Vox Populi

Archive for the ‘MI Supreme Court’ Category

Why fighting judicial campaign money matters

In broken tort reform, buying elections, debunking the myth, ideology, medical malpractice, MI Supreme Court, propoganda, Uncategorized, undo tort reform on June 13, 2013 at 2:57 pm

In response to an article posted on Mother Jones (“Secret Money Is Now Swaying State Judicial Elections“), I posted the following:

There is a strong “Why should I care?” aspect to judicial buying.

Here is a scenario: you go to your local hospital with an emergency.  Through negligence or error you receive injurious care.  You wish to sue.  You shop your case to local attorneys first, but few

lawsuit lotto

lawsuit lotto (Photo credit: Shira Golding)

show even slight interest.  Small town lawyers need medical care too.  You call the big firm that funds the state’s hockey team.  Their nurse indicates that your case is “not a winner” and wishes you luck.

You find out that because of malpractice caps (put in place to protect innocent doctors from “runaway juries” and “slick lawyers”), counsel is hesitant to take any case that is not an outright slam dunk.  No gray area cases or ones which a jury could be swayed.  The cost of litigation is just too high.  Counsel has to find an exact equal physician to testify (their expert will be put on a mini trial within the trial) before the trial, submitting an Affidavit of Merit (these start at $1500 and go up, depending on the hired gun).  Then this expert must testify at trial, and already your case is running up quite a tab (a contingency fee for a capped case starts at $25,000–which sounds like a lot until you break it down into costs and fees).  So, Counsel picks only obvious winners.  Others get a smile and well wishes.  Merit has little bearing.
So, with the Statue of Limitations running (two years is typical so that physicians don’t have the “fear of litigation” looming over their heads), you push on, convinced that your bad doctor should be ferreted out of the system; that he should not be harming others like he harmed you.
In order to file your case, you will need to, six months in advance, file a Notice of Intent.  This gives the doctor six months (actually, it gives his insurance carrier–he will not have any direct contact with the case until called to testify–and few ever make it that far) to prepare.  Medical records are shared (HIPAA is automatically waived and your medical records are shipped around from insurance office to Defense Counsel to their own expert witness hired guns).  You give up all claims to HIPAA protections when you move to sue.
The six months pass and Defense (as they are now known–usually a well-healed firm from a large city on retainer by the insurance company) establishes their contingency case, reading to throw motions for dismissal as soon as the actual Complaint is files (the Notice of Intent is really a preview or draft of the Complaint).  The Complaint is filed and the Affidavit of Merit is supplied (if there is more than one defendant–say the physician and the hospital for lack of adequate oversight–the cost of this “pre-litigation requirement” moves into the tens of thousands).
Defense will immediately file a Motion to Dismiss, attacking the Affidavit of Merit (mini-trial even before the trial starts–Defense strategy is to have the case thrown out before a jury ever hears it).
Your small case, up against the best legal counsel in your state, will have many options for the judge to dismiss it.  The legislators in your state, fearing that “good doctors” will seek less litigious states, have enacted (often at the heading of the insurance lobby) “tort reforms” (think of “Hot Coffee”) that give the judge ample discretion to head Defense’s claims.
Elected judges, backed by a packed “tort reformed” legal structure, biases your legal claim from the beginning.  Upon appeal, additional panels of judges, also elected, will determine the validity of this structure.  An appeal to the State’s Supreme Court, also elected, will “rule” along party lines almost exclusively.
You are still injured, probably for life.  The bad doctor is still “practicing,” injuring others who, themselves, will have no legal recourse.
Insurance wins (the don’t lower their rates in accordance to the numbers of cases filed–only 1 in 8 of valid cases are even filed–and few of them make it to trial–fewer still result in a verdict for the injured party).
Bad doctors are not held accountable.
Injured patients will seek the medical care for their injuries available to them: most often at the public’s expense (Medicare/Medicaid).
And if the judges are elected, then the legislation that has also been “influenced” by campaign money, headless of legitimacy, stands.
Medical Malpractice is the 6th leading cause of death, ahead of victims of gun violence.
With a purchased judiciary, there is no justice.
Enhanced by Zemanta

It’s good to be the king

In broken tort reform, buying elections, Campaign Finance, medical malpractice, MI Supreme Court, undo tort reform on April 15, 2013 at 10:03 pm
English: A Photograph of the Michigan Supreme ...

English: A Photograph of the Michigan Supreme Court building located in downtown Lansing, Michigan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When Mel Brooks had that as a running rif in his “History of the World, Part 1,” it was the excesses of the French Court he was lampooning (skeet shooting serfs was one gag).   The saying, though, applies to the Michigan Supreme Court today, with no revolution in sight.

The legal doctrine of Rooker-Feldman allows a state judiciary to be immune from federal oversight.  That is, a state court’s decision cannot be second-guessed by the federal court system…only the by the Supreme Court.

That is a fine system for upholding Jim Crow or enforcing Med Mal “tort reforms” (yes, I consider them to be of the same ilk).  Without a literal act of Congress (and good luck on that), a state judiciary can lay out a series of ruling that, because of stare decisis becomes the de facto law of the land.  If a case comes up through the appellate channel that challenges the precedent law-scape, just choose not to hear it. Because it takes 4 of 9 to hear a case, a stacked court (like the present Michigan Supreme Court) has virtual carte blanche to NOT hear any case that might upset the delicate balance that they have worked so hard over the last 20 years to erect.

With Gov. Rick Snyder‘s conservative appointment this last month, the “balance” of the court is now well in favor of keeping things exactly at the status quo

So, if you are too poor to sue, you better hope you live in a state that is NOT Michigan OR you physician you malpracticed on your ass lives in another state.  That way you can sue in Federal Court where they have determined that the Affidavit of Merit leads to injustice (as have numerous state courts–OK, LA, WA, IL, OH, NY, VT).

If you live in Michigan, and your physician was in Michigan, you either pay to play or you go home.  No other options.

If you appeal, you will be denied by stare decisis.  If you appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, you get a one page letter stating “heard and denied” for your troubles.  Appeal that to the US Supreme Court, and you waste your time (they take up about 1% of the cases filed).

Forget about Federal Courts other than the Supreme Court of the United States, federal district courts will dismiss on Rooker-Feldman.

For the sitting Michigan justices, it is good to be the king.

For the insurance and medical groups who have financed their campaigns, who have paid over the years to have their ALEC laws enacted, it is really, really good to be the king.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Michigan Courts dead last in Judicial Independence

In broken tort reform, buying elections, Campaign Finance, Get the Ca$h, MI Supreme Court on October 19, 2011 at 7:18 pm

I came a little late to this report

(WHICH STATES HAVE THE BEST (AND WORST) HIGH COURTS?)

Unfairness for All

(published in 2008), but the information and methodology presented (see below) probably has not changed in the ensuing years.

Taking to task the ranking put out each year by the Chamber of Commerce (the largest provider of republican court campaign money in Michigan), this study does NOT ask senior lawyers at large companies (Fortune 500) which states they like and don’t like (which are pro-business leaning and which are not).  The CofC:

… surveys ask senior lawyers at corporations that earn more than $100 million per year in revenues to grade state court systems, from A to F, and aggregate their responses.

No, this survey tabulated independence on how often a judge, affiliated with a stated party, went along with or dissented from that stated party.  That is, how much did they go along with their party (please note that a judge is SUPPOSED to vote as an independent arbiter of the law, NOT to be a representative of a political party).

According to the numbers, Michigan Justices vote in lock-step (I assume that the Democrats are just as bad as the Republicans on this).

Overall, it doesn’t make Michigan look good in a national survey…

At least the Parties are getting their monies worth.

Follow the courts at the Justice at Stake website

In buying elections, Campaign Finance, MI Supreme Court, Partner Web Sites-- on August 4, 2011 at 5:08 pm

Justice at Stake

I stumbled upon the Justice at Stake website, and I have found it to be a trove of helpful resources:  from national courts to my own home state of Michigan.

Now I can track some of the PAC money that is being used to buy influence.

Yay.

Enhanced by Zemanta

On Point with a Michigan judge

In buying elections, Campaign Finance, Court recusal, medical malpractice, MI Supreme Court on August 18, 2010 at 2:23 pm
On Point
Image via Wikipedia

On Point with Tom Ashbrook, an NPR talk show out of Boston, featured not only an hour discussing the influence of campaign monies in judicial elections, it also featured a cameo from Justice Taylor (the only sitting Chief Justice to lose an election–scandal).

Enhanced by Zemanta

Buy yourself some influence…

In buying elections, Campaign Finance, Court recusal, Donors, Get the Ca$h, MI Supreme Court on August 17, 2010 at 9:58 pm
Main NPR building in Washington DC on that sam...
Image via Wikipedia

How to buy the MI Courts is proud to say that we were here first.  Writing well into the first of this year, we called on readers to try their hand at purchasing access and influence.

Now the story has gone national.  NPR discusses, in not too great detail, the growing influence of money in court elections.

It is even worse than NPR knows.  They didn’t even scratch the surface.

Listen/read is here.

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Players: a Scribe to produce content: Mr. Patrick J. Wright

In broken tort reform, buying elections, ideology, MI Supreme Court, propoganda, Think tank on December 8, 2009 at 11:41 pm

We have already identified that a good, and inexpensive way to lobby the highest state court is to align, enlist or adopt an advocacy group (PAC, special interest…all really just IRS labels). We have also seen how one, lone writer can wrap up ideology in the form of editorials.

It is one such scribe which will be today’s focus: Mr. Patrick J. Wright.  He is:

is senior legal analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, where he directs the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. He joined the Center in June 2005 after serving for three years as a Michigan Supreme Court commissioner, a post in which he made recommendations to the court concerning which state appeals court cases it should hear.

We have heard about the Mackinac Center as an arm for “free market” legislation.  That is fine.  It is a free country.

I would note that when filling ones staff with experts, it is a good idea to find ones whose legal experience mirrors ones ideological profile.  That is, hire the ones who have said what you wish to say.  Assure pedigree.  Mr. Wright is the right person for this Right job.  In fact, if one is looking to influence the highest state court, find a person who worked for them, at a lower-level job (reading through the cases and making recommendations on which ones to take up) during the time that you wish to match ruling-wise (the 2003 court was very  conservative, pro-business and all about upholding “tort reform”).

Once on staff, free him up to write to his heart’s content.  You might even get him to land editorials for national news outlets.  His opinion, because it is just that, need not be grounded in fact.  In fact, facts may even begin to muck up a good argument, so be wary in employing them.

Once you have the right man for the job, produce the content, influence the vote, and let the right party win.

Who will be the first to recuse herself from the MI Supreme Court?

In Campaign Finance, Court recusal, Get the Ca$h, MI Supreme Court, Uncategorized, undo tort reform on November 30, 2009 at 7:51 pm

In response to our recent article on the newly-enabled ability to ask (and actually have the teeth to receive) a judge’s recusal, prompted the following explanation.  It was too good to leave unread in the comments (Video can be found here):

The first case to be decided under the new recusal rule may be People v Alexander Aceval, where the recusal of former Wayne County Circuit Judge/now Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway is sought by the defense in a Motion filed 10-16-09.

Aceval’s attorneyDavid L. Moffitt alleges that a vertically integrated perjury conspiracyby Wayne County Circuit Judge Mary Waterstone, Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Drug Unit Chief Assistant Prosecutor Karen Plants, and two Inkster Police Officers, wrongfuly convicted Aceval with perjured testimony in 2006. APA Plants and Judge Waterstone made secret, ex-parte transcripts of their operation of the conspiracy, that unexpectedly subsequently came to light.

Moffitt has also requested the appointment of a temporary alternate Justice to break the tie, remand to a Court of Appeals Special Panel, and disclosure of the circumstances of Justice Corrigan’s recusal, which Moffitt alleged may have been deliberately sought by the perjury-conspirators to “heighten the hurdle,” i.e. needing 4 out of 6 instead of 4 out of 7 Justices, to grant the Application for Leave. Details of the case, media coverage, and briefs and transcripts, are available at davidlmoffitt.com.

Aceval’s Application For Leave To Appeal the conviction to the Michigan Supreme Court was denied 9-25-09 in a 3-3 deadlock, across “party lines,” with Justice Corrigan recusing herself to testify as a character witness in a potential future trial of pending criminal charges against Waterstone, Plants and the officers brought by the Michigan Attorney General arising out of Aceval’s case.

Upon rehearing, Moffitt has moved to disqualify Justice Hathaway, alleging that her ojectivity could reasonably be questioned where scrutiny of wrong-doing in Aceval’s case has moved to the highest levels of Wayne County Prosecutor Kyn Worthy’s office, where Hathaway’s ex-husband Richard is Chief Assistant, and where she must directly rule upon the propriety of conduct of former Third Circuit, Criminal Division co-colleagues that took place when she served with them on that bench.

Briefs, transcripts, and media coverage of the case are archived at davidlmoffitt.com.

How does an algorithym indicate partisanship

In Get the Ca$h, MI Supreme Court on November 18, 2009 at 8:57 pm

I know that Michigan’s Court system is not supposed to be party affiliated, but go here and see.

When you build a customized query, which I hope you do, you get a visual arrangement of the donors to candidate, along with a visual of influences.

This graph is what the 2008 Supreme Court of MI looked like with donors sorted  over $500 or more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go here to see the interactive version: http://unfluence.primate.net/unfluence.html?StateSelect=MI&YearSelect=2008&Office=J11&Interest=0&valueMin=500

You will see that the center nodes are, respectively, Cliff Taylor (winner) and Diane Hathaway (loser).   You will also see that there is no redder a candidate out there than Cliff Taylor.

 

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]

Is that change I smell in the air…

In MI Supreme Court on November 18, 2009 at 5:56 pm
U.S. Supreme Court building.
Image via Wikipedia

The Michigan Supreme Court has adopted, though not published, new recusal rules that will align them with Capterton Massey–sometimes it takes a big stick from the US Feds to get something done locally.

The Lansing State Journal says:

Under rules adopted by a 4-3 majority this month, a member of the court is to step aside if the jurist’s “impartiality might objectively and reasonably be questioned.”

Further, if an individual justice receives and rejects a request for recusal, a party in the case can appeal to the full court for further consideration.

In other words, the justice whose status might be compromised does not serve as the sole arbiter of his or her ability to uphold the office.

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]