Michigan — August 27, 2010 at 6:25 am

Mich Dems get a gift from State Supreme Court Justice Weaver


Former Republican Michigan Supreme Court Justice (and former Chief Justice) Elizabeth Weaver is announced today that she is resigning.

Weaver cited the discord on and bipartisan politicization of the Court as a factor in her decision. She has, in the past, said that she felt that 8-year terms were too long for judges.

Weaver called the present system of party nomination of justice candidates who then stand for election “deeply flawed.” She pledged to continue her battle to reform the court and make it and campaign funding of judicial races more transparent.

“The open discord on this court over the last 10 years is not really so much about clashes of strong personalities, but rather is the result of the formation of power blocks of justices usually joining together with a majority of four votes to promote agendas of political parties and special interests; personal interests, philosophies, and ideologies, and biases and prejudices,” Weaver said. “It’s important to civilization where the public has a place they can go to get a fair shake, where judges are not in the pocket of anybody.

At a press conference with Governor Granholm yesterday, she strongly repeated her call for reform of the Michigan Supreme court and the process by which justices are chosen and pledged to work toward that reform. She noted that for one spot, for example, over $7.5 million were spent at the last election. She also pointed the millions of dollars spent by political interests, special interests and corporations to influence the election of justices. The governor pointed to six specific recommendations for reform that she has posted on her personally-funded website (pdf).

At the presser, after lauding Justice Weaver for her nearly 16 years of service on the State Supreme Court, Democratic Governor Jennifer Granholm announced Appellate Judge Alton Thomas Davis of Grayling as her replacement. Davis is a Democrat appointed by Governor Granholm. Justice Davis was reported by Interlochen Public Radio as Justice Weaver’s first choice. She cited him as the most-experienced judge she has ever appointed and noted that he will be the second-most experienced justice on the Court.

As her spokesperson Liz Boyd said, Granholm’s action doesn’t require the approval of the state Legislature. This gives Democrats a majority on the State Supreme Court for the first time in over a decade. More importantly, this is a BFD and a gift because it will likely ensure that this seat is held by a Democrat going forward since Davis will have the word “INCUMBENT” next to his name on the November ballot. That will likely help Democrats hold onto this seat for a long time to come.

Bill Ballenger puts it more bluntly:

“The Republicans are screwed,” said Inside Michigan Politics publisher Bill Ballenger. “And there’s not much they can do about it.”

From the Detroit Free Press article:

Robert Labrant, vice president of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce who has directed the chamber’s efforts to secure a pro-business majority on the court, said Weaver’s decision could deliver a crushing blow to the GOP’s hope of retaining a majority on the court in 2011.

If her replacement receives the incumbency designation on the ballot, which Labrant said he believes is likely, it will be “very difficult” to regain the seat, he said.

“Crushing blow to the GOP’s hope…” I kinda like the sounds of that. In fact I like the sounds of that a LOT. And it makes it seem pretty likely that this was intentional on Justice Weaver’s part, a parting shot, if you will, to her former Republican colleagues.

More whining from the GOP HERE:

Saul Anuzis, Michigan’s member of the Republican National Committee, described Weaver’s resignation as “politics at its worst” and “borderline unethical.” [snip]

Anuzis said Weaver’s resignation is “a slap in the face to the thousands of Republican activists in the state who worked on her behalf to elect her to the court.”

“I think she is very bitter,” he said. “It’s a personal vendetta against the other members of the court.”

Anuzis said it’s a significant advantage for a new appointee to the Supreme Court to run with the “I” for “incumbent” beside his or her name because many voters do not follow the races closely.

However, “this blatant political move by the governor and the Democrats has the potential of backfiring,” he said.

The bigger story here, however is this: Next year is a redistricting year and the Michigan Supreme Court may very well be tilted Democratic. As anyone who knows anything about redistricting knows, no matter how that shakes out, it is very likely to go before the Michigan Supreme Court before it’s all over with. Having a mostly-Democratic Supreme Court will help out the Dems in this process mightily.

The Traverse City Record-Eagle has more on Weaver’s decision:

“I have done all that I can do as a justice and now believe that I can be of most use as a citizen in helping further the critically needed reforms of the judicial system,” Weaver said in an exclusive interview with the Record-Eagle. “Now I will be able to work and speak freely.”

Weaver said she would not have resigned without Granholm’s agreement to select a northern Michigan replacement. A justice from northern Michigan brings independence and a different perspective to a court currently dominated by justices from the Detroit to Lansing beltway, she said.

“I think I’m proof of the pudding; I’m independent,” she said. “That independent-thinking judge is not agenda-driven and does not hold to political party lines.”

Weaver served for two 8-year terms as a Republican and announced that she was resigning once before in 2005 (pdf) only to change her mind. She said earlier this summer that she would be running as an Independent in the next election.

Justice Bob Young, a solid target for Democrats this year, has said he would never run on a ticket with Weaver on it, showing the rift that opened between her and her Republican colleagues.

Weaver has won two eight-year terms as a Republican, but she has been at odds with Young and the other two GOP justices, Corrigan and Stephen Markman, ever since they joined to depose her as chief justice in 2001. Young has vowed not to be part of any Republican ticket that includes her, and Republicans are poised to nominate either Wayne County Circuit Judge Mary Beth Kelly or Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Jane Markey for Weaver’s seat.

Meanwhile, Justice Weaver said her next step is to “take a full day to float down the Crystal River”. As someone who did that twice last weekend, I can only say she shows very good judgment.

I’m just sayin’…