By Frank Beckmann

Originally published in The Detroit News, June 17, 2011

We’ve witnessed a breathtaking power grab by the Obama administration and its allies, ranging from health care, to student loans, to environmental rules, to banking regulations, among others.

Now these same proponents are taking their crusade to the state level and Michigan is their latest battlefront.

The issue is the election of state Supreme Court judges, a responsibility left to the decision of voters in 35 states including our own.

Fifteen other states use a so-called merit system for choosing judges, a process begun in Missouri in 1906 and currently under review by eight of the states, which have some misgivings about their earlier decisions to follow the lead of the “Show Me State.”

But even while some states consider fully entrusting their voters to again choose judges, Democrat party supporter George Soros — no fan of America as we know it — has launched a $45 million effort through his Open Society Institute to convince states to take away voter choice in favor of the system that allows lawyers to choose which judges are best for the electorate.

In Michigan, the campaign began late last year with the formation of a 24-member Judicial Selection Task Force, headed up by Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly.

The group organized a forum at Wayne State University this week and brought in keynote speaker Sandra Day O’Connor, the former U.S. Supreme Court Justice who has become the national megaphone for the Soros effort.

Her address echoed the sentiment of a majority of the stacked list of participants who want to convince Michigan voters that the elite legal community is far more capable than average citizens of selecting judges to our highest court.

Missouri and other states that do not allow voters to choose judges to their highest court employ a basic form of selection where a group of lawyers recommends a handful of candidates for gubernatorial appointment and voters periodically are allowed to determine if those incumbents should remain on the bench during retention elections.

Three Iowa justices were voted out last year, but that’s a rarity, according to opponents of the method.

If a governor doesn’t like any of the choices, the responsibility for selection reverts to the unelected panel, with its own special interests, that made the recommendations.

O’Connor, like other supporters of the inappropriately named merit system — more appropriately called a crony system — claims that courts can only remain fair “as long as we keep political influences and cash out of the courtroom.”

Soros spokesman Bert Brandenburg has bemoaned the influence of campaign contributions in judicial races, claiming, “Much of this money is from lawyers and interested groups who appear before these candidates in court.”

But the merit system allows lawyers — who would “appear before these candidates” — to have a direct influence on the selection of the judges.

There is no way to keep politics out of judicial selection — especially if an elected governor is making the choice — under any system, none of which is perfect.

But the Michigan method of using a popular vote to choose justices is far preferable and much more transparent than a private selection process.

Nationally, the president has the responsibility of naming U.S. Supreme Court justices but his choices are thoroughly vetted by the Senate, whose members are elected by the people.

The Soros/O’Connor/Kelly plan to strip Michigan citizens of their franchise offers no such safeguard.

Rather than removing politics from the system, it simply cloaks the politics in secrecy and empowers a select few to limit the field of candidates for the most important court in the state.

Michigan voters should be prepared to witness an accelerated campaign by Soros and his surrogates to change state law and bring their unmeritorious scheme to our state.

This is a campaign that will not be easily defeated.

Proponents of removing voter choice were defeated in Nevada in November.

It was their third effort to change that state’s laws.

One hopes Michigan voters will make the same decision when they’re eventually asked to do the same.

Frank Beckmann is host of “The Frank Beckmann Show” on WJR-AM (760) from 9 a.m.-noon Monday-Friday. Email comments to letters@detnews.com.