Fixing the Courts….No, We Mean Fixing

Several items of interest at Point of, the Manhattan Institute legal website.

Reacting to efforts by business-backed legal reformers (c.g., AJP’s recent survey) to ensure that voters directly elect the state courts, Walter Olson makes the case that judicial elections can produce a bad legal environment for business: “I think there’s plenty of evidence that those practices contribute to some of the most serious problems of the state courts, and specifically to some of the worst problems facing business in those courts. In light of all that, crusading against appointive and for elective methods of judge-picking would appear — at best — a badly misplaced outlet for reform energy.”

Walter’s post elicited a flood of comments and counterarguments, which he summarizes here.  The American Justice Partnership’s Dan Pero provides the most forceful response, disecting the realities of “merit selection” versus popular elections.

For decades, the trial bar monopolized judicial elections, bringing us scores of activist judges that produced the “nightmare jurisdictions” Walter cites. It’s only been in recent years that supporters of rule-of-law judges entered the arena. Since then, rule-of-law judges, who are routinely blackballed by “merit selection” commissions, have had great success winning popular election.

Merit selection just takes the politics out of the public eye and moves it behind closed doors, Pero argues.

And speaking of cryptopoliticking, the Manhattan Institute’s Jim Copland — writing at Point of Law here — reports on the suspected but now confirmed backing of organized labor of he proposed 19,000-word constitutional amendment in Michigan that would restructure not just the state’s judiciary, but its legislative and executive branches of government, too. It’s an aggressive, even stunning power play, but the organizers of the initiative campaign wouldn’t reveal who was behind the effort. (See this post.)

Turns out, it’s organized labor’s effort to gain control of all the branches of state government for their Democrat allies* so they can run the post-census legislative redistricting. Dan Pero points us to a Powerpoint presentation that was unwisely posted on a UAW website, “Government Reform Proposal — Changing the rules of politics in Michigan to help Democrats.” (Thanks to the Mackinac Center, who has posted the presentation.)

Slide 5 includes the line: “Control of Supreme Court most important: Court can overturn redistricting done by other three.”

So organized labor has mounted a dishonest, cynical, purposefully kept-secret campaign to restructure ALL of state government in Michigan just so it can control legislative redistricting. Suprised they haven’t called it something clever like, “Voter Free Choice Act.” 

* UPDATE (10 a.m.): To be clear, there are many Democrats, especially legislators, who are appalled by the crass, cynical effort. See this Michigan Live blog post: “Ray Basham, D-Taylor, said his party was throwing legislators ‘under the bus.’ In the Senate Democratic caucus, aides say, there is near uniform opposition to the proposal, including among African-American legislators who fear a loss of minority representation in the Legislature.”


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