Tyranny & Unnecessary Secrecy at the Michigan Supreme Court
While the business of the law and judiciary was serious, there still was room for fun and not taking one’s self entirely too seriously. Chief Justice Elizabeth Weaver (retired) leads the Glen Arbor Kazoo Parade on the Fourth of July in what has become an annual tradition. (Traverse City Record-Eagle.)
Elizabeth A. Weaver’s life was a brilliant demonstration of her faith. She knew that all matters were, at root, spiritual. She lived by the precept of “Do Right and Fear Not.”
I found her intelligent, perceptive, trustworthy, and absolutely truthful, even when it didn’t show her in the best light. She didn’t make excuses for herself or for others. And, nothing less than the whole truth would do.
When she chastened her colleagues and former colleagues at the court there was never any personal animus. She loved them and wanted them simply to amend their behavior to comport with the law and ethics.
It has been an honor to work with her on the book; it now serves as a legacy. The writing and publication of this personal history was the last duty she said she owed the people of Michigan. She meant it to serve as a warning that absolute power and unnecessary secrecy would result in abuses, no matter who was at the helm. She sought openness, transparency, and accountability.
As a friend she was loyal, forgiving, and generous. She had a wonderful sense of humor and laughed much and long. Most important, she was a faithful follower of her Master.
David B. Schock, Ph.D.
Coauthor with Chief Justice Elizabeth A. Weaver Judicial Deceit: Tyranny and Unnecessary Secrecy at the Michigan Supreme Court
Elizabeth Weaver was born and raised in New Orleans and graduated from college and law school with top honors. She moved to Michigan, where she earned a stellar reputation as an attorney and judge on the Michigan Court of Appeals. Voters elected her to the Michigan Supreme Court in 1994; she served as Chief Justice from 1999 to 2001, and retired from the bench in 2010.
This 765-page tome with over 1,500 footnotes documents the inner workings of the Supreme Court something previously inaccessible to those outside the court. As the nominator for this award observed, finding a judge who will talk about the Supreme Courts decisions and her fellow justices is a rarity; having a former Chief Justice who will publicly discuss how the Court made its decisions is a treasure.
Weaver was sharply critical of her colleagues on the Supreme Court. She regarded many of the Courts gubernatorial appointees as ill-suited and not always qualified for the work. In her book, she describes how one explosive fellow justice (who carried a firearm in the Court) repeatedly browbeat staff, how justices violated fund-raising practices, and how justices behaved as activists and changed the law from the bench.
Weaver's attempts to warn or stop them resulted in attacks against her, refusals to publish her dissents, and even the creation of a gag order to try to keep her from speaking out.
Elizabeth Weaver produced this book with her co-author, reporter and editor Dr. David B. Schock.
Sadly, Justice Weaver passed away in Traverse City in April 2015. One of her legacies will be this powerful, candid and authoritative book, which will serve as an invaluable source for understanding Michigan legal and political history. The Historical Society of Michigan recognizes the contribution of Judge Weaver and Dr. Schock to Michigan history with a State History Award in the category of Books: Private Printing for their work Judicial Deceit: Tyranny & Unnecessary Secrecy at the Michigan Supreme Court.
As reviewer Blaine Pardoe writes, we are friends, and we have been since each one of us was honored at an annual meeting of the Historical Society of Michigan with a State History Award, he for his book Lost Eagles: One Man's Mission to Find Missing Airmen in Two World Wars, and I for my film about Detroit's Poet Laureate, Starbystar: Naomi Long Madgett, Poet and Publisher. Blaine bought a copy of Judicial Deceit and thoughtfully took his time reading over the book. It is, as he notes, a big book. Here is his review.
Chief Justice Elizabeth A. Weaver (retired) and David B. Schock, Ph.D., sat down with WGVU's Patrick Center for a discussion about the book. We can't embed it but here's the link.
Chief Justice Elizabeth A. Weaver (retired) was the guest of Central Michigan University when CMU Griffin Endowed Chair Professor Gary Randall (and Clerk of the Michigan House of Representatives) convened a discussion between Justice Weaver and Professor James P. Hillof the CMU Political Science Department. The hour-and-a-half discusion included a question and answer session. At the conclusion of the event, Justive weaver was greeted with a standing ovation from an appreciative audience that included students (of course) faculty members and administrators, and the general public. Here is a recording of the event made possible by videographer and film producer Dan Bracken of CMU.
Jusice Weaver was the first interview up on the morning of Sept. 23 on the The Lucy Ann Lance Show.
Howard Lovy of "Foreword Reviews; Great books, independent voices" posted this assessment.
Walt Sorg interrviewed both Justice Elizabeth Weaver and David Schock and filed this report that also includes an audio interview.
Weaver was first elected in 1974 as the Leelanau County’s probate/juvenile trial judge, a part-time position. She excelled enough to attract national attention (appearing on Good Morning America and in People magazine) for her innovative methods in dealing with recalcitrant youth. She also was a tireless worker for court reform at the trial-court level. She was re-elected twice more to that position. In 1986 she ran for and was elected to the Michigan Court of Appeals. She was re-elected in 1992. She ran for the Michigan Supreme Court in 1994, was re-elected in 2002, and sat on that court until she resigned in August of 2010. She served as chief justice from 1999 to 2001.Read Full Biography
David B. Schock, Ph.D., is an award-winning film producer. His latest film is The Road to Andersonville: Michigan Native American Sharpshooters in the Civil War. Other works include the poetry films Star by Star: Naomi Long Madgett, Poet and Publisher, a film about the life and career of Detroit’s Poet Laureate, Naomi Long Madgett and Jump Back, Honey: The Poetry and Performance of Herbert Woodward Martin, a documentary about a poet who has—as part of his career—championed the poetry, plays, and fiction of Paul Laurence Dunbar.Read Full Biography
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