Michigan Radio News

NPR News

« Interview: Marilyn Kelly - 1/21/2009 | Main | Interview: Stephanie Cepak - 1/22/2009 »

January 21, 2009


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

To the Michigan Radio management:

There was a time, I had thought, when Jack Lessenberry's partisan editorializing would carry with it a warning to the public that his news "analysis" would carry a warning that his views did not represent Michigan Radio.
What happened? No more warnings? (As fruitless as they might have been in addressing the gross political imbalance on public radio in general.)

Now, to more substance:
It is astonishing, and almost nuaseating, to hear anyone like Justice Kelly or Jack Lessenberry mention "civility" and the Michigan Supreme Court in the same breath after the election of last fall.

What happened last fall was that the personal injury lawyers, though funding to the State Central Committee of the Michigan Democratic Party, ran an ad that has now become infamous as "The Sleeping Judge" ad. The ad was based upon a lie (some losing-side disgruntled litigants claimed they saw Chief Justice Clifford Taylor sleeping on the bench during oral arguments) and was run with devastating effectiveness during the last two weeks of the campaign. The ad even included staged video, in a deliberately blurred focus (because the pictured "judge" wasn't Taylor at all) of a "sleeping" justice.

The press corps in Michigan -- people like Jack Lessenberry, Brian Dickerson, the editorial page editors of the Free Press and too many others to name -- did practically nothing to expose the lie behind the ad. Still there were attorneys with years of Supreme Court experience who said that Justice Taylor was not sleeping, his fellow justices denied the story (including, now, after the fact, Chief Justice Kelly -- she's admitted she did not see then-Chief Justice Taylor "sleeping"), and a cereful review of Supreme Court oral argument videotapes showed no such evidence.

The ad, in a word, was a demonstrable lie. It was promoted by lawyers who wanted Justice Taylor off the bench because they did not like his rulings. The ad worked, too, because it could not be challenged in time. The press corps failed, and failed miserably on that score. What was the press doing? Busily proving that Barack Obama was not a muslim?

So yes, the election of new Justice Diane Hathaway was and is tainted, and her backers have burned "civility" to the ground. They cannot now be heard to complain about "civility" in the Supreme Court.

The irony in all of this is that people like Jack Lessenberry will now claim something like this -- 'See? Both sides are ideologues! They are both trying to game the system and pur their people on the court! What we need is a merit-based appointment system!'

And that is the ghastly result of the trial lawyers' Kamikaze attack on Justice Taylor. Something so dastardly that the whole system might be changed. But that too would fit the lawyers' desires. What do all lawyers want? More lawsuits! Precisely what we don't need and don't want, if we really want to be the home to any more manufacturing jobs, or hospitals, or large employers. If the lawyers get a chance to dominate blue-ribbon judicial selection committees, what you get is judges that lawyers love. It has happened in Missouri, a state that has had an unhappy history with that system for years.

What Jack Lessenberry is trying to do with this essay is to foist a kind of heads-I-win-tails-you-lose kind of argument on our state.

I shall write more about this commentary from Jack Lessenberry, which is so slanted as to defy descritption in a single response.

Jack Lessenberry also wrote this, about the new Chief Justice, Marilyn Kelly:
"She had been a brilliant young high school French teacher when she was unexpectedly elected to the state board of education at age 26. She told me she quickly learned that to really make a difference in this society, you need a law degree... So, she went to Wayne State University and got one. She practiced law for a long time, spent six years on the Michigan Court of Appeals, and then was elected to the Supreme Court a dozen years ago."

If anyone has the slightest curiosity, they will find that all three of the core group of Republican Supreme Court Justices; Corrigan, Young and Markman, have resumes that are equal to, or mostly superior, to Chief Justice Kelly.

The one Justice whose resume is weakest by far, so weak that even the liberal, Republican-despising Free Press Editorial Board could not endorse her, is the new Justice, Diane Hathaway.

Jack Lessenberry forgot to mention that.

Jack Lessenberry also called the vote of Justice Betty Waever, in which she did not vote for her fellow Republican (is Weaver really, still a Republican?) but instead voted for Democrat Marilyn Kelly, in what Lessenberry termed a "display of non partisanship" and "an encouraging sign" for the Court.

Even Jack Lessenberry knows what an utterly tortured composition that is. Betty Weaver is not so much an "independent-minded GOP justice," as Jack claimed. Weaver is her own special brand of ideologue; one who is consumed with rage over her own premature ouster as Chief Justice by vote of her fellow Republicans some years ago. Justice Taylor has stated his own reasons for voting against Weaver's continuation as a Chief Justice on the court; he thought she was doing a poor job of running the court.

Justice Weaver will be up for re-election in 2010, as will Justice Taylor. It is safe to say that one of them will not be renominated by the Republican party.

Finally (and we shall then see if Jack Lessenberry has an answer) there is this: Jack asks at the conclusion of his essay whether or not Geoffrey Fieger was part of the funding of the infamous "sleeping judge advertisement." We don't know right now. But one of Jack Lessenberry's enterprising journalism students might be able to find out. See whether or not the Michigan Democrats' State Central Committee has filed its funding disclousres for 2008.

I don't suppose that it will show that everyone in Fieger's firm, from attorneys to secretaries to student clerks and their spouses all donated -- as happened in the 2000 Presidential campaign of trial lawyer John Edwards. But it will be interesting nonetheless to see the details.

The one thing Jack Lessenberry might have gotten right in this essay is that people like Fieger -- the chief beneficiaries of a replacment of Justice Taylor -- were also the main benefactors.

My post above at 3:11 p.m. contained a typo that must be corrected: In 2010, the terms of Justice Weaver and Justice YOUNG (not Taylor, as I incorreclty typed) will end.

The comments to this entry are closed.

A Production of

***UPDATE 9/2/09: Read the user agreement, effective immediately.***

The Podcast


April 2011

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30