Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Weaver picks up partial support for latest reform plan

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver's latest plan for reforming the election/selection process for the court picked up a little editorial steam from the Kalamazoo Gazette today.

The Gazette's editorial board isn't happy with the current election/selection process, but had a lukewarm response to the idea of term limits for justices, a primary feature of Weaver's newest proposal.

Our beef with the Michigan Supreme Court isn't that justices stay too long.

It's with the way they get there in the first place. And with the manner in which they are elected and re-elected.

Michigan's process for selecting a justice is at the same time maddeningly partisan and frustratingly opaque at the ballot box.

Candidates who want to run for the state Supreme Court must seek out the nomination of their political parties at state party conventions. That's the maddeningly partisan part.

The frustratingly opaque part is what voters face on Election Day. None of the Supreme Court candidates are designated with Rs or Ds. Unless they've done their homework ahead of time, voters have no indication from the ballot the political affiliation of the people for whom they're voting. All they can tell is whether the candidate is the incumbent or not.
The Gazette also gave passing recognition to Weaver's on-going jousting with the rest of the court's Republican wing.
Weaver, a Republican, has frequently been at odds with her fellow Republicans over the ideological direction of the court, over what she perceives as justices' conflict of interest and, especially, with Chief Justice Clifford Taylor, a John Engler appointee.
The Gazette favors adoption of the Missouri Plan, under which judges are first appointed to the bench and then must weather a retention election.
The Missouri Plan sounds like a huge improvement over Michigan's way of picking judges.

For decades, its advocates have been trying to sell it here -- with no luck.

We hope that it doesn't take a full-blown partisan scandal at the Michigan Supreme Court before this state realizes there are better ways to pick a court.
As to that last point, it's a safe bet there are plenty of folks who would make the argument that the current state of affairs is already partisan and scandalous.

No comments: