News & Views » Politics & Prejudices

Justice Nobody

Your article on the Supreme Court race (“Justice at any price,” MT, Oct. 11-17) could have looked into the working of the court. The Engler-appointed justices on the Michigan Supreme Court who are running for election (Markman, Taylor and Young) are hypocrites. They preach personal responsibility, but do not practice it.

Our Supreme Court makes the law by authoring opinions for which the justices take responsibility by writing and signing them. Years ago, the court developed a way to issue opinions when there was no significant disagreement: the per curiam opinion. These are drafted by clerks/commissioners. No justice takes personal responsibility for authoring them. The justices just “concur.” Who authors the per curiams? Justice Nobody.

Engler’s appointees don’t take responsibility for an alarming percentage of opinions. Compare the 29 per curiams in 1999 to the outputs of the justices: Kelly, 27; Cavanaugh, 21; Brickley (announced retirement in September 1999), 14; Taylor, 13; Corrigan, 7; Young, 6; Weaver, 6; Markman (sworn in in November), 1.

Justice Nobody wrote five times as many opinions as Young, and twice as many as Taylor. How dare they preach personal responsibility when they will not take personal responsibility for their jobs: authoring the opinions.

This year is even worse. Of the first 37 opinions, 24 (65 percent) were by Justice Nobody. The last nine opinions were authored by Justice Nobody. When the campaign heats up, Justice Nobody takes over.

If the incumbent justices took more personal responsibility for their opinions, maybe they wouldn’t always rule against working families.

The fifth-highest paid state Supreme Court justices in the nation, our justices receive $140,816 per year. Kelly only costs us $5,215 per opinion, a bargain in comparison to $10,832 for each of Taylor’s opinions. In 1999, we had to shell out $23,469 for each of Young’s opinions.

If Young wants to bill a client $23,469 per essay, let him bill insurance company clients that can afford those fees. Michigan citizens cannot.

We need justices who will do the job they took an oath to do. Get rid of our hypocritical incumbents. Lee Tilson is a lawyer and Metro Times reader who lives in Detroit. Send comments to

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