November 22, 2010
Michigan Supreme Court Censures One of Its (Former) Own
Appellate courts are notoriously secret when it comes to deliberations. That's one of the reasons why books about U.S. Supreme Court deliberations get almost immediate attention from pundits and the public alike. No matter what, the Court's lack of comment or reaction to any third party statements on its deliberations tend to cast some doubt on the reality. Other appellate courts, though not as exciting as the U.S. Supreme Court hold the same standards.
However, the Michigan Supreme Court last week issued a letter of censure to one of its former own for secretly taping deliberations and later releasing transcripts of the recordings. Former Justice Elizabeth Weaver (with two years as Chief Justice) was on a mission to reform the way Justices were selected. The rest of the Court did not take kindly to her methods when the found out:
None of your fellow Justices was aware that you were tape recording our private deliberations on cases private. The only exception regards statements that reveal criminal or unethical activities. You, however, have maintained that you would use your best judgment as to what part, if any, of these private deliberations you would make public.
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Since leaving the Court you have made public material from Court deliberations although it neither involves neither criminal nor ethical violations by a Justice. Moreover, you have indicated an intent to continue to do so. Your stated goal - reform of the way Justices are chosen - could surely be better accomplished without secret recordings and revealing private Court deliberations.
The story in the Detroit Free Press indicated that partial transcripts were released in October to work against the re-election of Justice Robert Young, Jr. He was re-elected to the Court. The story notes that the letter will have no effect on Justice Weaver as she is no longer part of the Court. The Free Press article with more details is here, and it contains links to the PDF copy of the letter to Justice Weaver. Justice Weaver has her own web site, justiceweaver.com. [MG]