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For a while now, thanks to the nonprofit Michigan League of Conservation Voters, folks have been able to go to the Web and see how state legislators and even the governor rate when it comes to addressing issues of environmental concern.

But the same wasn't true of another group of elected officials: state Supreme Court justices.

That changed last week when the LCV, in cooperation with the Environmental Law and Policy Program at the University of Michigan Law School and a nonpartisan advisory panel, analyzed the way the various supremes have each handled cases related to conservation and environmental protection.

They're calling it the Green Gavel project, and they made things simple. For each relevant case, each justice is awarded either a green gavel (positive), red gavel (negative) or yellow gavel (neutral).

"Green Gavels pulls back the heavy velvet curtains that have surrounded the Michigan Supreme Court for so long and allows citizens to look at how each decision impacts our land, air and water," says Lisa Wozniak, executive director of Michigan LCV.

"Judicial decisions play a significant role in environmental protection by ensuring that our environmental laws are properly implemented," adds David Uhlmann, a U-M law professor, in a press release announcing the project. "The Green Gavels project will provide greater understanding about the role of the courts and our environmental law system and enable voters to make choices that better reflect their environmental values."

The hammer fell heaviest on Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. and Justice Stephen J. Markman, who earned seven red gavels each. (Young also earned three greens and two yellows; Markham got two of each.) We're sure you'll be shocked to learn that both are conservatives.

At the other end of the scale is Justice Michael F. Cavanagh, a Democrat. He has 15 green gavels (along with 13 yellow and one red).

You can find all the ratings as well as explanations of the cases that generated them at

News Hits is written by Curt Guyette. You can contact the column at 313-202-8004 or

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