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Wednesday, October 27,2010

Young, Davis seek return to Supreme Court

by Kyle Melinn
He’d never admit it publicly, but on the top of Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer’s To-Do List in the 2010 election is to knock off Republican state Supreme Court Justice Robert Young Jr.

Appointed to the high court in 1999 by former Gov. John Engler, Young, 59, is the former corporate counsel of AAA Michigan who is among the conservative or "constructionalist" block of votes on the seven-member body.


In split cases, the vocal Young tends to side with hospitals, insurance companies and businesses at the expense of consumers, patients and accident victims on the argument that he’s interpreting the law as written, without adding meaning to the text. The decisions, his supporters argue, end up meaning lower costs for products and services for the general public.


Using the same rationale, Young tends to be tougher on those accused of crimes and less likely to order a new trial or overturn a conviction on a technicality.


The case Brewer uses against Young in the Democratic Party’s TV ad, Citizens for Water Conservation v. Nestle, limits those who can sue for environmental damage to those directly affected by pollution. The Democratic Party framed this ruling as benefiting Enbridge, the company whose pipeline break leaked close to a million gallons of oil into the Kalamazoo River.


Democratic-nominated justices have had a 4-3 advantage on the court since Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed her first appellate court nominee, Alton Davis, to the Supreme Court this summer to replace retiring former Justice Elizabeth Weaver, a Republican justice with a strong independent streak.


Davis, 63, is seeking election to the full eight-year term. His campaign is focused on "holding insurance companies and corporate polluters accountable" while "ruling in favor of parents, gun owners and taxpayers."


Republicans have tried to pin Davis as being part of some crooked deal with Granholm and Weaver that allowed the Democrats to have the new majority on the court. If Davis wins, Democrats have a firewall against any overtly political redistricting map a theoretical Republican Legislature draws.


Republicans and Democrats each nominated a second candidate to fill one of the two open seats. The Republicans tapped 11-year Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Mary Beth Kelly, 47, another Engler appointee who prides herself on leading on children’s issues.


Called "one of the most effective chief judges in the history of the Michigan Court system" by then-Chief Justice Clifford Taylor, Kelly benefits from having an Irish name that, for whatever reason, has historical magic in Michigan court races. In fact, early polling on the Supreme Court race has Kelly leading over both Young and Davis.


The Democrats’ second nominee, Oakland County Judge Denise Langford Morris, 57, is also an Engler appointee, but one who strayed from the "constructionist" philosophy that marked most of his picks.


Appointed in 1992, Langford Morris is the county’s first African American Circuit judge and the longest-serving female judge on the Oakland County bench, where she has presided over cases against Dr. Jack Kevorkian and rapper Eminem.


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