Legislature backs up Mich. Chief Justice

John O'Brien Jun. 7, 2007, 2:00pm


LANSING, Mich. - Michigan's legislature paid attention when Supreme Court Justice Clifford Taylor urged Gov. Jennifer Granholm to delay the appointment of a few judges.

Legislators now hope Granholm will listen to them.

The state Senate passed a resolution Thursday urging Granholm to delay the filling of judicial vacancies until after the Supreme Court releases its Judicial Resources Report in August. The state's court system is currently in a crunch after its budget was reduced by $2.94 million.

Three controversial appointments -- in Flint, Kalamazoo and Pontiac -- can be delayed, said Taylor.

"These communities were found to be overjudged in the 2005 Judicial Resources Report. Our analysis so far indicates the 2007 report, which will be completed by early August, will reach the same conclusion," Taylor wrote to Granholm recently

Also, two Court of Appeals judgeships will soon be vacated, and Taylor thinks the state should rethink how many judges sit on the Court's bench.

"There are currently a number of judicial vacancies in our circuit courts and pending vacancies in the Court of Appeals," the Senate resolution says. "Every day judicial seats remain vacant saves the state money and reduces the impact of any spending reductions made necessary by our requirement to balance the state's budget.

"Changing patterns of judicial activity and trends in court annual filings may have made some of these seats unnecessary. Any decision to automatically fill these vacancies risks misallocating scarce taxpayer resources."

Taylor said each trial judge costs taxpayers about $157,000 annually.

"Maintaining judicial vacancies until the Supreme Court's Judicial Resources Report can be analyzed and acted upon will save significant sums of money which may reduce the need for further furloughs for judiciary employees," the resolution says.

"This savings can be made without risking the core function of the judiciary of providing timely justice to our people. Once the judiciary, legislature, and executive branch assess the needs of our court system, we can chart a course that will save money in future years while ensuring the provision of justice for all."

Republican Senators Alan Sanborn, Bruce Patterson, Wayne Kuipers, Jud Gilbert, Mike Bishop and John Pappageorge offered the resolution.

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