Justice Clifford Taylor defeated
In a rare campaign victory for ordinary people against the wealthy Chamber of Commerce and insurance industry, Justice Clifford Taylor was handily defeated in this year's election for the Michigan Supreme Court. Taylor, whose wife was a close associate of John Engler's for many years, was nominated to the Court by Engler and eventually acted in lock-step with three other Engler-selected Justices to turn Michigan jurisprudence on its ear. While serving as the incumbent Chief Justice, Taylor was a heavy favorite for re-election, and the Chamber of Commerce had publicly pledged to him every dollar he needed to win.
Over his term, Taylor proved to be an unusually activist jurist, leading the Engler "gang of four" in eliminating a number of citizen, consumer and environmental rights. One of his most notorious opinions re-wrote state environmental protection laws to eliminate a normal citizen's standing to sue, despite the Legislature's use of the clear phrase "any person" may sue. His majority gave little credence to the principle of stare decisis and actively sought the opportunity to overturn established precedent. During his tenure, it was reported that the insurance industry never lost a single claim brought before the Court, however, we think there was one exception during the decade.
Several national law journals studied the Court under his leadership and found it to be the most partisan, least respected and least-cited state court in the country. Taylor himself was criticized for being unprepared, vindictive and biased--even by Justices on his own Court. We are pleased to write his legal epitaph. He has caused profound damage to our jurisprudence and to the reputation of the Court and our court system. He has denied justice to deserving citizens who will never enjoy a second "day in court". He leaves behind a legacy of mean-spirited, one-sided, arrogant partisan jurisprudence that will not be unraveled for decades. Even though he leaves the Court with a majority of Republican justices, however, our citizens will once again enjoy the opportunity to appeal to the highest court with some degree of confidence that their controversy may receive reasoned, thoughtful analysis, based on sound public policy, rather than a heavy-handed partisan rubber-stamp. Good riddance.