Sunday, January 2, 2011

Another New Year's Resolution

Michigan needs to resolve to fix another of its political structural problems besides its redistricting process, and that is the way it elects its Supreme court justices.

In 2011, Michigan should put together a ballot proposal for having Michigan Supreme Court justices appointed by the governor and then stand for retention by the voters. Justices are now nominated by political parties and then run on the non-partisan ballot. The last election was dominated by special interest spending. Now we are faced with the prospect of Bob Young, one of the most ideological justices ever to sit on the high court, possibly becoming the chief justice.

The new approach won't be perfect -- and maybe there are ways it can be improved, such as asking the state bar to vet nominees -- but it would be better than what we have now. Too few people vote in the judicial races because they are hard to find on the ballot and are not included in the straight-ticket voting. Fewer still cast an informed ballot.

Gubernatorial appointment would not take all the politics out of the high court, but it would reduce the influence of special interest money. And voters would still have a role in deciding whether or not a justice retains his or her seat on the high court.

Now is the time to address the way justices are elected, rather than waiting until the heat of the next campaign.

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