• Brian Dickerson: Hijacking the judicial process in broad daylight

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    109104409You’ve been sued — and it’s looking like the judge randomly assigned to your case might be convinced the aggrieved plaintiff has a legitimate beef.

    Wouldn’t it be nice if you could move the problematic lawsuit to a friendlier courtroom — one where a judge, handpicked by some of your best friends, stood ready to throw your opponent out on his ear?

    That’s exactly the dream scenario Gov. Rick Snyder and his allies in the Republican-controlled state Legislature are halfway to realizing in Lansing, where the state Senate has just adopted a bill that would give Republican-appointed judges exclusive jurisdiction over virtually every legal challenge to the governor’s authority.

    Republicans have reason to be frustrated with the current rules, which vest the Court of Claims’ jurisdiction over most lawsuits against the state in the Lansing-based Ingham County Circuit Court. Because Ingham’s electorate skews Democratic, most Ingham Circuit judges have ties to the Democratic Party and/or organized labor, both of whom oppose much of the legislation championed by the GOP powers that be.

    But the bill adopted by the Senate wouldn’t merely shift jurisdiction over lawsuits against the state to the Court of Appeals, where Republican judges outnumber Democrats — it would authorize the GOP-dominated Supreme Court, currently led by Chief Justice Robert Young, to hand-select which Republican appointees are assigned to preside over such lawsuits.

    Even more alarmingly, Jones’ bill would allow the new, handpicked judges to assume immediate control of cases already pending before various Ingham Circuit Court judges, including lawsuits in which plaintiffs have challenged Detroit’s right to abrogate retirement benefits, contested the legality of a new tax on vested teacher pensions and alleged violations of Michigan’s Open Meetings Act.

    Read more from this story in The Detroit Free Press

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