Michigan Supreme Court justices Young and McCormack discuss inner-workings
It was billed as the “Bob & Bridget Show: Behind the Scenes at the Michigan Supreme Court.”
But Detroit Economic Club luncheon on Tuesday, featuring Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. and Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, turned into a light-hearted discussion on how Michigan’s judiciary is a model for the nation.
Nolan Finley, Editorial Page Editor for The Detroit News, moderated the discussion, asking both justices about their “unexpected love fest,” with a record number of unanimous cases on the court in recent years and $175 million in budget savings that includes 7 percent fewer judges in the state.
“We are used to acrimony and competition. We have a high functioning court right now... I’m sure this makes some people unhappy, but we are doing our job,” said McCormack, who joined the court in 2013.
Appointed by former Gov. John Engler, Young said the relationship he has with McCormack is unique.
“We are committed to understanding what the other two branches have done... The rule of law is when lawmakers make the law. We usually don’t make the law,” Young said.
Young and McCormack have been credited with working with their colleagues to help usher in a renewed collegiality on the court, while driving change and improving service to the public.
During his tenure as chief justice, Young says he has been dedicated to “rightsizing” Michigan’s judiciary so that it costs no more than necessary for the efficient administration of justice.
Twenty-five judgeships have already been cut, saving taxpayers $6.1 million over the past four years, and 15 more judgeships are slated for elimination.
Official said the cumulative effect will be a 7 percent reduction in the total number of judges statewide and $175 million in savings to taxpayers.
McCormack, who co-founded the Michigan Innocence Clinic, talked about her views on sentencing, saying lawmakers decide sentences, but pre-trial detention efficiencies are real, happening nationwide and should be discussed by the judiciary.
“They talk about who needs to be in jail or not. There are some real efficiencies we can take advantage of and be real leaders on this,” she said.
Young talked about e-filing system connecting to a 125 digital platforms that will make the court much more efficient. Video conferencing is available across the state, McCormack said.
“I want the Secretary of State system for every juror. I want you to look at your phone to see if you have jury service or not,” Young said.
The state now uses drug, mental health and veterans courts to solve problems and save lives, Young said.
“These people can remain in the communities and in their families and get at the root causes of (problems). This is how we should be dealing with these things,” he said.