Chief Justice Young with Governor Snyder after the Governor signed the Judicial Resources Recommendation Bill, February 28, 2012.

JUDICIAL RIGHT-SIZING BILLS PASS HOUSE, HEAD TO GOVERNOR FOR SIGNING; CHIEF JUSTICE ROBERT P. YOUNG, JR. PRAISES LEGISLATORS FOR ‘DOING THE RIGHT THING FOR THE COURTS AND FOR THE TAXPAYERS’

LANSING, MI, February 14, 2012 – State legislators who passed bills to cut unneeded state judgeships came in for praise from Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr., as the last of the bills passed the House today.
Approved by the Senate last week, the bills now head to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature.

“The legislators are doing the right thing for the courts and for the taxpayers,” said Young. “In politics, it’s easy to grow the size of government, but it takes political courage to reduce it. These legislators showed their courage and their common sense.”

The Senate and House both overwhelmingly passed House Bills 5071-75, 5093-95, 5101-04, and 5106-07. If signed by Snyder, the bills, together with legislation already signed by Snyder, would cut 36 state trial court judgeships by attrition. “This is the largest cut in judgeships ever accomplished in the United States – it is unprecedented,” Young said.

When complete, the cuts will save the state approximately $6 million per year. The state will save about $750,000 by the end of 2012 from five open judicial seats that will be eliminated by the legislation.

The bills are based on the Judicial Resources Recommendations, a 2011 report issued by the State Court Administrative Office, the administrative agency of the Michigan Supreme Court. The report called for cutting 45 trial court judgeships in courts where the workload could be handled by fewer judges.

Young noted that SCAO has recommended cutting judgeships for many years. “But past Legislatures weren’t inclined to act,” he said. “The Senate and the House have taken a much-needed step by cutting judgeships that are no longer justified by the workload. This right-sizing of our judiciary is the front edge of reforms we need to make for a more service-oriented and efficient court system.”

Young said that the Supreme Court unanimously supported the 2011 Judicial Resources Recommendations and that the Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Judges Association, the Michigan Probate Judges Association, and the Michigan District Judges Association also endorsed 2 the findings. He also credited the State Bar of Michigan for calling for setting the number of judgeships based on workload.

SCAO, the Supreme Court’s administrative agency, issues a Judicial Resources Recommendations report every two years. For more information on the 2011 report, visit http:/www.courts.michigan.gov/supremecourt/Press/2011JRR.html.

– Michigan Supreme Court Public Information Office, February 14, 2012

 

State Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. holds Emery Lamp as he finalizes adoption proceedings for parents Eric and Jessica Lamp of Saranac. / ROD SANFORD/Lansing State Journal

By: Lauren Misjak

Lyn Chase balances 3-year-old Ruby on her hip with the easy grace of a loving mother.

Since the Dansville woman and her husband first met their newly adopted daughters – Ruby and 22-month-old Mara – nearly a year ago, they knew they were meant to be the girls’ parents.

Tuesday’s court hearings just made it official.

“They are just a joy to be around,” said father Kevin Chase. “They bring light into our lives every day.”

The Chases and two other Ingham County families were part of the 145 adoptions finalized across Michigan during the ninth annual Michigan Adoption Day.

Another pair of sisters, 13-year-old Angie and 11-year-old Elizabeth, also legally joined their “forever family” Tuesday – the Pheils of Stockbridge.

“I’m pretty psyched- big time,” said Elizabeth, who now has five additional older siblings. “When I first started (visiting Dan and Chris Pheils), I thought ‘This is kind of weird.’ But after a couple visits, once I started getting used to it I kept wanting to visit.”

About 30 counties recognized Michigan Adoption Day, which was designed to bring awareness and celebrate those who’ve permanently extended their hearts and homes to children in the foster care system.

“We hold it just before Thanksgiving so we all remember what we have to be thankful for,” said Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan, who spearheaded the annual day nine years ago.

Five floors below the Michigan Supreme Court chambers where the Pheils and Chases officially opened their arms to their newest kin, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that would help the 279 foster kids who have yet to meet adoptive families.

The Young Adult Voluntary Foster Care Act extends adoption, guardianship and foster care assistance until age 21, rather than 18, to better help in the transition to adulthood.

“I’m proud to say Michigan is becoming a leader of stepping up to the plate, saying we can’t leave these children just because they turn adults,” Snyder said.

“Let’s be relentless in making sure we’re taking care of the most important thing in our state: our children.”

Anthony Ashman, 20, of Macomb County, who spent seven years in foster care, receives help from a DHS program that pairs social workers at Western Michigan University with former foster children to further aid with growing responsibilities.

As part of the program, he received financial literacy training and has someone to lean on for help with finding housing and other issues. He applauded the new legislation, which is expected to be implemented next year after federal review.

“Everybody needs a person they can call on just to tell them about their day,” Ashman said.

“This extension of foster care will prevent young adults in the system from becoming another negative statistic.”

Lansing State Journal, November 23, 2011

 

Chief Justice Young recently appeared on the Detroit Public Television program American Black Journal, hosted by Detroit Free Press editorial page editor Stephen Henderson.  During the interview, Chief Justice Young not only discussed a wide range of issues related to judicial philosophy, but he also discussed his own background and why he decided to become a lawyer.  A video of the entire interview can be found at the following link: American Black Journal Interview with Chief Justice Young.

 

Detroit News: Trim Unneeded State Judgeships

On August 19, 2011, in Editorials, by youngadmin

State judges come up with responsible plan for downsizing court seats

The Detroit News

Published August 18, 2011

Michigan’s court system is saying it should be downsized. The court system’s administrative arm has come up with a recommendation that 45 trial court judgeships and four seats on the state Court of Appeals be eliminated. Michigan Chief Justice Robert Young has said the various state judges’ associations all agree on the findings. Such agreement is rare and should prompt legislative action.

As Young noted, the court system can only make recommendations to the Legislature about the number of judgeships; state lawmakers have to actually pass legislation to make the cuts.

The full picture is that there is an imbalance in the assignment of judges. While the State Court Administrative Office found — based on caseload studies — that 45 judgeships could be eliminated, there is a shortage of about 31 judges in other jurisdictions. However, given the financial condition of both state and local government, the administrative office is not recommending the creation of new slots for judges.

And in fact, the administrative agency and the judges themselves note that with changes in the law so that different judges can hear more kinds of cases, and with the proper use of technology, all of the new judgeships won’t have to be created.

Chief Wayne Probate Judge Milton Mack, a member of a committee looking at judgeships, in a Detroit News column written as the new evaluation process was beginning earlier this year, suggested that neighborhood district court judges could be empowered to appoint guardians for children in some cases, avoiding a trip to the county seat and the local probate court.

Investments in technology have allowed his court to shed more than 40 employees over the past decade while improving service, Mack said.

The administrative office’s Judicial Resources Report analysis notes that statewide, new case filings decreased in both trial and appellate courts over the last several years.

Elimination of all 49 judgeships could eventually lead to an estimated annual savings of more than $7 million in state and local expenses. The state pays a judge’s salary, but local jurisdictions cover pay and benefits for judicial secretaries, clerks and other aides.

The savings wouldn’t occur immediately. The plan is to eliminate the court positions by attrition when the judges leave the bench or retire. But having the plan outlined in law would preserve the savings when the opportunity arises. Governors sometimes want to reward their friends, and a judicial appointment is handsome way to do so.

As Young noted, it isn’t often that a branch of government suggests that it be shrunk, and then comes up with its own plan for making it happen.

State legislators should act quickly to take the judges up on their recommendations.

Original article available at: http://www.detnews.com/article/20110818/OPINION01/108180338/1008/OPINION01/Editorial–Trim-unneeded-state-judgeships

 

Posted on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, August 17, 2011

In this age of fiscal austerity, we’ve read many accounts of judicial officials raising concerns that proposed budget cuts to state courts could thwart litigants from exercising their legal rights.

In Michigan, though, state judges are on board with a proposal to trim their budgets.

In this statement, the Michigan Supreme Court today announced that trial and appellate judges in the state agree with a state report that recommends eliminating 45 trial judgeships and four appellate judicial positions.

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. said in the statement that it is unprecedented to have a state court system recognize “that it needs to shrink.”  He added: “That has never happened before. This is an aggressive, but achievable, set of recommendations. We are unaware of any reduction of this magnitude attempted anywhere in our country.”

At a news conference, Young said the cuts would save about $7.8 million in salaries and benefits, according to this report from Detroit News.

“Increasing the size of government is easy,” Young said. “It turns out it takes political courage to reduce it.”

Here’s a link to the report by the Michigan State Court Administrative Office, which recommended the judicial cuts but also concluded that new trial judgeships were needed in certain underserved parts of the state.

The Administrative Office, however, recommended against creating new judgeships at the current time “because of the state’s economic climate,” according to the statement by the Michigan Supreme Court.

http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2011/08/17/michigan-judges-agree-with-need-to-cut-court-budgets/

 

On August 17, 2011, Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr., appeared on the Frank Beckmann radio show to discuss the release of the Judicial Resources Recommendations report.  You can listen to the entire 13-minute interview here: 

http://www.wjr.com/FlashPlayer/default.asp?SPID=34613&ID=2264008

 

2011 Judicial Resources Recommendations

On August 18, 2011, in Press Releases, by youngadmin

 

2011 JUDICIAL RESOURCES RECOMMENDATIONS, INCLUDING CUTTING SOME JUDGESHIPS, ENDORSED BY UNANIMOUS MICHIGAN SUPREME COURT

Report by State Court Administrative Office calls for eliminating 45 trial court judgeships, four judgeships on the Michigan Court of Appeals; 31 new trial court judgeships also needed in some areas, SCAO finds, but does not recommend additions because of state, local economic climates.

LANSING, MI, August 17, 2011 – The state must eliminate 45 trial court judgeships as a first step toward “rebalancing the workload” of Michigan’s courts, Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr. said today, in announcing the findings of the 2011 Judicial Resources Recommendations report.

The report, which also recommends reducing the number of Michigan Court of Appeals judges from 28 to 24, finds that some trial courts need a combined 31 new trial court judgeships. But the State Court Administrative Office, which produced the report, said it was not recommending any new judgeships at this time because of the state’s economic climate.

Young said that the Supreme Court unanimously endorses the report’s recommendations. “The Court has historically not taken a position either way on the report’s findings, so the Court’s unanimous endorsement is recognition of the superior quality of the JRR,” he noted. The Michigan Court of Appeals, the Michigan Judges Association, the Michigan Probate Judges Association, and the Michigan District Judges Association also endorse the findings, Young added.

“This is unprecedented, not just in Michigan but nationally, to have a state court system not only recognize that it needs to shrink, but also have a practical plan to accomplish that goal,” said the chief justice. “And to have the universal endorsement of the judiciary’s leadership – that has never happened before. This is an aggressive, but achievable, set of recommendations. We are unaware of any reduction of this magnitude attempted anywhere in our country.”

Gov. Rick Snyder also supports the recommendations, Young said.

State Court Administrator Chad C. Schmucker explained that SCAO determined each trial court’s need for judges based on workload.

“We use a weighted caseload formula, so that we’re not looking just at numbers of cases, but also at how much of a judge’s time a particular type of case needs,” Schmucker said. “For example, a medical malpractice case takes longer to process than a traffic ticket. We then do an extended analysis to take into account other factors that might affect a court’s workload – 2

population and case filings trends, for example. The result is the right number of judges for that court’s workload and environment.”

The Court of Appeals analysis focused primarily on numbers of new case filings and opinions, Schmucker said. The appellate court’s filings have declined over the years; from 2006 to 2010, filings fell by 22 percent, he noted.

The SCAO report recommends eliminating unneeded judgeships by attrition, when a judge leaves office or dies.

SCAO, the Supreme Court’s administrative agency, issues a Judicial Resources Recommendations report every two years. While past reports have recommended reductions in the state’s trial and Court of Appeals benches, those recommendations were not implemented, Young said.

“The judicial branch can only recommend; it’s up to the Legislature to act, and we hope that they will act this time,” the chief justice said. “We would certainly not need to make as many reductions now if past Legislatures had heeded SCAO’s findings.”

For a complete list of proposed reductions and findings of needed judgeships, please see the Judicial Resources Report online at http://www.courts.michigan.gov/scao/resources/publications/reports/JRRSummary2011.pdf.

Michigan Supreme Court Public Information Office

 

On June 29, 2011, Chief Justice Young discussed the recent jury reform amendments on Frank Beckmann’s morning show.  You can listen to the entire interview at the following link:

Frank Beckmann Show Interview with Chief Justice Young, June 29, 2011

 

By Paula Holmes-Greeley, Muskegon Chronicle

Published Friday, July 8, 2011

New jury rules recently approved by the Michigan Supreme Court have the potential to help those serving on juries become better informed about the cases they are hearing and more active participants in the trial — and that should lead to better informed jury decisions.

Court officials say the changes should be especially helpful during lengthy trials, when jurors may find it hard to keep track of evidence and their attention may begin to wander.

The new rules could even improve citizen response to what often is a dreaded jury duty notice.

Frustration with the jury system is long-standing. Everyone wants their day in court, but very few are happy about having to help someone else get his or hers. When people feel like they are an important part of the process, they’re more likely to want to participate. Michigan jury reforms have the potential to create that kind of courtroom atmosphere.

And that’s all good. With the current debate over the decision in the Florida murder trial of Casey Anthony, it’s important that courts work to create confidence in our jury system by giving jurors the tools to make sound decisions and not handcuffing them with archaic procedures.

Michigan is a late arrival to the jury reform process. More than 30 states were discussing changes before Michigan began looking at proposals.

When announcing the reforms June 29, Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. described the changes as “designed to reflect how adults learn and make decisions.”

Jurors will now be encouraged to take notes and to ask questions of the witnesses through written requests reviewed by the judge and attorneys. Jurors also will be given reference books containing witness lists, key exhibits, explanations of the law and preliminary jury instructions.

In civil trials only, jurors will be allowed to discuss evidence and testimony during breaks while the information is fresh in their minds, something that is still forbidden in criminal trials. In those trials, jurors will not be able begin deliberations until the traditional time — at the end of the trial.

It’s important to note the jury reforms were tested in Muskegon County and 11 other counties during a two-year pilot project beginning in 2008. Many area citizens participated in trials using the reforms and found them to be effective, according to Muskegon County Circuit Judge Timothy Hicks. Hicks told The Chronicle that he’s pleased that some of the new procedures he tested are being adopted.

Hicks also wrote an article, “The Jury Reform Pilot Project — The Envelope, Please,” for the June issue of the Michigan Bar Journal. The report is based on written surveys that jurors and attorneys filled out after each trial in each of the 12 courts during the two-year trial period and on Hicks’ own courtroom experience.

His verdict: Jurors liked the reforms; trial lawyers didn’t. Hicks urged support for the changes, which will take effect in September, and The Chronicle Editorial Board joins him.

The court system and the opportunity to have your case decided by a jury of your peers is one of the most revered rights of this nation. Based on the number and popularity of court related TV shows — both fictional and reality — it’s clear there’s plenty of interest in the judicial system. The problem with TV is it’s all over in 30 minutes and viewers receive plenty of background that jurors aren’t getting.

Being a juror is a very demanding job. Making it easier for jurors to understand procedure and to participate in the process can only improve the system. Allowing jurors to use the tools and approach they would employ in a normal decision-making process can only improve the outcome.

 

June 16, 2011

By Dan Pero

While Sandra Day O’Connor’s “merit” selection powwow at Wayne State University earlier this week was heavily stacked with anti-election activists, former Michigan Chief Justice Clifford Taylor managed to crash the party, delivering a thoughtful, measured speech that ruthlessly demolished the arguments behind “merit selection.”  It’s important reading for supporters of democracy in judicial selection, and I’ll try to get a link to the full speech, but here are some highlights:

  • All Judicial Selection Methods are Political:  “Any state appellate court judicial selection method – gubernatorial appointment with or without legislative confirmation, partisan or non-partisan election or the currently hyped and cleverly named, merit selection – can and does create the potential for the selectee to feel, or be perceived to feel, beholden to the selector.”
  • Today’s Judges Are Just Impartial Arbiters of the Law:  “In the last 40 years or so state appellate judges increasingly have made policy, not just by modifying the common law as they traditionally have, but also by, for the first time, deciding disputed moral values questions such as same sex marriage and precluding, on little more basis than they think they are wrong-headed, certain economic regulations such as tort reform, product liability reform and medical malpractice reforms of various sorts.”
  • “Merit” Selection Isn’t About Merit:  “Merit selection advocates claim that it will get politics out and focus only on the applicant’s credentials….The problem however is that looking at these things alone won’t get you anywhere because almost invariably all the applicants will have good credentials … even if diligent efforts are made to use just these merit templates, it quickly becomes clear that it is reckless to say that because one applicant, many years ago, had a 3.5 GPA and another a 3.6 GPA in different law schools or that, later in life, one was a Boy Scout leader and the other a Food Bank volunteer one is “merit qualified” and the other isn’t.
  • “Merit” Commissions Inevitably Focus on Politics/Ideology:  “In practice what is to be expected is that the merit selection panel, having found no actionable differences in credentials, will be focused on where the applicant is on controversial questions like tort reform, medical malpractice liability reform, sexual liberty issues, religious expression in the public square, pornography, and that perennial favorite that has dominated judicial selection matters across the country since 1973, abortion, as well as many other similarly edgy traditionally political issues that are increasingly coming before our courts.”
  • The Evidence is Clear:  “… when we look at how merit selection has worked in Missouri and Tennessee it is hard to deny that they have been doing politics not merit. [Vanderbilt Law] Professor [Brian] Fitzpatrick found that judges picked by the so-called non-partisan selection commissions overwhelmingly leaned Democrat. His findings, as summarized by the Wall Street Journal on April 18th, 2009, were that ‘Since 1995 in Tennessee, 67% of appellate nominees more often voted in Democratic primaries, compared to 33% who voted more often in Republican primaries. As to Missouri, “of the roughly half of the appellate nominees who made campaign contributions some 88% donated to Democrats while only 12% went to Republicans.’ And if this data isn’t convincing that the Missouri picks were really based on politics and not merit, then how can you explain the fact that three recent Chief Justices had extremely political backgrounds. Ronnie White was a high profile legislator, Michael Wolff was a former Chief Counsel to a Governor as was Edward Robinson. These don’t sound like platonic guardians of the law to me.”
  • Judicial Selection is Political Because There is a Divide over the Role of Judges:  “… what any evaluator of any selection system has to come to grips with, I believe, is the inescapable reality that there is a great divide in this country on how powerful judges should be in the making of public policy. This almost invariably will color any decision on the selection of judges including those made by merit selection committees….It is this split that explains the titanic battles of the last 25 years played out in the U.S. Senate over the confirmation of federal judges, and the fractious state supreme court justice campaigns of recent years across the nation. Clearly, these are not fights over credentials. They are fights over the direction of public policy and who will make it….To claim to somehow convert this fundamental split over the proper judicial role in a representative democracy into a polite, almost scientific, inquiry as to whether the candidate got an A or B in Contracts or volunteered enough at the United Way is an undertaking both foolish and hopeless.”
  • “Merit” Selection Advocates Want to Push Courts in Their Ideological Direction:  “I believe the sophisticated folks who argue for merit selection really know that merit is just an attractive ruse and what is really going on is merit selection gives them the best chance to get judges on the bench who share their political and policy views.”
  • Elections are Open, Transparent:  “… as there will be this kind of politics involved in the selection decision, however made, the only question is do we want it to occur openly and robustly in the public square with all the people deciding which candidate has merit, broadly defined to include these essentially political matters, or behind closed doors with clearly bogus proclamations that the ‘merit process is just looking for the best person using impartial measures.’”
  • Election are a Safeguard Against Imperial Courts:  “Public elections, allowing all voters to decide who should be the state’s appellate judges, while not flawless, are, I believe, the best of the alternatives. Voters can decide if the candidates are too close to their backers and who has merit. Whatever else may be said in evaluating these systems, the final measure should be that elections have the virtue, to a greater degree than any other system, and surely more than merit selection does, of allowing the people to rise up and change their courts if they wish to. Such power for our citizens is entirely consistent with this nation’s approach to governance and should not be abandoned precipitously for an alternative system that casually deals them out.”
  • “Merit” Selection is Under Fire:  “There are serious efforts to abolish the merit selection systems in Missouri, Kansas, Tennessee, Florida and Oklahoma and in Iowa to a lesser extent. In Arizona, the legislature just put a ballot measure on the 2012 ballot that will reduce the bar’s influence. Moreover, last year in Nevada, with Justice O’Connor’s active involvement to assist in its passage, Question 1, to replace the state’s elections system with merit selection, was overwhelmingly defeated.”

Carrie Severino over at Bench Memos does an excellent job summing up and critiquing O’Connor’s remarks here.