Dearborn Disqualification Upheld

I won a nice win today in the Court of Appeals in Dearborn v Navoy, Court of Appeals No. 311069. Dearborn District Judge Somers has been an outspoken critic of medical marijuana and actually wrote an opinion declaring the law unconstitutional. Despite his repeated comments about his disbelief of the legitimacy of medical marijuana, his belief that that it is the “devil’s weed,” and his long monologues against the drugs, he refused to remove himself from Dearborn v Navoy. The District Chief Judge removed him, the Circuit Court affirmed, and now the Court of Appeals firmed in the linked opinion. While not clear from the opinion, Mr. Navoy has a medical marijuana card. We are placed that our client will have an opportunity to present the matter to a judge who has not staked out the position that Judge Somers has taken.
I also want to give a public nod to my colleague and friend Neil Rockind for his brilliant work in the case. He is a truly great co-counsel.

Sixth Circuit Judge Boyce Martin Will Retire

Squires Sander’s Sixth Circuit Appellate Blog is reporting that Judge Boyce Martin, Jr. is expected to retire next month. Judge Martin is the longest serving judge currently on the Court. He came to the bench in 1979, appointed by President Carter.

Edith Jones Misconduct Complaint Sent to DC Court

The judicial ethics Complaint against US Court of Appeals Judge Edith Jones was transferred to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia pursuant to an order of Chief Justice John Roberts. The request was made at the request of the Chief Judge of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Judge Jones was briefly considered by President Bush for the United States Supreme Court. Source Times-Picaynne.

Update: The Time-Picaynne website has since noted that the order doesn’t expressly mention Jones by name, but it is widely reported that the complaint was filed against her based on a speech where Judge Jones stated that African-Americans are more likely to commit crime than other subgroups.

Justice Weaver Lays Out Plan to De-Politicize the Court

The Michigan Supreme has come under a great deal of criticism for the political nature of the Court. A University of Chicago Law Review found the Michigan Supreme Court the worst state supreme court in the entire country. See also: Jack Lessenberry, Metro Times - News+Views: Let's make a deal, One of the principal charges is that the Court is too partisan and that the politics of the judges control the substances of the rulings.

As a result of this,
Michigan is taking a serious look at changing the way we select judges. This move has broad cross-party support. Democratic Justice Marilyn Kelly and Republican Sixth Circuit (and former Michigan Supreme Court Justice James P. Ryan) are chairing a task force on this reform. The reform movement is supported by the conservative Grand Rapids Press, the Muskegon Chroncile, and other Michigan papers have supported this change. This is particularly timely, in lieu of the charges that in the last election, corporations with a financial stake in future rulings invested heavily in the judicial races.

According to the Michigan Law Blog, former Justice Elizabeth Weaver came forward with a multi-faceted plan to depoliticize Michigan’s Supreme Court. Her suggestions are interesting, but one has to question whether Justice Weaver’s name has become so tarnished that she cannot be the message bearer for these proposals.

An elected judiciary (particularly after the Citizens United ruling) is particularly troubling. In
Citizens United v Federal Election Commission, 103 SCt 876 (2010),the United States Supreme Court struck down limits on campaign spending by outside organizations. People want a neutral judiciary and most jurists want to provide this service to the public, but as justices need to raise money, fend off attack adds, etc., it makes it very difficult for a judge or justice not to consider his/her own political career when ruling on a case.

Michigan Supreme Court Adopts New Disqualification Rules: Is the Glass Half Empty or Full?

A new rule promulgated by the Michigan Supreme Court allows justices to disqualify each other from cases. Previously each justice decided whether he or she was unbiased and rarely gave an explanation for the decision. The new rule has produced extraordinary reaction from the bench. Read More...

What is Judicial Activism?

War in the Macomb Circuit Court: Prosecutor Refuses to Offer Plea Bargains in Judge Biernat's Court

Can Judges Hear a Case Which Might Eliminate Their Jobs?

The voter’s of Michigan will probably have a chance to vote on a proposal which will downsize the size of Michigan’s Supreme Court. The proposed initiative is being constitutionally challenged and is currently before the Michigan Supreme Court. The Court has scheduled oral arguments on the application for leave to appeal. As part of the order, the Court also denied the motion to disqualify two members of the Court from sitting on the Court. The plaintiff’s argued that the very judges whose job was being eliminated could not heard the case because they had a personal interest in keeping their job. The two justices disagreed invoking the “rule of necessity” which says that if it is impossible for an unbiased court to hear the case, then the judges can sit. Two other justices joined in this opinion. Justice Kelly has promised her separate opinion in short order.