Cameron Getto

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.

Even local journalist and radio personality Jack Lessenberry, not exactly known for his liberal views, wants to see Taylor gone, and has endorsed former Governor Jim Blanchard for the job.

I myself have bemoaned the lack of intelligence and absurdity of Taylor's Court. You can read my rants here, here, here and here.

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.

Cameron Getto: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 9:07 AM, Jan 30, 2008 in Judicial Elections
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MI voters truly without the politics of it all " Is this the best we can do" This position is supposed to be the ultimate legal mind. A person that rises above the fray. Both intellectually and as a role model. When we have someone that clearly is provoking his own colleges how does one deserve the title Chief Justice. Additionally, how does a Judge claim to not Legislate from the bench and in fact that is all he does making up Law. He adds language which is profound and not found anywhere in the Legislation passed to suit his purpose and that purpose is to protect Insurance carriers, Bad Doctors , Drunk drivers from responsibilty for their actions.

Posted by: scott | January 31, 2008 9:10 AM

Michigan attorneys don't rate Justice Taylor, and the three other members of his voting block on the bench, very highly either.

Posted by: Mike Butler | February 2, 2008 7:45 AM

Michigan's rules strongly favor incumbents. It will be very difficult to replace this man.

Posted by: Kenneth Young | February 3, 2008 12:06 AM

I had a recent opportunity to address the Michigan Supreme Court, and Chief Justice Taylor in particular. I was left with the impression, that his opinion in that matter certainly smelled like a dead skunk in the middle of the road. He may be a sincere, honorable man,
but careful review of his legal decisions, indicate he lacks the expertise to dispense justice for the citizens of Michigan.

Posted by: Eric Odmark | February 4, 2008 12:34 PM

Is there anyone qualified out there to run against this man?

Posted by: Colleen Browne | March 10, 2008 10:47 AM

Justice Taylor and his other 3 pals on the Supreme Court need to spend some time in a physical therapy environment. Maybe then he will understand what these injured people are going through.

How can it be that you are sitting at a red light and a careless driver speeding down the road plows into you leaving you with horrific injuries and there's not a damn thing you can do about it? The insurance companies fight you tooth and nail, stating your injuries are minor and the "gang of 4" agrees with them.

The insurance companies fool the public into thinking that the current "No-Fault" law is to rid the court of frivilous lawsuits and to only help the truly injured. Nothing could be further than the truth. It's all about their profits & greed. Michigan voters will only come to find out the truth when they or someone close to them has been severely injured or killed in a car accident and then the court will say they are not entitled to anything.

I can't believe the Michigan Supreme Court is so crooked.

When is this madness going to end?

Posted by: Injured & Ticked Off in Michigan | May 27, 2008 10:39 AM

Don't know if it will make a difference but thx for the info. I won't be voting for the man.

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Posted by: SHANE | October 27, 2008 11:21 PM

You are serious that Jack Lessenberry is "Not exactly known as a liberal"? That is all that he is known as, as a frequent editorial contributor to the Metro Times who called Michael Moore "one of the great film makers of our time as well as an indispensable social critic."

Jack Lessenberry would be the first to call himself a liberal. You have lost all credibility by not realizing that.

Posted by: Bob | October 31, 2008 10:18 AM