreme Court justices dedicated to dismantling decades of legal precedent Engler was convinced had left insurers, health care providers and other corporate defendants at a unfair disadvantage in civil litigation, Michigan’s highest court has become more intensely partisan, and its members more beholden to special interests with a financial stake in its decisions, than at any time in its 205-year history.

    The nominal nonpartisanship of state Supreme Court candidates is belied by a system in which all the viable contestants are nominated and bankrolled by the two major political parties.

    Two of the court’s seven incumbent justices, Republican Robert Young Jr. and Democrat Alton Davis, are seeking re-election. They will compete on the nonpartisan ballot with Republican Wayne County Circuit Judge Mary Beth Kelly, Democratic Oakland Circuit Judge Denise Langford Morris, and independent Bob Roddis, an attorney from Grosse Pointe Farms.

    The top two vote-getters will win eight year-terms in a post that will pay $164,610 a year beginning Jan. 1.

    Four Engler-sponsored justices used the majority power they exercised from 2000 to 2008 to transform Michigan law, overruling dozens of legal precedents that dated, in some cases, to the 19th Century.

    After 2008, when Democrat Diane Hathaway unexpectedly defeated Republican Chief Justice Cliff Taylor in his bid for a second term, the court’s three Democratic justices joined with renegade GOP Justice Elizabeth Weaver to reverse some of the Engler justices’ 4-3 rulings.

    Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s recent appointment of former Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Alton Davis to replace the retiring Weaver solidified the court’s Democratic majority, and there is every reason to believe Democrats will continue to chip at the work of the Engler court if they retain their 4-3 majority.

    This newspaper was frequently disappointed by the rulings of the Engler court, which were linked by their tendency to reduce access to the courts. In erecting new obstacles to citizens seeking legal redress for grievances ranging from insurance coverage denials to environmental pollution to workplace discrimination, it appeared to us that the Engler justices were animated less by their determination to do justice than by their zeal to alter the rules of the legal game in favor of the deep-pocket defendants who financed their election.

    Still, the new Democratic majority relies on the largesse of its own cadre of special interests, and public confidence in the state Supreme Court’s impartiality and integrity will continue to plummet if Democratic justices seek to accommodate their friends in the plaintiff’s bar and organized labor as cravenly as their Republican colleagues have genuflected to insurance companies and employers.

    We think two candidates, Democrat Alton Davis and Republican Mary Beth Kelly, are most likely to rule in a way that would preserve citizen access to the courts and restore public confidence in the judiciary.

    There’s more on each candidate after this background, if you follow Mike’s link.

  11. EOS
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink


    I printed a sample ballot and the Library millage as it appears on my ballot includes the exact verbiage that you refer to. Vote NO and write a check to the library if you really want to help the library.

  12. Posted November 2, 2010 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    @cmadler: the various Authorities named in the library millage text are all TIF authorities – tax increment financing authorities. Briefly, that means that at the time they were set up, they were enabled to “capture” some of the tax revenues resulting from new development after that time in order to pay for infrastructure, cleanup of contamination on the site, etc. – they finance the work with the incremental tax revenues. So there’s nothing sketchy about it – it’s just an explicit mention that these Authorities have dibs on a (small fraction) of the revenues.

  13. Kim
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Murph.

    As for EOS, if everyone ready for his gloating tomorrow?

  14. Alice
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Speaking of funding libraries, this is my favorite sign ever (I think it’s form the Stewart rally the other day):

  15. Posted November 2, 2010 at 11:58 am | Permalink

    @Murph: Thanks for the explanation. Do you have any idea, or even a rough guess, how much of the 0.38 mils would go (collectively) to those authorities? 1%? 10%? 30%?

  16. MMoore by proxy
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 12:24 pm | Permalink


    This letter contains (almost) no criticisms of how the Democrats have brought this day of reckoning upon themselves. That — and where to go from here — will be the subject of tomorrow’s letter.

    Today, we have one job and one job only: Stop the return of the bigger criminal class, the Party of War, the people who (with a few Democratic enablers) manufactured the very mess we are in.

    There is good news this morning: The final ABC/Washington Post poll shows that, among registered voters, people still say they prefer the Democrats over the Republicans by 5 percentage points. It’s only when the pollsters ask “likely voters” who they want that the Republicans come out ahead by a few points.

    So it’s clear the majority of voters want the Dems, but the prediction is the Republicans will win because Dem voters are going to stay home.

    So, our mission is simple: MAKE SURE NO ONE WE KNOW STAYS HOME TODAY. Here’s what I am going to do right now and what I’m asking the millions of you reading this to join me in doing:

    1. Email, call and/or text every non-Republican in your personal address book and remind them to vote Democratic today. If they (rightfully) complain that the Dems have been disappointing, tell them they’re right, then ask them to watch this editorial by Rachel Maddow last night where she correctly lists the dozen or so things this Democratic congress did right — the types of things we’ll never see from the Republicans if they take over (equal pay for women act, taking student loans out of the greedy hands of the banks, funding for our first bullet trains, boosting veterans benefits after Bush refused to for 8 years, etc.).

    2. Post a general reminder to vote (and who to vote for) on your facebook page and tweet it to your Twitter followers.

    3. If you have the time, go down to a local candidate’s HQ or the local Democratic Party office and offer to make calls or give people rides to the polls.

    4. Think local. No matter where you are in America, there’s someone on the ballot today in your town who deserves your vote. Guaranteed. If you’re in Wisconsin and you’re pissed at Harry Reid for letting Joe Lieberman derail the public option on health care, don’t let that stop you from getting everyone you know to go vote for Russ Feingold. In Florida and furious at the way the Obama administration coddled Wall Street? All the more reason to call every single person you know in the Orlando area to go vote for Alan Grayson. In California and mad about the total Democratic failure on global warming? You can still change the world for the better by showing up with all your friends to vote for Prop 19 to legalize personal use of marijuana (and stop the record numbers of people we put in prison who don’t belong there).

    5. Explain to anyone who’s given up and doesn’t want to vote today that Obama was handed a terrible mess that he didn’t create. He may now understand he’s moved too slow and compromised too much on the big stuff that needed to get done (after all, Goldman Sachs was his #1 private contributor in the 2008 election). But in the last couple months he’s made some good moves — booting some generals, dumping economic advisor/wrecker Larry Summers, and hiring new people like consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren. Things are very bad right now. But they can get MUCH worse. War with Iran? A genuine worldwide Second Great Depression? A Republican Congress will spend every second trying to make it happen.

    6. Finally, we must let the Democratic politicians know that our vote comes with one big condition: If they do not straighten up, get a spine and do what we expect of them, we will find alternate candidates to run against them in 2012. And we mean it. Go vote today, but also sign this petition that I’ll deliver to every elected Democrat — the “I’m Voting Democratic But I Will Work to Defeat You Next Time if You Don’t Do Your Job” petition, aka “The Democrats on Probation” petition. Let’s publicly put them on notice that we’ll give them just two more years to start doing the things we elected them to do. If they move one more inch to the “center” or to the right, they will never get our vote again. And we mean business.

    Bill Maher said, “We have a center-right party and a crazy party. Over the last 30 years, the Democrats have moved to the right, and the Republicans have moved into a mental hospital.” That about sums it up. But he also said, “Sure, I’m mad at the Democrats. I’m also mad at my cell phone company. But I don’t throw away my cell phone cause I’m mad and then rub dog shit on my teeth.” We all know this isn’t the best situation to be in. So consider this one last reason to get out and vote:

    There are good people the country has never heard of who are running today all across America, most of them for the first time. Somewhere in this great land right now, the woman who will cast the deciding vote in the Senate for single payer in 2016 is running for mayor of your city in her first big race. Somewhere else, the person who will become the first female president of the United States in 2020 is running for the state house for the first time. Their careers will be over and that future will never be if you don’t show up today. Go to, find out who’s great and running where you live, and then show up to vote for them. You may help light the spark that will save our sorry ass somewhere down the road. Don’t just hold your nose today as you go in the booth — go ignite a future revolution. The only thing that makes the corporate honchos happier than paying no taxes is making sure as few people vote as possible. They think they’ve bought this election.

    Go prove them wrong.

    Michael Moore

  17. BrianB
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I voted for Denise Langford Morris because she had nice ads and the ones attacking her were so comically bad: “She defended a rapper, a lawyer, and a child pornographer” gasp!

  18. noname
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    Question 1: Do you generally agree that the decisions and opinions …..that is better left to the legislative branch?


    the Michigan legislative branches are the most partisan and dysfunctional collectives of people I have seen in action. And the they seen to be the _least_ capable people possible when it comes to forward-looking actions that don’t make conditions in the state _worse_ by a fold change or more.

    judges of that vein are just the icing and cherry on top.

  19. Robert
    Posted November 2, 2010 at 10:05 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t seen any exit poll projections for the Supreme Court race, but the official count that is coming in does not look good for Davis and Morris.

  20. Larry Seven Larry
    Posted November 3, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    Young and Kelly both won. It’s not being given a lot of attention, but it’s likely to be the race that will end up hurting the people of Michigan the most.

  21. Meta
    Posted November 4, 2010 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    In related news, here’s something from the Onion.

    “African-American Community Calls For New Black Nerd Archetype”,18389/

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