LANSING, Mich. — A Jackson County judge has been hired to oversee the Michigan court system.

Chad Schmucker is the new state court administrator after 20 years as a judge. Robert Young Jr., chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, says he’s highly respected and an innovator in technology and how courts operate.

The state court administrator oversees the operations of Michigan’s trial court system. Schmucker was made a judge in 1991 by Gov. John Engler and was Jackson County’s chief judge for 10 of his 20 years on the bench.

Schmucker is succeeding Carl Gromek, who is retired as state court administrator.


Times of Malta

Brian Zahra, son of Larry Zahra, Malta’s honorary consul in Detroit, has been appointed to the Supreme Court of Michigan.

Judge Zahra, 51, who until recently sat on the Michigan Court of Appeals, replaces Justice Maura Corrigan, who has now been appointed director of the Department of Human Services.

Judge Zahra’s appointment by the governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder, was praised by The Detroit News, which quoted former Detroit mayor Dennis Archer, a Democrat and a former Supreme Court judge, as “an outstanding and fair-minded judge”. According to the newspaper, “Judge Zahra has a sharp legal mind and writes opinions that are unmistakably clear”.

The Detroit Free Press said Zahra “will add important intellect and pensiveness to the high court bench. His actions should match that potential”.

Judge Zahra, who is a Republican, will have to stand for re-election in November 2012.

A 1977 graduate of Dearborn Divine Child High School, Zahra received a Bachelor of General Studies degree from Wayne State University in 1984. After graduating cum laude from the University of Detroit Law School, he served for two years as law clerk to Judge Lawrence Zatkoff, of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. He then joined the Detroit-based law firm ofDickinson, Wright, Moon, Van Dusen & Freeman and became a partner in the firm.

In 1994, Zahra was appointed to the Wayne County Circuit Court by Governor John Engler and won a six-year term in the 1996 election. Engler appointed Zahra to the Court of Appeals in December 1998; Zahra was elected to a six-year term on that court in 2000.

Judge Zahra resides in Northville Township with his wife, Suzanne Casey, and their two children. He has visited Malta a number of times and during one of them he also met the latePresident Guido de Marco.


Editorial: The case for fewer judges in Michigan

On January 19, 2011, in News Stories, by bobyoung

By The Grand Rapids Press Editorial Board

In 2007 then-Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Clifford Taylor called for the elimination of some judgeships to save money. Solid evidence, including shifting population and declining case loads, supported that recommendation. But the Legislature and then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm failed to act. In fact the number of judges across Michigan grew, even as Michigan population shrank and its budget cried out for cutting.

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young

Newly elected Chief Justice Robert Young has revived the call for judicial right-sizing. The state faces a continuing money crisis. If “everything is on the table,” as lawmakers frequently say, then the Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder should put Justice Young’s proposal into action.

The plan will generate considerable resistance, as always happens with attempts to pare back judgeships. Communities view the proposed down-sizing as a threat to their status and prestige. Interests will inevitably arise to protest. But in a state that lost population in the recent Census count, this is an obvious place to save.

Mr. Young wants to eliminate judges in circuit and district courts, as well as some at the Michigan Court of Appeals. In addition, he proposes consolidating some districts to maximize resources.

Every two years, the State Court Administrative Office, which is overseen by the Supreme Court, reviews judgeships and makes recommendations. That report is due later this year. The office’s analysis from 2009 identifies 14 trial court judge positions that are no longer needed, and four Appeals Court posts that should go.

The proposed reductions range across the state. In our area, the report suggests eliminating three district judgeships, one each in Lake and Mason counties; Kalamazoo County; and Benzie and Manistee counties. The 2009 report recommends no changes for Kent and Ottawa counties. Any reductions would occur through attrition.

There are currently 28 Appeals Court judges. The report suggests going to 24.
The workload on the Appeals Court has dropped from 7,951 filings in 2006 to 6,936 in 2008. The court handles these filings in two ways: through orders, short statements ruling on requests; and through longer and thoroughly researched opinions – the heavy lifting of appeals courts everywhere. Opinions have declined from 3,494 in 2006 to 2,903 in 2008.

Justice Young has not yet made specific numerical recommendations. The upcoming judicial resources report, which he hopes will be out this summer, should provide a basis for that. But he doesn’t see things getting better than they were two years ago and he wants the Legislature to figure these reductions into the budget.

The justice estimates the savings to the state budget to be more than $4 million on a combined court budget of about $150 million. The savings to local communities would be even greater.
Every local judge costs the state about $160,000 for salary and benefits. Counties, cities and townships cover other costs which Mr. Young estimates at about $300,000 per judgeship. Local communities need to save, too.

The state savings is not huge when you compare it to a now confirmed $1.8 billion deficit. But every dollar helps. In the state’s progressive belt-tightening, every branch of government should be able to find places to save.

Chief Justice Young has offered to put his branch of government on the chopping block. The Legislature and governor should comply.


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.


Gongwer News Service

Justice Robert Young Jr. was elected Michigan’s chief justice on Wednesday, succeeding former Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly just two years after she had defeated him for the chief’s post. And as the new chief justice, Mr. Young said he will try to lead efforts to enact “smart cuts” to the state’s judiciary to help in “these dire fiscal times.”

That will include recommending the state reduce the overall number of judges and to move aggressively to convince local courts to better consolidate operations where there is an uneven distribution of work.

Officials with the Supreme Court did not release the vote of the seven members of the court, but with Republican-nominated justices now dominating the chamber with four justices to the three nominated by Democrats, Mr. Young would have had at least four votes to win the post.

In an interview, Mr. Young said the vote would not be disclosed.

He had earlier told associates and friends that he had the four votes needed to win election after he won re-election to the court along with new Justice Mary Beth Kelly.

His election as chief justice also comes as it is expected that Justice Maura Corrigan, herself a former chief justice, will soon resign from the court to be appointed by Governor Rick Snyder as director of the Department of Human Services. Asked about that possibility, Mr. Young said the potential resignation is “either a cruel hoax or the worst kept secret.”

He also said he had not spoken with Mr. Snyder about any appointments to the court.

Traditionally, chief justices have served two two-year terms. The last chief justice before Ms. Kelly to serve just one term was former Justice Elizabeth Weaver. The court’s decision to deny her a second term is seen as the start of a years-long bitter dispute between she and other Republican justices, including Mr. Young. She sided with Democrats in 2009 to elect Ms. Kelly the chief justice, and during the recent election campaign revealed that she had recorded some judicial conferences where Mr. Young had used racial slurs in making some arguments.

Ms. Weaver resigned from the court last summer, and without directly ascribing the court’s recent acrimony to her, Mr. Young said that the court in the last several months had been far more collegial than it had been in years. “I expect that to continue,” he said. “It’s an extreme departure from the difficult times of the past.”

Mr. Young, a Detroit native, was first named to the court in 1998 by then-Governor John Engler to succeed former Chief Justice Conrad Mallett, who resigned. At the time, Mr. Young said he was a “Republican person, but not a Republican jurist.”

He promised at the time to dedicate his “energy and modest talents” to be the best justice he could be.

He was just the fourth African-American named to the state’s highest bench, and since his appointment has been the only African American on the Supreme Court. In 1998, he said more still had to be done to ensure equality among the races.

Mr. Young earned both his bachelor’s and law degrees from Harvard. He practiced law with Dickinson Wright PLLC in Detroit before becoming general counsel to AAA of Michigan. Before being appointed in 1995 to the Court of Appeals he had served on the Michigan Civil Rights Commission and as a trustee to Central Michigan University.

He won election to the court in what were seen as unusually bitter elections in 2000 and 2002. His re-election last November was relatively easy, although he finished second in balloting to Mary Beth Kelly.

With his election as chief justice, Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer, a longtime vociferous Young critic, said, “The Court will go back to its ways of protecting insurance companies, corporations, sexual predators and polluters over the people of Michigan.”

Mr. Young said Mr. Brewer’s comments were “not true.”

What the court had focused on in the last decade was largely deciding on the meaning of legislation passed during Mr. Engler’s administration, Mr. Young said, when Mr. Engler and the Legislature focused on bills to cut down on the number of lawsuits filed.

In something of a backhanded slap at the Granholm administration, Mr. Young said not that many laws had been passed in the last decade. Had more legislation been passed, then the court might have focused on interpreting those measures, he said.

After the court held its election, Mr. Young asked Gary Olson, the former director of the Senate Fiscal Agency, to outline the state’s changed fiscal situation over the past decade.

“This was a horrific presentation,” Mr. Young said. “We are no longer facing the prospect of turning around when the economy gets better. We have made an objective drop in statewide wealth and prosperity. I can’t help but think the same nostrums used in the last decade to paper over the true situation will no longer work.”

Saying his focus as chief justice will be on overall administration, Mr. Young also said he will try to offer to Mr. Snyder and the Legislature “smart cuts. We aren’t burdened by uninformed cuts from the other two branches.”

That will be difficult, he said, as the judiciary’s total budget is just 1 percent of the state’s budget, and that “we are down to the sinews and the rest is bone.”

The largest share of the judiciary’s budget is in judicial salaries and Mr. Young said he will press the administration and Legislature again to consider enacting provisions to reduce the number of judges on the bench.

The court had recommended several years ago that the number of Appeals judges be cut by four and trial judges by 16. The move was opposed by the then-chief Appeals Judge William Whitbeck and trial judges and not adopted (Mr. Whitbeck has been seen by some as a possible Supreme Court selection by Mr. Snyder, though he turns 70 later this month and would only be able to serve out the remainder of Ms. Corrigan’s term and not run for re-election in 2012).

But reducing the number of judgeships is where the state could save the greatest amount of money, Mr. Young said, and where local governments could save money in terms of secretarial salaries and other administrative costs.

Mr. Young said he would also push for local courts to consider consolidating court functions in areas where some courts are not very busy. Mr. Young said he would be very “aggressive” with those local courts where there has been “maldistribution of work.”


Detroit News

Lansing— The Michigan Supreme Court elected Robert Young Jr. today as its new chief justice.

He replaces Justice Marilyn Kelly as the top judge on the seven-member court. Kelly now is one of three Democrats in the court’s minority.

The justices made their selection during a private meeting. No official vote was released, but the court now has four Republicans.

The 59-year-old Young was re-elected in November to an eight-year term. He’s a conservative Republican from the Detroit area who was appointed to the court in 1999 and first elected in 2002.

Among his top priorities will be reducing the number of judgeships statewide and encouraging court consolidation to save money.

“Budget cutting alone will not be enough,” Young said in a release. “There is room for meaningful change and improvement in the third branch of government, even as we do our part to address the state’s budget crisis.” Republican Justice Maura Corrigan is expected to resign soon to lead the Department of Human Services under the new governor, Republican Rick Snyder, who will name her replacement.


Mich. Supreme Court Picks Chief Justice

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

New Chief Justice Says Trial Judge Must be Cut

Associated Press

DETROIT – Robert Young Jr. was chosen chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday, and he immediately declared that he would recommend that lawmakers cut the number of trial judges because of an extraordinary state budget crisis.

Young, a conservative from the Detroit area, was chosen during a private meeting of the court. He refused to release the vote, but Republicans are back in the majority, 4-3, after the fall election.

In an interview with The Associated Press, he jokingly referred to his new post as being a “fire hydrant in the dog pound.”

“You are the administrative head, both of the court and the third branch of government,” said Young, 59, who was re-elected to another eight-year term in November.

He wants Michigan to consolidate its county courts where possible and eliminate many judgeships due to declining population, caseloads and a lack of money. Young said the Supreme Court recommended getting rid of 20 slots in 2007 but lawmakers refused.

“We’re now years past that with a yawning budget crisis,” said Young, adding that a new report soon will recommend even more cuts.

Young and newcomer Mary Beth Kelly were elected in a Republican sweep of Michigan’s top offices. Former Justice Elizabeth Weaver campaigned against him and disclosed that Young, who is black, had used the N-word during a private conference with other justices in 2006.

Weaver said she had proof because she secretly recorded the court’s discussions while participating by conference call. After the election, the court sent her a letter of rebuke.

Young said he won’t ask Weaver to surrender any tapes or transcripts.

“It’s time to leave and bury the past and move forward,” he said. More change is looming at the court.

Justice Maura Corrigan is expected to resign soon to lead the Department of Human Services under the new governor, Rick Snyder, who would then name her replacement.


Detroit Legal News Examiner

By Margaret Lucas Agius

The justices of the Michigan Supreme Court have elected Robert P. Young, Jr. as Chief Justice, the court announced today. The court elects a chief justice at the beginning of every odd-numbered year.

A Detroit native, Young earned both 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. In 1992, he joined AAA Michigan as its vice-president, corporate secretary and general counsel.

Governor John Engler appointed him to the Michigan Court of Appeals in 1995, followed by Young’s election to that court in 1996. Engler then appointed him to the Michigan Supreme Court in 1999, followed by Young’s election in 2002 and re-election in 2010.

Young served as an adjunct professor at Wayne State University Law School for a number of years. He 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 MichiganCivil Procedure During Trial, 2d Ed. (Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1989) and Michigan Civil Procedure (Michigan Institute of Continuing Legal Education, 1999). Michigan State University and Central Michigan University have awarded him honorary degrees.


By Dawson Bell
Free Press Lansing Bureau

Recently re-elected Michigan Supreme Court Justice Robert Young Jr. was chosen this morning as the court’s new Chief Justice by his colleagues.

A breakdown of the vote on the seven-member court was not immediately released. But Young, a nominee of the Republican Party, was widely expected to benefit from the GOP’s return to majority after the November election.

Young was appointed to the state appeals court by former Gov. John Engler in 1995, and to the Supreme Court in 1999.