Michigan Republican culture of retaliation and punishment has judges fearful of speaking out

Pipe down or be punished

For the past three years, Republicans in control of the Michigan legislature have created a culture of retaliation and punishment in order to stomp out any opposition they may encounter. The blazing speed of their right to work (for less) drive was, for all intents and purposes, designed to punish labor groups for having the audacity of putting Proposal 2 on the ballot, a referendum that would have enshrined collective bargaining rights in our state constitution. When labor unions around the state inked multi-year contracts with universities prior to the implementation of right to work, Republicans threatened to pull those university’s funding. The list goes on.

Now we learn that judges in the Michigan Judges Association decided not to weigh in on recent Republican legislation that moved the Court of Claims to the Circuit Court of Appeals for fear the Republicans would retaliate by refusing to okay recent salary increases awaiting their approval. These judges haven’t see a pay increase in 9 years.

The Michigan Judges Association opted not to take a position on the new Court of Claims law partly because its leaders thought doing so could hurt chances of getting a long-awaited judicial pay increase, e-mails obtained by the Free Press show.

Oakland County Circuit Judge James Alexander, the association’s legislative co-chair, told members that for the association to oppose the bill would be “a suicide mission that will impact our ability to get compensation,” according to the e-mails obtained Friday. [...]

Wayne County Circuit Judge Lita Popke, president of the Michigan Judges Association (MJA), said in a Nov. 1 e-mail to members that the association should stay neutral on the bill, partly because it did not impact the entire membership.

“Moreover, we do have legislative issues which MJA has been working diligently on for years, most notably is our current strategy to restructure how judges are compensated,” said Popke.

“We cannot afford at this critical time to jump into a legislative train where we may negatively impact an issue of concern to our entire membership.”

There is no evidence that the threat was made directly but that’s neither here nor there. The fact is that judges KNOW what Michigan Republicans are capable of and willing to do if they face opposition. The creation of this state of fear is all that is now necessary to squelch that opposition, even by members of the judicial system.

It’s not leadership and it’s terrible government but that’s what we face in Michigan now with drunk-with-power Republicans in charge of nearly everything.

Remember that over the next year as you are weighing your options about getting involved. It’s time we returned the reins of power in this state to those who lead out of sincere desire to make things better for Michiganders and take them away from those who rule by fear and retaliation.

  • Sharon Douglas

    With ALL that is at risk with this unconstitutional law, it’s REALLY comforting to see what the MJA’s one and only true concern is. What a bunch of self serving, shallow, short sighted, self righteous dicks. I can’t believe these are members of our Judiciary. But really, why am I surprised??

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