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Thursday, January 03, 2013

Courts - "Forced out by age, Justice Marilyn Kelly retiring from Michigan Supreme Court"

Ed White of the AP had this story Dec. 31 in the Detroit Free Press. Several items caught my eye re the differences between the Michigan and Indiana courts:

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly leaves office Tuesday after 16 years on the state's top court, much of that time in the minority responding to opinions set by the conservative majority. * * *

Kelly, 74, is not hanging up her black robe by choice. The state Constitution bars judicial candidates over the age of 70 from running for office. That rule was part of the 1908 document and was retained in 1963.

"I would have run again because I'm in good health and I love the job," said Kelly, who was elected in 1996 and re-elected in 2004. "I don't know what conversations took place at the (1961-62) constitutional convention. There wasn't the keen awareness then as there is today about age discrimination."

Indiana appellate judges and justices must retire when they attain the age of 75. All age limits on Indiana trial court judges have been eliminated by the General Assembly in recent years.

Michigan appears to be a political court. For instance, this quote from the story:

Kelly was chief justice from 2009 through 2010, a two-year period when election results temporarily put conservative Republicans in the minority. During that stretch, the court opened the door for more lawsuits by people who were injured in car accidents.

She also was in the majority when the court threw out a 2004 decision that had greatly restricted lawsuits in environmental disputes. But that ruling stood for only four months; Republican justices regained control in the 2010 election and restored the earlier ruling. The GOP still maintains a 4-3 edge.

Of related interest is this article available on SSRN, titled "The Politics of Judicial Selection: The Case of the Michigan Supreme Court." The abstract:
As the debate rages between those who argue that judicial elections are bad for legal justice vis-a-vis those who argue that they are good for democracy, there remains the singularly unique system of judicial selection in Michigan. For its Supreme Court justices, Michigan employs a hybrid electoral system, where candidates are first nominated at political party conventions, after which those candidates run in non-partisan general elections. Moreover, vacancies are filled by interim appointments made by the governor with no outside input or oversight. How did Michigan come to utilize this system which is different from all other states in the country?

In this study we discuss the history behind Michigan’s judicial selection system. We show how Michigan transformed from an appointive system to one that employed partisan elections, and finally to the current hybrid system. The accounts behind the manner in which Michigan selects its Supreme Court justices provide a glimpse into the political forces among political and legal elites, interest groups, and the electorate that have shaped judicial politics within the state. We thus illustrate how the form of judicial selection that is unique to Michigan evolved and has been sustained over time.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 3, 2013 10:17 AM
Posted to Courts in general