Mich. Chief Justice has Democratic opponent

John O'Brien Sep. 8, 2008, 4:18pm


LANSING, Mich. (Legal Newsline) - Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Diane Hathaway will face off against state Supreme Court Justice Clifford Taylor in a heated race for a spot on Michigan's highest court.

The state Democratic Party officially named Hathaway as its candidate Saturday at its convention. Hathaway has been a judge since 1993 and finished third in a three-person race for the state Court of Appeals in 2006.

According to a report in the Detroit Free Press, Hathaway told attendees that it was time to "take back the Michigan Supreme Court and make it a people's court," then accused Taylor of routinely siding with insurance companies and large corporations.

Taylor has been on the state Supreme Court since 1997, when Gov. John Engler to fill the seat vacated by retiring Justice Dorothy Comstock Riley. He was elected in 1998.

He has been a target of state Democrats who hope to overturn the Court's Republican majority. Even before the Democrats named their candidate, they promoted an anti-Taylor message.

In July, Democrats criticized Taylor for referring to himself as "just one of the boys" as it pertains to any strain the role of chief justice puts on his relationships with other justices. Democratic Chairman Mark Brewer said Taylor's record on the Court shows an indifference toward sexual harassment.

"Taylor's reference to his role on the Court as 'one of the boys' is an insult to women, which is no surprise given his record of indifference to workplace rape and abuse," Brewer said.

"At a time when women have made so many strides toward being treated as equals, especially in the workplace, it is disturbing to see this attitude at the highest levels of government."

Democrats also called on Taylor not to block a proposal that would cut the pay of judges around the state.

"Any attempt by Taylor to keep this issue away from the voters will be a blatant political move intended only to protect his personal pay and special perks," Brewer said.

Last month, Taylor, who has raised more than $1.5 million for his campaign, had harsh words for his critics, according to a report by The Associated Press.

"The Democratic Party wants to go back to the days of frivolous lawsuits," Taylor said, according to the report.

"They want to go back to the days where trial lawyers would shop around for judges who would deconstruct the law or the constitution should that be required in a particular cause."

The Manhattan Institute recently released an issue of its Trial Lawyers, Inc. series that focused on the legal climate in Michigan.

"Trial Lawyers, Inc. has been hoping to replace this well-schooled and principled jurist; with liberal activist justices holding three of the seven seats on the court, replacing Justice Taylor with one of their own would facilitate a judicial assault on legislatively enacted tort reforms," the report says.

From Legal Newsline: Reach John O'Brien by e-mail at john@legalnewsline.com.

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