Michigan Supreme Court Justices face election
This week the upcoming 2012 Michigan Supreme Court election gained national mention in the New York Times. The paper pointed out that among the two dozen states where top court judges will be on the November ballot, Michigan will likely have the highest judicial campaign spending. The paper alluded to the independent, non-partisan recommendations of a task force that studied the issue and recommended scrapping Michigan's current system of electing judges by partisan nomination. (Judges run on a "non-partisan" ballot after being nominated by the political parties.)
The New York Times quoted the independent campaign report to the effect that Michigan's 2010 campaign (where two Republican-nominated Justices gained seats and recaptured a majority of the Court for insurance-oriented Republicans) was the "most expensive and most secretive in the nation." Although spending on judges is completely unmonitored, officially, and no disclosures are required, more than $20 million dollars has been traced to Michigan's high court campaigns since 2010. The majority of this money comes from allies of the insurance industry and the Chamber of Commerce.
The newspaper did not point out that in a recent study by a Chicago university, Michigan's high court was deemed the most partisan and least effective state court in the nation. It also did not mention the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling out of West Virginia, making it illegal for a judge to hear a case involving a "significant" contributor: this ruling is meaningless in a state like Michigan where no campaign disclosures are ever required.
Finally, the paper did not mention the fact that under the control of arch-conservative Republican-nominated Justices, Michigan's Supreme Court has drastically curtailed the rights of consumers, environmentalists, injury victims and insureds. Rights that were taken for granted for decades have been overturned for the profit advantage of corporations and insurance companies. These include the right of children to pursue claims within one year after reaching the age of majority; the right of insured consumers to an insurance policy that meets "reasonable expectations;" the right to negotiate with a no-fault insurer until a written denial is received, without the statute of limitations running; the right to sue the manufacturer for defective drugs that gained FDA approval improperly; and the "standing" to sue to protect natural resources or a safe school environment, to name just a few.