Michigan can do better than Cliff Taylor
Next year's presidential elections will generate most of the media attention and buzz. For those of us here in Michigan, however, we must pay close attention to a race that stands to affect us locally much more than any presidency can.
Cliff Taylor, Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, is up for re-election. And for those of us that care deeply about Michigan and the direction it's heading, there can be no question that he and his unprincipled, ultra-conservative, anti-citizen agenda must be replaced.
Taylor is barely qualified to sit on the Michigan Supreme Court. In a recent report in which attorneys from all political persuasions and who represent plaintiffs, prosecutors and defendants expressed their views of our Supreme Court Justices, he came in second to last, with only Justice Young behind him. What was amazing about the report was that even those that won their cases before him scored him lower than all the other Justices, save one. In fact, according to the Detroit Free Press' Brian Dickerson:
Taylor fares relatively poorly in the performance survey in which 79 lawyers who appeared before the high court at least once in the last six years rated the justices on a scale of 1 ("poor") to 5 ("excellent") on each of eight "judicial characteristics."
Taylor was rated last among the justices in "overall knowledge of the law" and "thoroughness of opinions" -- the written documents in which justices explain their reasons for ruling as they did.
The chief justice's median overall rating -- 2.91 on a scale of 5 -- placed him sixth among the seven justices, with only Justice Robert Young Jr. trailing at 2.85.
Dickerson is not alone in his criticism of Taylor. Taylor's fellow Justice, Elizabeth Weaver, a Republican who won her seat by popular election as opposed to Taylor's appointment by former Governor Engler, bristles at his lack of qualifications, his lack of ethics, his pettiness, and his overall lack of judicial character. In fact, she published a dissent that the so-called Gang of Four (led by Taylor) would not officially publish when Taylor was elected Chief Justice. You can read it here (and you most certainly should before casting your vote).
Justice Weaver states:
Chief Justice Taylor has proven that he cannot properly lead the Michigan Supreme Court at this time. The people of Michigan deserve to have a Chief Justice who will conduct the people's business in an orderly, professional, and fair manner.
. . . .
I dissent because the majority of four of this Court has misused and abused the judicial power by suppressing, or attempting to suppress, dissent and has engaged in repeated disorderly, unprofessional and unfair conduct in the performance of the judicial business of the Court.
Not one member of the majority of four has demonstrated an ability to lead this Court at this time. Thus, it is in the best interest of the State of Michigan and the Michigan Supreme Court for either Justice Michael Cavanagh or Justice Marilyn Kelly to serve as this Court's Chief Justice.
The dissent is long, but worthy of reading. She castigates the Gang of Four for squelching dissent and complains of disorderly, unethical and unprofessional conduct.
Taylor recently curtailed the rights of Michigan citizens to sue for violations of Michigan's own Environmental Protection Act. This overt disenfranchisement of Michigan citizens is contrary to Taylor's own professed "textualist" views, as he had to completely ignore the actual text of the statute to reach the conclusion. Taylor also supported letting a murderer out of a wrongful death suit, claiming the statute of limitations had run even though the main reason the defendant could not be identified earlier was that he successfully concealed his identity from authorities.
I certainly hope the people of our great state pay closer attention to the damage our elected Justices do to our rights and to the very cause of justice. We only get to limit the terms of these judges every eight years. Next year, Taylor ought to be defeated, and there are plenty of well-qualified, fair, ethical, impartial judges out there to take his place.