The Wall Street Journal has a story praising the Michigan Supreme Court as the greatest in the land. The logic of the author Patrick Wright (a senior legal analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, where he directs the Legal Studies Project) is essentially is that this court is so 'brave and just' that it is willing to freely overturn any precedent or statute it disagrees with. The most amazing thing is that the court's greatness is so compelling to the author that he gushes about what is effectively legislating from the bench. He states:
Respect for precedent is basic to the stability and predictability that is a prized achievement of the rule of law; but it can also turn into a rule of unreason, impeding necessary reform. Refreshingly, the Michigan Supreme Court has been willing to simply admit error and move on.
Of course, one man’s meat is another man’s poison. One persons view that a decision is in error is little more than a political preference is most (but not all) instances. And the author of this article no doubt agrees with the political outcomes in these cases which makes supporting the court easy. Of course, nearly all lawyers in Michigan accept that we have an extremely conservative Michigan Supreme Court, and most believe that the Court comes to the political result it wants to reach, irrespective of prior precedent or legislative language. We can easily suspect the author's prefrence by his comment suggesting that somehow prior court rulings were "impeding necessary reform."
Keep in mind, any decision by a state supreme court can be addressed in the legislature which has the ultimate authority to make laws. We know this process best in today's world as 'tort reform.' Nothing can get in the way of any democratic reform of law, which comes through the legislature. What the author is really saying is that the Supreme Court has an obligation to act where the legislature has refused to do so. Even assuming prior precedent was wrong, stare decisis compels courts to follow that law until the legislature through the democratic process sees fit to change it, except in the most extreme circumstances. The Michigan Supreme Court has unabashedly overruled or ignored prior precedent at a rate unprecedented in American jurisprudence which this iteration of the court conveniently labels as 'wrong'.'
When precedent if shelved in favor of popular politics on the state's highest court, don't the conservatives understand that the entire judiciary suffers? When the Michigan Supreme Court someday turns left and overrules the last 10 years of overruling, will they complain about stare decisis and the importance of legal precedent? I'm, betting yes. What do you think?