The race for the Michigan Supreme Court holds much more significance for Michigan than many people realize. First of all, it’s important for voters to understand the process Michigan utilizes for electing Supreme Court justices. Candidates for Supreme Court are nominated at the state political party conventions, but they appear on the non-partisan portion of the ballot at the polls. So straight ticket voting won’t include votes for Michigan Supreme Court candidates. The only indicator present on the ballot is “Justice of the Supreme Court.” It is very important for voters to know a candidate’s background and understand their judicial philosophy when choosing a justice.
Second, the Michigan Supreme Court race is critically important because, as the Michigan Chamber has learned over time, you can win the battle then lose the war when activist judges rewrite laws from the bench and ignore the statutory enactments of elected legislators.
On election day, voters need to know which candidates for Michigan Supreme Court acknowledge that they are judges, not legislators, and who will adhere to the rule of law.
Below is some information on two Michigan Supreme Court candidates who are running for election on November 8th.
Meet Candidate Justice David Viviano
Justice Viviano was appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court in 2013 and elected to complete the remainder of his term in 2014. He is now running for a full eight-year term on the court.
What He Wants You to Know...
It is important for people to know that I believe our courts exist for the benefit of the people and the communities we serve, not lawyers or judges. Nor does the court exist to benefit any particular constituency or person over another. Equal justice under law means that the party with the better argument on how the law applies to a given set of facts must prevail, without consideration of status, wealth, or influence and without reference to popular sentiment or politiccal expedience.
What You Might Be Surprised to Know...
Justice Viviano has promoted technological innovation within the court system. He led the Macomb Circuit Court's e-filing pilot project, which streamlined operations and improved the court's ability to manage and share electronic data. He also worked to expand the court's use of video conferencing to conduct court hearings more efficiently and safely with reduced cost to taxpayers. Nearly 800 virtual courtrooms are saving taxpayers $4.8 million this year along. Justice Viviano now serves as the Supreme Court's point person for judicial training and statewide e-filing.
Who He Considers His Hero and Why...
My role model in the law is my father, retired judge Antonio Viviano. He inspired me to pursue a career in the law and in public service. He taught me by word and deed how important it is to have integrity, to work hard and to always treat others with respect. I also inherited my dad’s love of history, and his appreciation for the contribution of lawyers to the founding and continued vitality of our country. Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention Justice Antonin Scalia. Because of his intellectual acuity and vigor, the fundamentals of the rule-of-law judicial philosophy are now universally accepted as black-letter law in courts throughout the nation. Justice Scalia has laid the groundwork for judges here and around the country to apply a rule-of-law judicial philosophy.
Learn more at vivianoforjustice.com.
Meet Candidate Justice Joan Larsen
Justice Larsen served on the faculity of the University of Michigan Law School for more than a decade where she was also special counsel to the Dean. She was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2015 and is running for a two-year partial term.
What She Wants You to Know...
I would like everyone to understand the substantial effect the Supreme Court can have on the lives of everyday citizens and their government. Judges must ensure that the actions of government do not exceed their constitutional boundaries or interfere with the People’s constitutional rights. Judges must keep government in check by faithfully applying the texts of the Constitutions of the United States and of the State of Michigan. Rule-of-law Justices who believe in the separation of powers and equal justice under the law offer confidence to those that come before the Court that all will be treated fairly and with respect.
What You Might Be Surprised to Know...
Michigan is a national leader in veterans' treatment courts, with more courts serving our veterans than any other state. The Supreme Court has focused considerable attention on treatment courts because they have been found to reduce recidivism and save taxpayer dollars. Participants in drug and mental health courts are two times less likely to reoffend than their non-participant peers. And, unemployment among treatment court graduates has been cut from 31 percent to 8 percent. I am proud to be the Supreme Court’s liason to our successful drug, sobriety, mental health, and veterans courts.
Who She Considers Her Hero and Why...
I am indebted to and admire the two judges for whom I was privileged to clerk, Justice Antonin Scalia and Judge David Sentelle. Both are jurists of great intellect and integrity, who instilled in me a reverence for the separation of powers and the limited, but important, role of the judiciary in our constitutional democracy. They taught me to think critically, to read the law carefully, and to judge each case fairly, according to the law and the facts. I have always had great reverence for the first Justice Harlan, particularly for his dissent in Plessy v. Ferguson. And I am indebted to Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (and to President Ronald Reagan) for showing us that women could serve.
Learn more at justicejoan.com.
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