Michigan justices agree to hear arguments on government overhaul measure

By Chris Rizo | Aug 29, 2008

Michigan Supreme Court building

LANSING, Mich. (Legal Newsline)-- The Michigan Supreme Court has said it will hear an appeal from proponents of a proposed ballot measure that would overhaul the state's government by cutting judges' salaries and reduce the number of top-level jurists and trim the size of the state Legislature.

Earlier this month, a three-judge panel threw the proposal backed by Reform Michigan Government Now off the November ballot. The state high court said Thursday it will hear oral arguments in the case Wednesday.

The appeals court panel said since the proposal was a "general revision" of the state constitution the ideas had to be considered in a constitutional convention. The justices also said the measure has a "reach and expanse never before seen" in Michigan constitutional amendments.

If the measure passes, the Supreme Court's two junior members -- Justices Stephen Markman and Robert Young -- would lose their posts Dec. 20.

In an order, the justices said they have an obligation to hear the case, noting that: "RMGN has not asserted, nor do we believe there is any basis for a claim, that we harbor any 'actual bias' for or against any party."

Opposed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the ballot proposal would also eliminate seven appeals court judgeships while adding to judges at the circuit court level.

The proposed ballot initiative would also reduce the salaries of legislators, the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, and secretary of state by 25 percent, and limit retirement benefits for those elected officials to no more than what retired state employees receive.

Under the proposal, the state Senate would be reduced from 38 seats to 28, while the House would go from 110 to 82 seats.

From Legal Newsline: Reach reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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