DETROIT, May 2, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Michigan's Supreme Court is often a politically motivated "tyrannical body" and how justices are elected must be dramatically reformed according to a new seven-step plan on court reform, authored by a former justice whose rare "behind the curtain" book on the high court will be released in May, it was announced today.
Former Supreme Court Chief Justice Elizabeth Weaver, who resigned from the court in 2010 after almost 16 years of service – including two years as Chief Justice – says she has written a detailed plan to overhaul the election process for justices in a forthcoming book (to be released May 15) that is highly critical of the "deceit, tyranny and unnecessary secrecy" of the court.
"I feel a compelling duty to the people of Michigan to cast a bright light on the workings of the court, the millions in 'dark money' used for campaigns, and the partisanship that can and often does trump justice," said Weaver. "I could easily have retired to my home in Northern Michigan but I chose to spend the past two years writing the book and, most importantly, a primer called: A Seven-Point-Plan for Michigan Supreme Court Reform."
"The time is now to fix the serious flaws in the election process for justices that are at the core of corrupt practices that inject dark money into the process, partisanship, and secrecy," said Weaver. "Justice should be blind but blinders should not be placed on the people of Michigan, nor should millions in campaign funds be used to buy outcomes for influential parties. We need transparency and immediate reform."
Weaver, who co-authored the book titled: "Judicial Deceit, Tyranny and Unnecessary Secrecy at the Michigan Supreme Court" with David B. Schock, a writer, filmmaker, former reporter, editor and college professor, says she expects the book will be controversial. Peninsula Press publishes the 750-page book including photos and illustrations.
"The book is important because it sheds light on bullying tactics, legal precedence changes because of political party or public pressure, and exposes a secret club that has substantial impact on people's lives," said Weaver. "The seven point plan is far more important because it could be a road map for the future of a court that is transparent and motivated only by serving justice."
"Reform the campaign money process," Weaver adds. "Instant, complete, reporting of all campaign contributions to eliminate hiding behind politically affiliated groups such as People for Justice. Every contribution has to be individual, and it cannot be from unidentifiable parties – that's dark money."
Weaver's tenure on the court from 1994 to 2010 was stormy at times, she concedes. As an advocate for more transparency, campaign reform, and candor on the court she clashed with her colleagues. Five of her fellow justices attempted to censure Weaver, a Republican, for secretly recording a 2006 internal discussion in which she participated by telephone. She also released a transcript in which a fellow colleague, Justice Robert Young Jr., the court's chief judge, purportedly used a racial slur. Young is African American.
Among the book's highlights:
Numerous conflicts pitting the Republican majority against the Democratic minority were commonplace, including a significant case on the rules for disqualifying a justice over conflicts of interest in a given case. Weaver reports that the Republican majority pulled the entire disqualification issue from the court. And only after the Chief Justice was defeated in the 2008 election and replaced by a justice willing to join Weaver and two other justices did the proposed disqualification rules get put on the court's agenda and adopted over the objections of the three remaining justices who had pulled the proposals from consideration.
Weaver said the majority also voted to close the file in the case so the entire subject would never be officially recorded: "It's Soviet Union (KGB) type stuff, re-writing history."
Money is raised from special interest groups for judicial campaigns without putting the candidate in jeopardy for compromising judicial neutrality. Weaver described it as "they don't even have to (make promises) ...you just have people raise the money for you, you can maybe sit outside the room and smile. You make statements about how conservative you are, how liberal you are — general statements as if you are going to decide on ideology as opposed to the individual facts of the case."
"There is tyranny through the exercise, abuse and misuse of the government's powers in how the cases are handled and how people and their rights are treated," Weaver said. "It is done in secrecy and it encourages the worst aspects of human behavior."
More information is available on the book at www.judicialdeceit.com.
Highlights of the Seven-Point-Plan for court reform include:
- Eliminate political party nominations for elections of Supreme Court Justices – with candidates earning spots on the ballot by petition, the same as trial and Court of Appeals candidates.
- Ensure rotation of judges by establishing a term limit of 14 years for any justice.
- Reform the appointment process by the Governor for vacancies to include a non-partisan advisory Qualifications Commission composed of attorney and non-attorney members and Senate confirmation of Governor's appointment.
- Finance reporting reform disallowing contributions from un-named contributors or groups. All money contributed to a candidate must be disclosed within 48-hours.
- Provide public funding. Use a tax check-off money similar to gubernatorial campaigns for the Supreme Court.
- Establish seven (7) districts for the Supreme Court justices with one justice per geographic district.
- Eliminate unnecessary secrecy for court proceedings and require transparency in the administration and operations of the Supreme Court itself, its Offices, and Commissions
Weaver noted that four of the proposals under the Seven-Point Reform Plan would require new laws by the Michigan Legislature, while the other three points would require Constitutional amendments.
For more information and details on the Seven-Point Plan for Michigan Supreme Court Reform, please visit www.justiceweaver.com
SOURCE Peninsula Press, LLC