- By Chad Livengood and Gary Heinlein
- Detroit News Lansing Bureau
Lansing – Details of the infamous feud between Republican-nominated Michigan Supreme Court justices and flamboyant Democratic attorney Geoffrey Fieger is one of many allegations of judicial misconduct in a book by former Justice Elizabeth Weaver due out later this month.
In the wide-ranging, 750-page account of the high court’s inner workings, Weaver accuses former Chief Justice Clifford Taylor of offering to change his ruling on a Fieger matter if she would withdraw a public dissent accusing Taylor and three other justices of being biased and prejudiced toward Fieger.
Fieger asked the court in August 2006 to halt its reprimand against him for disparaging three appeals court judges in a malpractice lawsuit against Beaumont Hospital.
According to Weaver’s book, Taylor, in a memo to fellow justices, offered to change his vote against granting Fieger a stay if Weaver would withdraw a dissenting opinion that the so-called “Engler Four” — Taylor and justices Stephen Markman, Robert Young Jr. and Maura Corrigan — had a bias against Fieger, a political enemy who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to defeat them at the ballot box.
“These were deals, and I wouldn’t make the deals,” Weaver writes in the forthcoming book. “The majority of four simply were not liking that I wouldn’t be bullied. I was going to stand up, even alone.”
Weaver and co-author David Schock claim in “Judicial Deceit: Tyranny and Unnecessary Secrecy at the Michigan Supreme Court,” there were countless instances of unethical behavior among justices during her 16-year career on the high court.
“You can’t be bargaining like the Legislature, horse-trading on a case,” Weaver said in an interview with The Detroit News.
Weaver, a former Republican nominee to the technically nonpartisan bench, and Schock contend the state Supreme Court is corrupted by ideology and secrecy and special interest groups that bankroll the campaigns of Michigan’s statewide partisan election of justices. She argued campaign donations from Democratic and Republican party interests compromise judicial neutrality.
“It is very much like the ‘Wizard of Oz’ where Dorothy and Toto pulled back the curtain and found out the Wizard was deceiving everybody,” Weaver said in describing her book.
Markman and Young, who remain on the high court, declined to comment on Weaver’s book, which goes to press May 15 and will be on sale soon after.
“The justices will not be commenting; the court has moved on,” Supreme Court spokeswoman Marcia McBrien said Friday in an email. “Perhaps in time Ms. Weaver will be able to move on as well.”
Corrigan is now director of the Michigan Department of Human Services.
“She has no comment at all on that topic,” DHS spokesman Dave Akerly said.
Taylor, who lost re-election in 2008, did not return a phone call Friday seeking comment.
In the book, Weaver proposes a seven-point plan for fixing the Supreme Court, starting with the elimination of political party nominations for justices and better disclosure of campaign contributions.
“Reform the money,” said Weaver, 72, of Glen Arbor. “Instant, complete reporting of all money. No hiding behind groups of Justice for People or People for Justice. Every contribution has to be individual, and it cannot be People for Justice, which is a whole bunch of unknown people. It’s dark money.”
Weaver’s tenure on the court from 1994 to 2010 was stormy at times. She advocated for more transparency on the court and clashed with her colleagues. Her fellow justices rebuked Weaver for secretly recording a 2006 internal discussion in which she participated by telephone. She also released a transcript in which a fellow justice, Young — now the court’s chief judge — purportedly used a racial slur. Young is African-American.
From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130504/POLITICS02/305040346#ixzz2SvHKyEJ5