Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Weaver's Betrayal

The day before the Republican state convention, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver resigned from the court. Governor Jennifer Granholm quickly appointed Appeals Court judge Alton Davis to replace Weaver, giving democrats a 4-3 majority on the court.

Weaver had been nominated by the Republican party in 1994 and 2002 and had only a few months left in her term. She had filed to run for reelection as an independent months earlier. It was quickly revealed in news reports that the whole situation was masterminded by Weaver. Months earlier, she had contacted judge Davis to recruit him as her replacement on the court. Then she contacted the governor and offered to resign provided that Granholm appoint Weaver's anointed successor. Granholm agreed to the scheme. Weaver never intended to run for election; her filing was a ruse. Resigning allowed Davis to run as an incumbent, giving him the advantageous incumbent designation on the ballot that usually propels incumbent judges to victory.

Weaver's actions constitute a final betrayal of the Republican party.

How did it come to this? Weaver's actions stem from a personal slight and reveal a warped character.

The Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court is elected by the seven members of the court. Traditionally, the post is rotated amongst the judges, with a judge serving two two-year terms as chief before relinquishing the position to another judge. When Republicans achieved a majority on the Michigan Supreme Court, they gained the ability to select one of their own as chief. Since she was the most senior Republican, the moderate Weaver was elected chief in 1998 with the support of her more conservative colleagues.

According to her colleagues on the court, Weaver was incompetent in her position as chief. Accordingly the four more conservative judges decided not to support her for a second two-year term as chief. This was not an ideological issue, as not only the conservatives but also the court's two democrats voted 6-1 not to reappoint Weaver as chief but instead to appoint conservative Maura Corrigan as chief.

Weaver has harbored a bitter grudge against the court's conservatives ever since. She has personally attacked them in print. She has voted with the court's democrats on many legal matters, seemingly out of spite. The court has been dysfunctional and divided. The division is not between Republicans and democrats, but between Republicans and Weaver.

Weaver's backstabbing shouldn't be a surprise. In 2005, only two years into her second term, she announced that she would resign from the court, giving her seat to the democrats. She was apparently talked out of it at the time.

Weaver is good reason to never trust a moderate Republican. She should have been denied renomination in 2002 when her flawed character was already apparent. Unfortunately, Republican party leaders didn't have the foresight then to do so.


Parting note: Democrat Michigan Supreme Court judges Marilyn Kelly and Michael Cavanagh are both serving their final terms on the court due to age restrictions. Will we see similar switcheroos, consisting of last-minute resignations and appointments, after the election?

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