Here’s a story that’s all too common:
Right-wing dominated court; likes to pat itself on the back for being a “strict constructionalist” court that, regardless of its own justices’ preferences, follows the commands of the legislature expressed in the plain words of the statutes. No “judge-made law” here, just the power of the people expressed through their elected representatives.
Michigan’s Environmental Policy Act gave “any person” the right to sue over environmental damages, allowing people to act as citizen attorneys-general because, as the pols in the 1970s recognized, elected AGs and appointed state bureaucrats often aren’t actually all that interested in confronting contribution-wielding polluters.
So, this year, the Michigan Supreme Court GOP majority took off its strict constructionalist hat and donned its liberal interpretation hat to decide that, well, “any person” doesn’t mean what you might think it means.
Environmentalists have got to wake up to the fact that the federal and state judiciary has become the playground of the Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers (headed by King John Engler, the rotund capo di tutti capo who, as Michigan’s governor, appointed all the GOP members of the Michigan Supreme Court’s “Gang of Four.”)
Legislators and governors come and go, but even at the state level (without life tenure) judges tend to remain in place forever, precisely because there is so little attention paid to them.
That has to stop. Environmentalists need to scrutinize every judicial election closely and do everything possible to counter the pro-industry, pro-polluter, pro-defendant bias that is dominating the courts in this country.
For a quick way to tell who’s who, look for endorsements by tort reform groups (the Chamber, the NMA, Citizens for a Sound Economy, etc.) — there is virtually a one-to-one correspondence between the companies who treat the world as their sewer and the companies that want to limit your ability to go to court against them (but not their ability to go to court against you).
Get involved. Learn about the judicial races in your town, county, region, and state. Find out which candidates favor protection of corporate interests over protection of real people. And work to defeat and unseat them.
Remember, the country you save might be your own.