State High Court Justices Survive Election
|Supreme Court Justice Brian Zahra|
The High Court election results mean that the conservative 4-Justice majority in Michigan stays intact for now. The newcomer to the Michigan Supreme Court is UM Law Professor Bridget Mary McCormack, a Democratic nominee. Professor McCormack replaces retiring Justice Marilyn Kelly; a long-serving Justice and a Judge's jurist if there ever was one.
The November 2012 election featured tight High Court races in other states around the country. In Iowa, Justice David Wiggins was the only survivor of a 4-Justice block that decided a case recognizing same-sex marriage back in 2009. His three High Court colleagues were defeated in the 2010 election.
Meanwhile, in Florida, the local Republican party targeted three justices as "too liberal" and "too extreme" to be worthy of their High Court. The effort failed, however, as all three liberal Justices retained their seats.
In Michigan, as in most states, our jurists are "elected". Many, if not most, of our jurists, however, take their seats on the bench through a gubernatorial appointment, then get elected after finishing out the term to which they were appointed. The advantage is being able to run as a sitting judge or justice.
Justice Zahra is a good example. He was initially appointed to the Wayne Circuit bench by former Governor Engler, then elevated to the Court of Appeals by Engler. After Governor Snyder was elected, one of the first things he did was to elevate Zahra to our High Court.
While the judicial ballot is "non-partisan", this past election confirms an age-old trend in judicial elections; you cannot remove politics from the courtroom.
Postscript: Here is an editorial from the NYT referencing the huge sums spent on Michigan's High Court election.