Friday, January 20, 2006

Four Judicial seats up for Election in Livingston County

From the Ann Arbor/Livingston Community News

Open race for at least 1 Livingston judgeship
Planned probate court retirement affects 1 of 4 seats up for election
Friday, January 20, 2006
News Staff Reporter
For the first time since 1994, Livingston County voters will have four judgeships to decide in elections this fall.

The terms of 44th Circuit Judge Stanley Latreille, 53rd District Judge A. John Pikkarainen and Probate Judge Susan Reck will expire at the end of the year. Additionally, District Judge Theresa Brennan, who was appointed last year after the death of Judge Michael Hegarty, must now run for election for the remaining two years of his term.

Brennan, 48, confirms she will run for the seat. "I love my job here, and I hope to remain as district judge,'' she says.

Not enough attention is paid to judicial races. The most important contest for those concerned with liberal judicial activism is the Circuit Court race as they have the most power. Judge Latreille is a straight shooter who follows the law as judge, and he will have my vote if he runs again.

The Circuit Court seat should be conservatives' number one priority of all local races in Livingston County. They have a lot of power and handle all major cases and most injunctions. We do not need our own version of Stephen Reinhardt here.

District Courts have more limited roles. The district court handles small claims, civil cases under $25000, landlord/tenant, misdemeanors, felony arraignments, civil infractions, weddings, and divorces without children. Most of those are straightforward cases, and have less room for judicial activism.

Probate Court has jurisdiction and supervision in the administration of estates and trust of deceased persons. The Court also hears cases pertaining to guardianships; conservatorship for adults and minors; the commitment for hospitalization and or treatment of mentally ill persons, the mentally handicapped, and addicted persons.

Bob Parker and Bobbi Vaughn are running for probate judge. Parker ran and lost his race for circuit judge against Dave Reader in 2004. Vaughn is a Hamburg Township trustee and is a Republican.

As soon as I find out who has filed and running for re-election, it will be posted here.


RKG said...

We do a disservice to the judiciary when it becomes politicized. The reality is that very few decisions a judge makes has anything to do with their party affiliation. The reasons an attorney might make their affiliation known is that they want to be in line for an appointment if one becomes available, ala Theresa Brennan. Let the best person with the best qualifications bubble up to the surface. Keep the "us" versus "them" out of it.

Dan said...

Unfortunately, the judiciary already is politicized and taking the politics out of judiciary is taking the politics out of politics. The genie is out of the bottle there. It is mostly a hush-hush politicizing, but it is there.

I agree that few judicial decisions are political related. However unless you spend much of your worktime in a courtroom, those few decisions are the ones that hit closest to home.

The politicizing largely is on the federal level and accelerated after Roe v Wade and the Warren Court. We also have Kelo, McCain/Feingold, and a case of Sandra Day O’Conner citing international law instead of the constitution in the Affirmative Action case. Those are all federal cases, but it throws the judiciary in the middle of public debate. That is not even mentioning the 9th Circuit and Stephen Reinhardt who censored the pledge of allegiance and said there was no right to keep and bear arms (conflicting with the 5th Circuit).

My judicial voting decisions are made more by philosophy than political party. I prefer conservative/libertarian judges who support the constitution as it is written - originalists. The closest to that are lawyers from the Federalist Society. Judges should not become legislators. Judges should strike down unconstitutional legislation, and stop twisting the “Commerce Clause” to suit the needs of the feds. Unfortunately, federal judges are immune to the people and can not be voted out of office. I’m stuck with Stephen Reinhardt and David Souter until they decide to step down.

The judiciary philosophy is a strongly contentious issue. When President Bush nominated Harriet Miers, the right was so up in arms about it since they did not know anything about her. “Trust me” was not good enough. I was willing to wait until the hearings before making my support/oppose decision, but most of the right did not want to wait. They wanted J. Michael Luttig.

The other politicizations are about appointments. In the case of Supreme Court, they are “partisan” non-partisan elections. Supreme Court candidates are nominated at the state conventions. For other judicial openings, they are appointed by the governor, and we know how political that is. I know one Republican who donated to Granholm in an attempt to hedge his bet to try and be appointed to a judicial position. This is also where party affiliation is a major issue. When Judge Hegarty passed away, one of the democrats was a Blanchard supporter, and Brennan was a Granholm and Stabenow supporter. What happened was expected.

In my case, I am going to support judges who are judges and not legislators. I’ll support judges who follow the law in its original intent, and I’ll strongly oppose any Stephen Reinhardt clones. I am going to look at all the candidates running for judge this year, and make as informed of decision as possible, and I hope everyone reading this does the same. I plan on posting as much information as possible about the judicial races this year, since the biggest problem with judicial election is that most non-lawyers, including party activists, don't follow them or have much information about judicial candidates.

Lights Out Michigan said...

The biggest problem that I see is that judicial campaigns must basically be a battle of name ID rather than ideology. Candidates do not speak of how they would rule in a hypothetical case as they fear a recusal when and if such a case comes before their bench. This may be a false concern, but it's something that nearly all judicial candidates seem to fear.

Regardless, virtually none of them ever dare run on substantive issues, and without partisan affiliations, there is nothing whatsoever in their official campaign pronouncements to give any clue as to what their judicial philosophy may be.

So, we're left to asking friends and (most often) plunking down on name ID alone. Toss in that every incumbent gets to put "judge" in front of their name on the ballot, and you've got a situation where this is really a dumb thing to be voting on.

Politics is about drawing distinctions between visions. If we're not going to let judicial candidates do this, then we might as well get them out of the electoral arena and have them appointed by governors and approved by legislators. Not for life, however.

At least this way, we could hold the real politicians accountable for screening these lawyers, and we could punish the real politicians if one of their lawyers goes haywire and shreds the constitution.