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The independent judiciary

          Although she was not expressly addressing the situation in Michigan, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor made her opinion clear when she described partisan elections for judges as "ghastly" at the National Governor's Convention in Traverse City.  The former Justice, a highly respected and relatively conservative Republican, decried the influence of politics in our courts and urged the nation's governors to use their influence to keep the courts above raw partisanship.  While the Justice focused her talk on national and federal issues, her arguments about destroying the needed balance in the judiciary apply with even greater weight to Michigan's system where state Supreme Court Justices are nominated by the political parties at their conventions, or, as in the current situation, hand-selected by a highly partisan Governor.   

        During his last few years in office, John Engler manipulated the system and took advantage of circumstances that allowed him to hand-pick four Justices for the Supreme Court.  He deliberately chose arch-conservatives with an agenda:  for example, he appointed the Chief Counsel of AAA to the Court and he appointed the husband of his own chief of staff.  Together, they have marched in lock-step with the most conservative wing of the Republican Party and destroyed any vestige of independence in our state judiciary.   While the Party has been decrying "activist" judges, the Republican majority on our Court has been aggressively over-turning fifty years of established law--by one count, overturning established precedent in every sixth case they decide.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
309 East Front Street
Traverse City, Michigan 49684
Toll Free: 1-800-678-1307
Fax: 231-929-7262