Better roads. Cleaner water. Real Democracy.
This post is part of a new project at Eclectablog called “A Fresh Michigan”. Our goal is to help people understand the astonishing impact they can have on the future of our state by supporting the three statewide ballot proposals along with Sam Bagenstos and Megan Kathleen Cavanagh for the State Supreme Court. You can read more about this project HERE.
Now here’s the kicker.
Passing Proposal 1, Proposal 2 and Proposal 3 are essential for transforming this state, but these victories for democracy could mean less than nothing unless we send BOTH Megan Kathleen Cavanagh and Sam Bagenstos to Michigan’s Supreme Court.
These are the stakes
There is a VERY good chance that these popular ballot initiatives — particularly 2 & 3, which will up update our electoral system for the 21st century — will be challenged in court by the same billionaires and outside groups who could not defeat them at the polls. And when they are challenged, the case will most certainly end up before the State Supreme Court.
At the moment, Republicans enjoy a solid 5-to-2 majority in Michigan’s top court. It’s a majority they’ve held for all but a short period of time for decades. If that doesn’t change on November 6, any one of our 2018 ballot proposals could be stamped “null and void”.
However, if we elect both Democratic Party-endorsed candidates, Megan Kathleen Cavanagh and Sam Bagenstos, progressives would have a 4-to-3 majority and we could ensure that the transformational change voters seem poised to enact on November 6th is solidified. And because Proposals 2 and 3 are amendments to the constitution, Republicans can’t do what they did when our Emergency Manager law was crushed at the polls and simply pass a bill that completely ignores the voters’ will.
“A Republican-controlled Michigan Supreme Court is the GOP’s ace in the hole. It can overturn the actions of a Democratic Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General, as well as block access to the ballot for proposals and undermine proposals which the voters adopt,” former Michigan Democratic Party Chair and badass progressive attorney Mark Brewer told us.
This is why EVERYTHING that we care about is on the ballot when we vote for the candidates running for Michigan’s Supreme Court.
Dark money gets what it pays for
You know who doesn’t have to be convinced Michigan’s Supreme Court matters?
Corporate interests and outside groups. Shady, anonymous special interests have spent tens of millions keeping our Court in Republican hands for decades.
“For the 2010, 2012 and 2014 campaigns, the Brennan Center for Justice found that Michigan was home to the most expensive and least transparent Supreme Court campaigns,” according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. And the only reason that wasn’t true in 2016 was because the races weren’t competitive, yet outside groups still spent millions.
When it comes to “dark money” that can’t be traced back to its sources and the buying of Justice, Michigan is like no other state, the MCFN argues.
And the payoff for corporations has been huge. “[T]he Michigan Supreme Court has handed down staunch conservative rulings in recent environmental and labor cases,” The New Republic’s Matt Ford reports in a must-read piece “Can State Courts Save the Liberal Agenda?”
While the right has largely been interested in using their majority to enable polluters and limit workers’ rights, the battles on the state level will become even more intense now that there is unshakable conservative majority on the United States Supreme Court.
“If a case rises to the U.S. Supreme Court that leads the justices to overturn the landmark case that legalized abortion in 1973, Michigan would revert to the last abortion law on the books – a 1931 law that made performing an abortion a felony, unless it was to save the life of the mother,” Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press reported. “The law has no exceptions for rape or incest.”
Even same-sex marriage and adoption could eventually fall back to the states.
But the issue that will almost certainly be taken up by our state’s Supreme Court is partisan gerrymandering.
Just this week, the U.S Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to an electoral map Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court issued to replace an illegal GOP gerrymander.
“By turning down the GOP’s appeal, the U.S. Supreme Court has shown the way forward to stop gerrymandering at the state level: elect progressive state supreme courts in states that hold judicial elections, and elect Democratic governors who can appoint progressive justices in the states that don’t elect them directly,” Wrote Daily Kos’ Stephen Wolf.
Again and again, Democrats have won nearly as many or more votes than Republicans and the GOP still managed to capture super majorities thanks to maps that contort the will of the public.
This crime against democracy could end by the time the next maps are drawn after the 2020 census. But only if we have four Supreme Court justices that owe their positions to the voters and not their donors. Here they are.
Megan Kathleen Cavanagh
A lifelong Michigander, Megan Kathleen Cavanagh has been one of our state’s top appellate court for the past fifteen years. Like her father, former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Michael Cavanagh, her overarching interest is to ensure that ALL people who enter the judicial system receive fair treatment and, toward that goal, serves as a councilperson for the Negligence Section of the State Bar of Michigan which she describes as “a diverse group of plaintiff and defense attorneys dedicated to finding consensus on important issues affecting citizens’ fair and equal access to the courts.”
Unlike her two Republican-endorsed opponents who were both appointed by Republican governor Rick Snyder and who have sought and received the endorsement of Right to Life, Cavanagh has been endorsed by Planned Parenthood and nearly every labor union in the state.
When asked about her work as appeals attorney, Cavanagh is clear: EVERYONE deserves fair access to our judicial system. “I have committed my career to being an advocate for an open, fair and honest justice system because,” she says, “I firmly believe that that is the best way to advocate for every citizen who is affected by or works within that system.”
Visit her campaign website at CavanaghForSupremeCourt.com.
It’s easy to think of everything we lost on November 8, 2016 when Donald Trump won Michigan and the electoral college by edging out Hillary Clinton in three Great Lake States.
But we gained the motivation to reform our democracy and we gained the candidacy of Sam Bagenstos for Supreme Court Justice.
The Free Press called him the “most qualified candidate to seek a seat on the court in recent memory,” which may be an understatement. If Clinton had won, Sam Bagenstos could very well have ended up on her short list of potential Supreme Court nominees.
His campaign calls him a “Fighter for Justice” and his career illustrates that’s not just good copy again and again.
A Harvard Law graduate and former clerk for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Bagenstos helped rebuild the civil rights division of the Justice Department after eight years of George W. Bush. He’s argued before the Supreme Court four times and is representing the citizens of Flint in class action lawsuit. His victories for Americans with disabilities and for pregnant workers have been cheered by both the left and the right.
His willingness to run for this office in Michigan now is a recognition that conservative takeover of the federal courts demands that progressives refocus on what we can accomplish in a state where we’ve lived through a dark age of unrepresentative right-wing rule.
“We have come to rely in the civil rights world on the federal courts as the place that we can go to enforce our basic rights, and I think we have to face the reality that – thanks to Donald Trump – the federal courts are going to be closed for business for the protection of our basic rights for the next generation,” he said. “I’m not being hyperbolic here.”
With Bagenstos leading a Democratic majority, Michigan will be a state where our rights are not for sale.
Visit his campaign website at BagenstosForJustice.com.
We need them both
These two great progressive candidates give us the opportunity to completely transform our state’s highest court. And we have to elect BOTH Megan Kathleen Cavanagh and Sam Bagenstos. Otherwise, as Cavanagh said in a recent forum, “Whoever gets elected won’t be able to do anything but craft beautiful dissents, worthy of framing and little else.”