Young Wins Chief Justice Election

On January 6, 2011, in News Stories, by bobyoung


After overcoming an onslaught from the Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) last election, Republican-nominated Robert YOUNG is the new Supreme Court Chief Justice.

As expected, Young was elected this morning by his colleagues for the post (See “Young Expected To Be Next Chief Justice,” 1/1-2/11). Young lost his 2009 election for Chief Justice to outgoing Chief Justice Marilyn KELLY. Unlike last term, the vote was not public and was not released, with Young only telling MIRS, “I won.” He also declined to hold a press conference, unlike Kelly.

“When I won (the general election), (Justice) Mike CAVANAGH sent me a very nice little email,” Young told MIRS today. “He said, ‘I guess this means that oral arguments won’t be any shorter, which was a jibe at me because I like to ask a lot of questions.’ But the second part was, he said, ‘I’d like to help you turn the page.’ And I think all seven of us feel the same way. Today, we have a change of the Chiefs. Everyone left with their dignity, with no blood on the floor.”

Young also declined to comment on Justice Maura CORRIGAN resigning to head the Department of Human Services (DHS) (See “Snyder Squares Up DHS, Corrigan To Eventually Join,” 12/29/10).

Appointed by former Gov. John ENGLER to the Supreme Court in 1999, Young was elected to the Court in 2002 and re-elected in 2010. Engler appointed Young to the Court of Appeals in 1995 and he was elected to that court in 1996.

Young was known for clashing with former Justice Elizabeth WEAVER, who stepped down in August. When former Gov. Jennifer GRANHOLM last year appointed Justice Alton DAVIS to replace Weaver, he criticized the tone of some opinions and the partisanship on the bench (See “Davis Pledges To Continue Independent Tradition,” 8/26/10).

Michigan Democratic Party (MDP) Chair Mark BREWER took his swing at the new chief justice, warning that the Young-led court “will go back to its ways of protecting insurance companies, corporations, sexual predators and polluters over the people of Michigan.”

“Bob Young is a very poor choice to lead Michigan’s Supreme Court,” Brewer said. “He has a terrible temperament. He’s very arrogant and demeaning toward the litigants in the courtroom . . . If you’re a worker, a consumer, or someone in this state who has been injured, your rights are going to be diminished by this Court.”

MIRS asked Young if he was planning to address the issue of court decorum.

“I think that all seven of us are very conscious of that and all seven of us want this to happen,” he said. “I think we’ve seen in the last couple months alone a very different tone among us and I think in our opinions. . . . That’s not to say that we don’t have passionate commitments to our judicial philosophies, but I think you’ll see that we’re disagreeing passionately, but less disagreeably.”

MIRS asked Young how his term as Chief Justice would differ from that of Kelly. Instead of talking about judicial philosophy, Young focused on budgetary issues.

“I think my focus is a little different,” he said. “I think that every leader in state and local government had better be focused inexorably on the fiscal crisis. Today we had a presentation from (Gary) OLSON, who was the head of the Senate Fiscal Agency, and it was just a mouth — a jaw-dropping presentation of the 10-year history of this state where on every metric imaginable, Michigan has lost wealth, has lost people, has lost prosperity and we are now in a quantitatively different place than we were at the beginning.

“We are not going to recover the way Michigan has recovered in past recessions — when the economy gets better, we get better, too. We are just in a lowering level. We are in essence the Mississippi of the 21st Century. And that is now the reality that all of us have to focus on. So my focus is to try and identify where cuts to the third branch of government can be made without hurting our ability to provide out constitutional obligation to deliver services.”

Young also endorsed the idea of eliminating judgeships.

“It’s obvious in a budget that provides less than 1 percent of the state budget, and is somewhere south of 70 percent of that budget being salaries, and the overwhelming majority of that number being judicial salaries, that wherever there are unnecessary judgeships we should get rid of them,” he said. “And that is a very difficult message for my colleagues in the judiciary to understand.

“Frankly, for the last eight years, it’s been a difficult message for the Legislature to understand, because every two years, we’ve been recommending both the addition of judgeships and the elimination of judgeships based on docket. The Legislature for the last eight years has only accepted the increases and has never accepted the decrease. Now the day of reckoning is here. We can’t afford this anymore.”

Young said he didn’t have a number of judgeships that should be eliminated. He said that in 2007, then-Chief Justice Cliff TAYLOR recommended axing four Appeals Court slots and 16 trial court positions across the state.

“I think it’s going to be on that order or larger,” Young said. “Because none of the population or other trends that drive dockets has gotten better since 2007.”

Interestingly, that puts Young in the same camp as Brewer, his longtime nemesis, who helped craft the Reform Michigan Government Now! (RMGN) constitutional amendment that the Supreme Court booted from the 2008 ballot (See “Top Dem Brass Created RMGN,” 9/19/08). RMGN would have eliminated seven Appeals Court slots and two on the Supreme Court (See “RMGN Wants Whitbeck Off Case,” 8/11/08).

A native of Detroit, Young earned undergraduate and law degrees from Harvard University. He began his legal career in 1978 with the law firm of Dickinson, Wright, Moon, Van Dusen & Freeman, becoming a partner in the firm in 1982. In 1992, he joined AAA Michigan, serving as its vice-president, corporate secretary and general counsel.

Young, who has served as an adjunct professor at Wayne State University Law School for a number of years, is the author of Active Liberty and the Problem of Judicial Oligarchy in The Supreme Court and the Idea of Constitutionalism (Kautz, Melzer, Weinberger & Zinman, Eds., University of Pennsylvania Press 2009). He is a co-editor of Michigan Civil Procedure During Trial, 2d Ed. (Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1989) and Michigan Civil Procedure (Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1999). He was awarded honorary degrees from Michigan State University and Central Michigan University.

Young has served on the boards of many charitable business and civic organizations, including United Community Services of Metropolitan Detroit and Vista Maria, a resource center for disadvantaged young women and girls. He has also served as a trustee of the Detroit Institute of Children, The Detroit Historical Society, and the Governor’s Task Force on Children’s Justice Concerning Child Abuse and Neglect. A former commissioner of the Michigan Civil Service Commission, Young was a trustee of Central Michigan University, University Liggett School, and the Grosse Pointe Academy. He is a former chair of the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce “Leadership Detroit” program.