Stateside: Touching peoples' access to justice

Oct 30, 2012

In our continued coverage of Michigan’s Supreme Court justice race,  Shelia Johnson discussed her candidacy with Cyndy Canty.

Johnson began by stating her view of a justice’s role in the Court.

“The court is the final arbiter of all the ways Michigan laws are applied. They make sure that justice is fairly applied and followed in the way it is written. The Supreme Court justice also has an administrative function. It reviews the activities of judges as well. They see the implementation of the Michigan Court rules. We touch peoples’ access to justice.”

When asked what role the judiciary should play in Michigan’s political issues, Johnson was direct.

“Technically, none. They are supposed to be the one branch that is above any politicization.  It’s unfortunate the way we select Supreme Court justices has put a blemish on that unbiased nature.”

The “blemish” to which Johnson referred was the fact that justices have to raise money for campaigns every two years.  

“It’s really unfortunate where we’ve seen lawyers view the Supreme Court be biased toward corporate interests.”

Johnson then laid out how she would like the system to function.

“The legislature has put the nomination of our judges in this partisan system. But I would like to see it removed. I still believe in the peoples’ right to elect anyone to represent them. But I think it would be well-suited to have it in a non-partisan manner.”

The immediate overruling of past laws, according to Johnson, is something that should be handled carefully.

“There has been a lot of that and I really don’t think we should be in the business of overruling precedent immediately. It interrupts the stability of the law. I think that we have to step higher and look at higher standard when we make changes. I think that is the problem with our current court. The standards I would look at would be to make sure this rule would be intolerable anymore or would cause a hardship.”

What is the biggest challenge Michigan Supreme Court faces?

“Budget issues are always an issue now. As our resources are limited we still have to deliver justice fairly and swiftly. We will have to implement cost-saving collaborations, have more concurrent jurisdiction plans so that judges can oversee a variety of things. We will have to see some judges and courts cut. We can also implement better technology in our courts. Budget concerns and technology are the two largest things we will be facing.”

-Cameron Stewart

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