Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

“Twas the Week Before the Election: Judges

31. October 2008 • Juliew
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So you say you are a staunch Democrat or Republican? Planning on voting straight ticket? Sorry, you are still going to have to pay attention to the judgeships because they are on the nonpartisan section of the ballot and are not marked with a party designation. In theory, this is because judges are supposed to be nonpartisan and uphold the law, not represent voters. For a race like the 15th District Judge of the Distict Court race between Easthope and Gutenberg, party affiliation doesn’t really apply. However, the State Supreme Court race has definitely shaped up to be a “Republican” vs. “Democrat” race.

Michigan Daily coverage of “the ballot beyond Obama” with explanations of the judges is here.

The Voters Guide from the League of Women Voters has judge information.

State Supreme Court Judges
Incumbent judges in Michigan win most of their elections. However, there are a lot of people unhappy with how Cliff Taylor (originally an Engler appointee) has been carrying out his job. As the “Democrat” candidate, Hathaway has lots of support in Ann Arbor, but how does that translate to the rest of the state? The three candidates are:

22nd Circuit Judge of the Circuit Court
The race for the 22nd District Court is particularly interesting because one of the people on the ballot, Douglas B. Shapiro, doesn’t actually want to run. There are three names on the ballot and two openings. The three names of the candidates are similar so it is possible that Shapiro could accidentally win. At least he is a legitimate candidate and is thinking about running in the future even if he doesn’t want to win this election.



  1. Doug Shapiro is one of Ann Arbor’s most skilled and respected trial attorneys. He also has close ties to the Michigan Democratic Party and would be a favorite for a gubernatorial appointment if an opening were to occur in a local judicial seat. He could probably beat Archie Brown if he ran against him in the next election.


       —Mark Koroi    Oct. 31 '08 - 10:57PM    #
  2. Doug filed in case Don Shelton got the job as President of EMU. That not being the case, he has withdrawn, but too late to remove his name from the ballot. I agree with Mark’s assessment – he is a fine lawyer and a fine person. However, in order to beat an incumbent judge, it would take an enormous amount of money. One day soon another seat will open up, and perhaps Doug will run. I will be there to support him.


       —Leah Gunn    Nov. 1 '08 - 12:50PM    #
  3. Blogger trusty getto has a good write-up supporting Diane Hathaway to unseat incumbent Clifford Taylor’s bid for re-election in the State Supreme Court.

    From the article regarding Taylor:

    Her opponent, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Clifford Taylor, is one of the most activist judges of our time. I’ve written about him many times on this blog, and elsewhere. An Engler appointee who has consistently ruled against consumer protection and environmental protection legislation while ruling in favor of insurance companies, Taylor has been known for childishly calling Justices he disagrees with names, not to mention falling asleep during oral arguments.


       —Michael Schils    Nov. 2 '08 - 05:57PM    #
  4. Doug Shapiro of Ann Arbor is quoted in an article by the Michigan Messenger regarding MSC Chief Justice Clifford Taylor:

    “The attitude of the court majority toward doing justice is equivalent to the Bush administration’s view of the Geneva Convention — that justice is a quaint and outdated concept,” personal injury attorney Doug Shapiro of Ann Arbor told Michigan Messenger.

    “Cliff Taylor is a radical right-wing activist judge, his opinions lack careful or thoughtful analysis and are almost always directed at a result of favoring corporate interests,” Shapiro said. “People don’t get the benefits they pay for because the Michigan Supreme Court essentially does the bidding of insurance companies.”

    Insurers a favorite constituency

    Shapiro said that under Taylor, “The court doors have flung open for insurance companies. [The Court is] saying, ‘Bring us your wish list, bring us what you were embarrassed to put on your wish list.’”

    Some cases in point: The Taylor court narrowed the time frame for bringing a case against insurance companies that won’t pay claims, making it much easier for companies to avoid paying medical expenses by employing tactics such as stalling or negotiating in bad faith. Shapiro said that Michigan residents, thanks to the Taylor court, cannot sue insurers until they have incurred expenses, so those who can’t afford to pay medical costs upfront are barred from the court.

    Historically under Michigan law, a person injured in a car accident could seek compensation from the at-fault driver if he sustained “serious and significant” injuries. Under a decision made by the Taylor court, the injury must now be “catastrophic.”


       —Michael Schils    Nov. 2 '08 - 06:30PM    #
  5. Doug Shapiro and Mike Steinberg have both endorsed Chris Easthope in the 15th District Court Judge race. Doug’s comments are interesting given that this weekend, a conservative group called the “21st Century Club” made a sizable last-minute donation to the campaign of Eric Gutenberg. Click here to see the
    donation:http://miboecfr.nictusa.com/cfr/idr/308243.html<blocked::http://miboecfr.nictusa.com/cfr/idr/308243.html>

    According to public records from the Michigan Bureau of Elections, the 21st Century Club has made only one other campaign donation in the last 12 months: They donated $5,000 to the Committee to Re-Elect Supreme Court Justice Clifford Taylor. Moreover, Justice Taylor’s campaign treasurer is also the recordkeeper for the 21st Century Club. Click here and view page 4 to see the 21st Century Club’s donation to Justice Taylor:http://miboecfr.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/cfr/show_img.cgi?doc_seq_no%3D306223%26c
    om_id%3D506718%26doc_stmnt_year%3D2008%26total_images%3D5%26image_id%3D1%26d
    oc_scanned%3D10/23/2008%26doc_date_proc%3D10/23/2008%26doc_type_code%3DT3%26
    caller%3D%26last_match%3D%26cfr_com_id%3D%261%3D1
    <blocked::http://miboecfr.nictusa.com/cgi-bin/cfr/show_img.cgi?doc_seq_no=30
    6223&com_id=506718&doc_stmnt_year=2008&total_images=5&image_id=1&doc_scanned
    =10/23/2008&doc_date_proc=10/23/2008&doc_type_code=T3&caller=&last_match=&cf
    r_com_id=&1=1>

    This organization has reported making only two donations this year— to Cliff Taylor and Eric Gutenberg. So much for the so-called progressives with their Gutenberg signs.


       —D. Ross    Nov. 2 '08 - 11:20PM    #
  6. Oh, for crying out loud. Both Easthope and Gutenberg have long histories of being liberal Democrats. Ann Arbor Republicans (having no other choice) have split between the two.

    My own support for Eric Gutenberg (and the Gutenberg sign in my front yard) is in no way discredited by some obscure political action committee which only made two donations in a year.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 3 '08 - 12:50AM    #
  7. Yes, Chris Easthope has been supported by a number of prominent Republicans, including County Commissioners Mark Ouimet and Jessica Ping and Saline Mayor Pro Tempore Alicia Ping. As far as donations it appears the last financial disclosures show that Easthope has about $47,000 in contributions and Gutenberg about $34,000. Compare this with the race for the open 35th District Couurt seat in Plymouth where the latest disclosures show that candidate Joe Barone has collected some $192,000 and candidate Jim Plakas about $163,000; Plakas has received the endorsement of no less than sixty local judges and a myriad of labor union locals. The 35th District Court race has been seen as a battle between political machines that has dwarfed other judicial races.


       —Mark Koroi    Nov. 3 '08 - 04:17AM    #
  8. A recent poll shows Diane Hathaway leading Clifford Taylor by one percentage point and the Libertarian candidate receiving 2%. Undecided respondents totalled over 50%.


       —Mark Koroi    Nov. 3 '08 - 04:52AM    #
  9. Did Gutenberg have anything to say, about his office prosecuting Doctor Catherine Wilkerson?


       —The Colonel    Nov. 3 '08 - 12:36PM    #
  10. That political action committee is not “obscure” – it’s very much alive. And the fact that it made only two donations, to Taylor and Gutenberg, puts Gutenberg in some interesting company.

    And to say that Gutenberg has a “long history” of being a liberal Democrat is suspect to me, since I have never seen him at a Democratic function until he decided to run for judge. And, I have been to MANY Democratic functions over the years.


       —Leah Gunn    Nov. 3 '08 - 03:28PM    #
  11. In case you missed it, Chris Easthope received a contribution from Judge Tim Connors. Curiously, Judge Connors has made only two contributions this year – to Chris Easthope and Justice Cliff Taylor.

    Even more interesting is the fact that on July 15, 2008, the Washtenaw County Republican Committee hosted an event for Justice Taylor. Here is the invitation:

    http://www.rightmichigan.com/story/2008/7/10/11436/4516

    Seems like Easthope received contributions from at least five of the organizers of Cliff Taylor’s Ann Arbor fundraiser. THAT puts Easthope in some interesting company!

    As always, Larry is the voice of reason and when you put this together with what Mark Koroi noted about Easthope’s support from Mark Ouimet, Jessica and Alicia Ping, this is a silly debate and unscores the old adage about people in glass houses . . .


       —adems    Nov. 3 '08 - 05:16PM    #
  12. It’s complete bull to even question Easthope’s dedication and service to the Ann Arbor community because of a couple of connections with some Republicans. He’s has dedicated his life to service as a democrat and has been working to better the community which means working with all types of people in the community including some conservatives. To question where he stands is just absurd. What has Gutenberg done for this community and what exactly that makes him so liberal? Working for a very conservative office for 20 years, oh and getting contributions from extremely conservative groups. News flash Gutenberg fans – dropping off a few signs at the Obama office isn’t fooling the real liberals in Ann Arbor!

    But let’s get to the real point here.

    Easthope is way more qualified were it matters. Come on people, look at the facts. All Gutenberg has done is be a prosecutor. That’s it. It’s great that he’s done fancy felony trials – but you don’t do felony trials in district court. Here are your duties – you deal with criminal AND CIVIL matters. Gutenberg has NOT dealt with any civil matters for 20 years! The great majority of us will not wind up in court on criminal matters, but instead for civil matters, like traffic infractions, small claims and landlord/tenant issues. Who wants to stand in front of a judge deciding your case who has NO EXPERIENCE with these things. Wouldn’t you want a judge who has practiced in these areas of law and knows the laws to decide your case?

    Additionally, for those of us, like myself, who are not attorneys, shouldn’t we look to those people who see Easthope and Gutenberg in action to help us understand who is more qualified????? Look at what the legal community has said – the great MAJORITY supports Easthope. Look at all the ratings he’s been given by the legal community, it’s a joke to even argue that Gutenberg is just as qualified or more qualified than Easthope. If you aren’t a lawyer, I would strongly encourage everyone to look to these ratings for some guidance on who is really qualified for this job.


       —Kelly Taylor    Nov. 3 '08 - 06:43PM    #
  13. Judge Connors’ support of Chris Easthope is believed to stem largely from the fact that he is not apparently pleased that Brian Mackie and others in the Prosecutor’s Office did not support his wife’s campaign but supported Mr. Gutenberg.I have never seen any proof that Eric is either a Democrat or Republican. If there exists some proof I would be glad to review it. I agree that Connors had donated to Cliff Taylor, initially in 1998 and has donated to the Michigan republican Party, but Easthope has always been a Democrat.


       —Mark Koroi    Nov. 3 '08 - 07:10PM    #
  14. Dumb question: would Chris Easthope’s election mean anything for his city council position?


       —Bruce Fields    Nov. 3 '08 - 07:24PM    #
  15. I do not believe so assuming the January 1, 2009 date of his proposed District Court Judge term matched the expiration date of his City Council term.


       —Mark Koroi    Nov. 3 '08 - 07:54PM    #
  16. Actually, Chris’ term on City Council will end on Nov. 6th when the newly elected members of Council will be sworn in. If elected, Chris’ term as judge would begin Jan. 1, 2009.

    I agree with Kelly Taylor about Chris’ superb qualifications, and yes, he has served on City Council as a Democrat.


       —Leah Gunn    Nov. 3 '08 - 08:10PM    #
  17. Bah, I wasn’t paying attention—I’d missed that his term was up. Thanks!


       —Bruce Fields    Nov. 3 '08 - 08:50PM    #
  18. Chris Easthope has also been more amenable to civil rights activists. Case in point – Jean King.


       —Mark Koroi    Nov. 3 '08 - 10:58PM    #
  19. A nonpartisan group warns about secret financing of the Michigan Supreme Court race because of a loophole in Michigan law.

    The Michigan Campaign Finance Network reported recently on spending and disclosure in the Supreme Court race. From the 10/27/2008 report titled, Underground Supreme Court campaign:

    Through October 27th, the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee have spent $1,783,000 for television advertisements that seek to define the record, qualifications and character of one candidate or the other, and the spending probably isn’t over.

    Under Michigan’s campaign finance law, the Chamber and the Democratic Party don’t have to report the spending in their campaign finance reports because the advertisements don’t mention voting. The nonpartisan Michigan Campaign Finance Network collected the television ad records from the public files of Michigan’s commercial broadcasters and cable systems.

    Neither does the Chamber or the Democratic Party have to disclose who gave them the money to pay for the ad time. This is in contrast to federal campaign finance law, where contributors to candidate-focused issue advertising are identified in the public record.

    “The peril in this is that an individual or interest group could secretly spend a million dollars to market a candidate – a very important contribution, and then have that justice vote to select its case and rule on its case,” said Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. “That has considerable potential for conflict of interests and it certainly creates a troubling appearance.”

    “The total lack of accountability for these candidate-focused issue ads is probably the most confounding aspect of our campaign finance system to the voters I meet and talk to,” Robinson said. “Citizens just can’t believe that policymakers won’t act to bring transparency to this situation.”

    The report includes a link to answers by Hathaway and Taylor to survey questions about campaign finance issues.

    Both candidates were asked, “Do you believe the sources that pay for ‘issue’ advertisements related to the qualifications of a judicial candidate should be disclosed in the public record in a timely way, so voters can evaluate those messages in light of their sponsors?”

    Hathaway said yes, and Taylor said he could not answer the question.


       —Michael Schils    Nov. 3 '08 - 11:56PM    #
  20. “It’s complete bull to even question Easthope’s dedication and service to the Ann Arbor community because of a couple of connections with some Republicans.”

    No one raised such a question here, Kelly.

    “Look at what the legal community has said – the great MAJORITY supports Easthope. Look at all the ratings he’s been given by the legal community, it’s a joke to even argue that Gutenberg is just as qualified or more qualified than Easthope.”

    You seem to place a lot of trust in the legal community. Maybe others here don’t. Might that be understandable? Appropriately, we all get to vote in elections, not just members of the legal community.

    I think that both Chris and Eric are very well qualified. Let’s try to follow their examples of measured judgment when we consider each others’ perspectives.


       —Steve Bean    Nov. 4 '08 - 12:06AM    #
  21. “Appropriately, we all get to vote in elections, not just members of the legal community.” In fact, most district and circuit judges in Michigan commence their legal careers as appointed jurists, chosen by a process that is unknown to most citizens. In the event of a judicial vacancy the Appointments Office of the Governor solicits applications from State Bar members residing in the appropriate districts and circuits, and those who apply are interviewed by the State Bar of Michigan Judicial Qualifications Committee who vote on the fitness of the respective applicants and assign a rating and transmit those ratings to the Governor’s Office. The Governor then has her choice on who to appoint. Many attorneys feel that this is a superior system of filling judicial vacancies as political hacks with little judicial experience will likely be weeded out whereas voters often will vote for a familiar political figure with a law degree who may have very little competence to act as a judge. If you check the backgrounds of judges in Michigan who have been removed from the bench for misconduct few have gotten their initial post as a judge through the gubernatorial appointment process.


       —Mark Koroi    Nov. 4 '08 - 12:58AM    #
  22. Re Posts #1 and #2: Regarding the circuit court judicial race, the results are of interest for those who have discussed a possible push to dump Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Archie Cameron Brown in 2010. If one recalls the circumstances of the 2008 circuit court race, Doug Shapiro filed as a candidate only because Judge Donald Shelton was among those being considered for a post at Eastern Michigan University and this post was not filled until after the deadline for filing petitions for the circuit court seats held by Shelton and by David Swartz, who has ties to local Republican Party efforts. Shapiro made it clear to everyone after the prospective EMU appointment of Shelton fell through that he, Shapiro, had no intention of opposing Shelton or Swartz for their seats, would not campaign and was incapable of removing his name from the circuit court ballot. Despite this, the results of the circuit court “race” were 82,000 votes for Shelton, 69,000 for Swartz and over 40,000 for Shapiro. Shapiro actually beat Swartz in two precincts in Ypsilanti Township, one in the City of Ypsilanti and another one in Superior Township. The large vote spread between Shelton and Swartz, on one hand, and a surprising number of votes for a Democrat whose name was only on the ballot, but not actively seeking election or the seat in question, suggests that voters are ready to oust the conservative Republicans on the circuit court bench which form the last elected bastion of political control of the Republicans in Washtenaw County. While a Republican, Swartz is not controversial and his most publicized move as judge this year was to dismiss sexual assault charges against a criminal defendant in a case which the public viewed as botched by the prosecutor’s office, so he has not been considered as an ideological lackey of the prosecution as other judges have been viewed. Archie Brown, on the other hand, was cited by David Cahill, in a prior post of engaging in hardball tactics in depriving Judge Ann Mattson of her courtroom until mediation efforts in Lansing brought about a solution in which Mattson received her courtroom back. If Shapiro in this election had raised any type of serious campaign, he would have had an excellent chance of ousting Swartz, or coming close to doing so. Archie Brown is an Engler appointee who, according to Secretary of State records downloadable at www.michigan.gov, has been a heavy contributor to Republican efforts including ultraconservative supreme court justices Maura Corrigan and Steve Markman. Brown was not re-appointed (for reasons never made clear) to his post as chief judge this year. He was a key supporter of Margaret Connors in her failed primary election effort for a district court judgeship. I believe that if Ann Arbor Democrats mobilize and can find a credible candidate, Archie Brown can be defeated in 2010 the same way two-term Sheriff Dan Minzey was bounced in this year’s primary. The defeats of Clifford Taylor and 38th District Court Judge Norene Redmond in Eastpointe illustrate that incumbent elected judges who engage in political shenanigans are not immune from being voted out of office. I could see someone like Brian Mackie or Eric Gutenberg making a successful run against Brown in 2010.


       —John Dory    Nov. 8 '08 - 09:54PM    #
  23. I agree with John Dory. Archie Brown can be defeated in 2010. After observing a case in front of Archie Brown, an international attorney once said that he had never seen total disregard for law, evidence and facts any place other than Washtenaw county and Russia.


       —Srini    Nov. 10 '08 - 04:57AM    #
  24. I was surprised and delighted to see Diane Hathaway beat Cliff Taylor in the Supreme Court race. But she had some extraordinary advantages.

    (1) It was helpful to have just one name to remember for Supreme Court (rather than three).

    (2) The Democratic Party focused so intensely on the Supreme Court race that robocalls from Barack Obama contained a plug for Hathaway. Door hangers had Hathaway’s name right below Obama’s.

    (3) The negative ads against Taylor, dumb as they were, came across as relatively non-ideological. Rather than slam him for being radically right wing, they made him sound like he just wasn’t that interested in being a Justice.

    (4) After elections in which Democrats and their allies spent millions on Supreme Court campaigns, only to fail badly, Republicans were surely complacent. If there were ads supporting Taylor, or bashing Hathaway, I didn’t see them.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 11 '08 - 06:29AM    #
  25. Second point: you can’t really draw conclusions from the vote totals in the recent DS/DS/DS circuit court “race”, in which no campaign was waged for (or against) any of the candidates.

    Yes, all things being equal, Washtenaw County voters prefer Democrats as judges to Republicans. But the playing field is not level, and incumbent judges will have abundant resources and all kinds of unexpected allies.

    Incumbent judges have ballot designation, and that built-in advantage is strongest among upper-middle-class highly-educated voters — like the ones we have here.

    Absent some scandal, or judicial behavior that drives a really broad-based campaign for ouster, I doubt that any incumbent judge in Washtenaw County is really vulnerable.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 11 '08 - 06:38AM    #
  26. Larry,

    I saw several anti-Hathaway ads. Here’s one


       —Tom Brandt    Nov. 12 '08 - 01:19AM    #
  27. It is virtually unheard of for a Michigan state supreme court justice to be voted out of office as an incumbent. The only time I can recall it happening was under highly unusual circumstances; this was when Dorothy Comstock Riley was elected in 1984. In 1982 Blair Moody died unexpectedly after just being re-elected to the state supreme court and outgoing Governor Milliken appointed Riley just before his term ended. The appointment of Riley was historic in that she became the first Hispanic woman to sit on any state supreme court. Incoming Governor Blanchard felt he should have the right to choose the justice to appoint Moody and a highly publicized legal battle ensued in which Riley was removed from the bench a few months later by her own supreme court by a split decision in one of the most convoluted legal opinions ever to issue by that court. There was a certain level of public sympathy for Riley, who was seen as a mere pawn of partisan bickering, and this sympathy coupled with the heavy media coverage surrounding the entire controversy helped her win a seat on the high court in 1984. There have been several attempts by partisan interests to get a certain jurist elected to the supreme court but these have uniformly failed since Riley’s election. The last example of this was in 1992 when the Republican Party nominated popular right-wing Wayne County Circuit Judge Michael Talbot to oppose Conrad Mallett, but this fell short by well over 100,000 votes. The reason most are surprised is because it is a rare event, however the Obama coattail effect played a role and I believe the 421,000 votes for Libertarian candidate Roddis likely was also a substantial factor in Taylor’s demise; the “Sleeping Judge” ads however were a stroke of political genius and I am sure the Dems are already planning for a similar attack ad in 2010 for Justice Robert Young.


       —Mark Koroi    Nov. 12 '08 - 02:48AM    #
  28. No, not unheard of. Just for one, Justice Lawrence Lindemer was defeated shortly before the Moody/Riley controversy. And there were others before that.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 12 '08 - 09:13PM    #
  29. I agree that ‘The Fairy Tale of the Sleeping Judge’ ad was very effective. The MDP ad showing the endorsement of Taylor by Bush was also significant considering the backlash against Bush and the republicans this year. The ad also criticizes Taylor’s rulings affecting the environment, rape victims and patients hurt by prescription drugs.

    The ads attacking Hathaway seemed to have far less impact. The republicans played their favorite—the terrorism card—with the ad depicting Hathaway ‘going soft’ on an alleged terrorist. This was a questionable choice by the MRP considering that bringing up the subject of ‘terrorism’ may have further associated Taylor with Bush in the minds of the voters.

    In another ad against Hathaway, she is accused of running for the court of appeals so that she could vacation in Florida. Seems a bit nit-picky to me, but of course there wasn’t nearly as much material against Hathaway for the MRP to choose from.

    I also received a full-color flyer from the MDP criticizing Taylor for voting to ban hunting on private property. Considering the number of hunters in Michigan, Taylor certainly didn’t want all of them to have a reason to put down their guns for a minute, to go vote.


       —Michael Schils    Nov. 13 '08 - 07:29PM    #
  30. The Hathaway election means that for the first time the Michigan Supreme Court has a majority of female justices. Women and minorities have made great advances in the state judiciary this month. Sheila Miller became the first elected black judge in Macomb County by a close margin; she was last year appointed by Governor Granholm. Kim Schaefer became the first black judge elected in Kent County. Finally, yesterday Jennifer Granholm announced the appointment of Matthew Sabaugh, an Arab-American, to the 37th District Court bench.


       —Mark Koroi    Nov. 14 '08 - 05:57PM    #
  31. Re Post #25: Larry, can you say, with a straight face, there has not been “judicial behavior” that could reasonably lead to a “broad-based campaign for ouster” of Archie Brown? I realize one of your ancillary titles is “Clerk of the Washtenaw County Circuit Court” and as such you have had close working relationships with former Chief Judge Brown as well as all the other judges in the circuit, so I understand why you may be reluctant to criticize Brown. However, why did the Michigan Supreme Court select David Swartz as chief judge instead of renewing Brown as chief judge for another term beginning this year? David Cahill had the courage to disclose on Arbor Update that Brown took over Ann Mattson’s coutroom necessitating intervention by Jeff Irwin on behalf of the County Commission and eventual mediation in Lansing until Mattson got her courtroom back; then Judge Tim Connors was angry that his wife could not get a magistrate job in the District Court reportedly resulting, according to Cahill, in Connors wanting the District Court to leave the County Courthouse. It was Jeff Irwin who on Arbor Update earlier this year who confirmed the “acrimony” in the relationships between certain circuit and district court judges. If we look at the recent local district court race, the candidate (Margaret Connors) backed in the primary by all five circuit court judges finished a distant third place among primary voters; this shows me that the circuit court bench lacks politcal influence locally, and I believe this is largely due to the perceived judicial behavior of Brown and Connors. You had the temerity to publically (and rightfully) criticize Sheriff Minzey and call for his ouster, and were applauded by Mr. Cahill and others for doing so and Jerry Clayton defeated Minzey in a landslide in the primary. I have spoken to members of the public, civic leaders and elected officials who have spoken about the problems in the circuit court and how it has led to an erosion of confidence by the public in government; it has become embarrassing. While I believe Prosecutor Mackie may not want to run in 2010, I believe that Eric Gutenberg has an existing campaign organization that could be re-energized one year from now and begin collecting signatures to place his name on the circuit court ballot to challenge Brown. Eric is a member of your synagogue, Temple Beth Emeth, and you endorsed him in this last judicial election. As a first time candidate for public office he surprised many for his outstanding showing. I hope Eric or some other credible candidate decides to file aginst Brown.


       —John Dory    Nov. 15 '08 - 08:05PM    #
  32. John, my understanding is that Judge Swartz was the unanimous choice of the circuit bench for chief judge; the Supreme Court only ratified that decision.

    It is hardly a secret that there is a difficult relationship between the circuit and district judges here. I don’t think any one person is at fault for that.

    I agree with you that Eric Gutenberg and Doug Shapiro are outstanding candidates, and I expect we will hear more from them.

    However, I would say that the points you mention about Judge Brown generally fall into the category of “inside baseball” and are unlikely to generate a “broad-based campaign for ouster.”

    As you surmised, Judge Brown and I are poles apart in our political views. I was opposed to his appointment, and I have been publicly critical of him in the past. However, when he was chief judge, I very much enjoyed working with him. He is calm, upbeat, public-spirited, and reasonable.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 15 '08 - 09:06PM    #
  33. Chief Judge Archie Brown in June of 2002 made national news when he ordered his clerks not to accept adoption applications from unmarried couples and re-assigned all such pending cases before other judges in his circuit to himself. The significance of this ruling was to prevent gay and lesbian couples from adopting children. Washtenaw County had been the only one of the 83 counties in Michigan to allow such couples to engage in the adoption process. Judge Nancy Francis had been the first judge to permit such adoptions and Judge Donald Shelton continued the practice. The impetus for Brown’s action was a request from conservative Chief Michigan Supreme Court Justice Maura Corrigan directed to Brown to prevent such adoptions; Brown responded by issuing a directive to judges in his circuit not to allow such adoptions. Judge Shelton resisted this directive by responding that Brown had no authority to direct him on how to interpret the law as his authority as the circuit’s chief judge only encompassed administrative matters. Brown replied by re-assigning such pending cases to himself and dismissing those adoption applications. This conduct of Brown imposed a profound and devastating hardship on those unmarried couples who were already well along in the adoption process in Washtenaw County. The American Civil Liberties Union and gay and lesbian advocacy groups did all they could to oppose Brown but it was to no avail; Brown caved in to Corrigan and would not budge. In the 2004 22nd Circuit Court judicial elections, gay and lesbian advocates supported a write-in opposition to Brown and over 1,600 write-in votes were recorded against Brown, including over eighty in one City of Ann Arbor precinct alone. Larry Kestenbaum was one of the local elected officials who spoke out against Brown’s actions. I salute Messrs. Shelton and Kestenbaum as well as the ACLU in 2002 for their actions in opposing Brown’s conduct, which many saw as a thinly-veiled attempt to discriminate against the gay and lesbian community. I wish to express my earnest desire that an acceptable candidate file to run against Chief Judge Archie C. Brown in 2010 so that what occcured in 2002 cannot happen again; this opportunity was squandered in the 2004 22nd circuit judicial election.


       —Kerry D.    Nov. 18 '08 - 02:18AM    #
  34. There’s an example of an issue which is not “inside baseball”.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Nov. 18 '08 - 03:20AM    #
  35. Re Post #9: I do not recall Gutenberg ever mentioning the Wilkerson case publically however Steve Hiller of the Prosecutor’s Office made a public statement regarding the Wilkerson case published in the Detroit Free Press on May 2, 2007 denying that the office engaged in retaliatory prosecutions. Hiller, in December of that year, expressed an interest in running for the 15th District Court seat, but announced the following month he would not run.


       —Mark Koroi    Dec. 15 '08 - 05:16AM    #
  36. Is Mr. Hiller related to Hiller’s Market?


       —Dirt Road Man    Dec. 15 '08 - 12:03PM    #
  37. I do not know; I suppose he could be conceivably related to Detroit Tiger relief great John Hiller.


       —Mark Koroi    Dec. 15 '08 - 06:28PM    #
  38. The Grand Rapids Press has reported that recent circuit court judge candidate and Ypsilanti attorney Douglas Shapiro is the likely candidate to receive a gubernatorial appointment to the Michigan Court of Appeals to replace Michael Smolenski, who is retiring due to health problems.


       —Mark Koroi    Dec. 18 '08 - 04:17AM    #
  39. Doug Shapiro, an Ann Arbor resident maintaining a law office in Ypsilanti was just named to the Michigan Court of Appeals. Congratulations!


       —Mark Koroi    Dec. 24 '08 - 06:42AM    #
  40. Mark – where did you hear this? I am thrilled – I sent a letter to the Gov. recommending his appointment and got a standard reply – he is a great gentleman, and will be a fine judge.


       —Leah Gunn    Dec. 24 '08 - 01:37PM    #
  41. I am delighted to hear this.


       —Larry Kestenbaum    Dec. 24 '08 - 02:36PM    #
  42. The State of Michigan website and the Detroit News and Free Press covered the story.


       —Mark Koroi    Dec. 24 '08 - 05:27PM    #
  43. Thanks, Mark – I did see it in the Free Press after I wrote.


       —Leah Gunn    Dec. 24 '08 - 05:34PM    #
  44. State Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer has identified Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert Young as the key target for removal in 2010, following the Dems stunning defeat of Cliff Taylor in 2008. If Young loses, the Democrats will have a clear 4-3 majority and can reverse or significantly roll back the impact of conservative rulings previously handed down by virtue of the “Gang of Four”.
    Also, as noted above, speculation persists whether or not Circuit Judge Archie Brown will be a target locally. It remains to be seen whether the Washtenaw County Democratic Party or other “heavy hitters” locally will spearhead an effort to dump Brown, whose conservative views have rankled many in Ann Arbor.


       —Kerry D.    Jan. 27 '09 - 10:42PM    #
  45. Judge Chris Easthope has recently completed his first month in office. Are there any opinions on his performance?


       —John Dory    Feb. 7 '09 - 10:11PM    #
  46. Re Posts #32 and #33: Donald Shelton, widely respected in liberal circles, has just been named the new Chief Judge of the Washtenaw County Circuit Court by the Michigan Supreme Court.

    He becomes the first non-Engler appointee to hold the chief judge position in the circuit court in over a decade.


       —Mark Koroi    Nov. 6 '09 - 09:06AM    #