As many of you know, the Michigan Supreme Court is very important. The Court is the last opportunity for claimants to seek legal redress for state actions. The Court’s opinions are then followed by all the lower court judges throughout the state of Michigan, from probate court, to district court all the way up through our state’s circuit courts and appellate courts. In effect, the Supreme Court’s decisions become the law.
As usual, there is a lot at stake this November in the upcoming election. Besides electing a new governor and choosing our state’s representatives, there are two Michigan Supreme Court incumbent justices up for re-election.
The first is Robert Young. Robert Young is a former-governor John Engler appointee who has spent most (if not all) his entire legal career representing corporations and insurance companies. Prior to taking the bench as a judge, he was the general counsel (or head legal honcho) for AAA Insurance.
You can guess where his allegiances are. I’ll give you a hint – they ain’t with the little guy.
Unfortunately, he has spent the better part of 10 years issuing opinions that are so far out of the mainstream, even conservative attorneys I know are left scratching their heads. Justice Young claims he is a “textualist”, which means a judge should only give effect to a statutes ordinary and plain meaning, as opposed to policy concerns or what a judge believes the law should be.
This sounds great and I believe in this school of thought. After all, judges are there to rule on the law, not make the law.
However, Justice Young is far from a textualist. Instead, he is an activist judge if there ever was one. What’s all the more appalling is that Justice Young uses his power and activist judicial philosophy to ensure legal victories for large corporations, and especially insurance companies, at any chance he can get.
His decisions have drastically curtailed an injured person’s right to a jury trial. You want justice. Well, too bad. His decisions include:
• Kreiner v. Fischer – Justice Young rewrote the statutory definition of “serious impairment of important body function” so people had to show permanent injuries in order to get any money for pain and suffering, even if you were hit by a drunk driver.
• Lugo v. Ameritech – Justice Young adopts a version of the “open and obvious” doctrine that no other state in the country follows, making it almost impossible for slip and fall victims to bring a claim.
• Roberts v. Mecosta General Hospital – Justice Young throws out a medical malpractice claim, not because no medical malpractice was found, but because a hyper-technical pre-lawsuit notice document was not correctly filled out.
• Robinson v. City of Detroit – Governmental entities can escape all liability in personal injury cases if they can prove if somebody else was even partly at fault.
• Michalski v. Bar-Levav – Justice Young eliminated the rights of handicapped workers to a safe and reasonable working condition.
• Zsigo v. Hurley Medical Center – Justice Young said where a hospital employee rapes a helpless patient in the hospital, the hospital is not responsible.
I could go on an on.
Fortunately, there is an alternative. Judge Denise Langford Morris is a sitting judge in Oakland County. She is the first African-American judge ever to hold that post and longest serving female judge presently on the Oakland County Bench.
Even more interesting, like Justice Young, she was appointed by former-Republican governor John Engler. Unlike Robert Young, who injects his political views into rulings, Judge Langford Morris is a true moderate who would uphold the law and making rulings on what the law says, not what she wants it to say.
Judge Morris paid her own way through undergrad at Wayne State University and law school. She spent seven years with the Department of Social Services before moving to become an assistant prosecutor in Oakland County. She eventually became an assistant U.S. attorney before being tapped for the Oakland County Circuit Court in 1992.
She is well qualified and deserving of the title “Supreme Court Justice.” Most importantly, she understands the hardships individuals go through and that access to the civil justice system is vital to our free, democratic system of government.
Please vote for Judge Denise Langford Morris this November 2.
I will address the second the race in my next blog post.