The Politics of Judicial Selection: The Case of the Michigan Supreme Court
39 Pages Posted: 7 Nov 2012
Date Written: November 6, 2012
As the debate rages between those who argue that judicial elections are bad for legal justice vis-a-vis those who argue that they are good for democracy, there remains the singularly unique system of judicial selection in Michigan. For its Supreme Court justices, Michigan employs a hybrid electoral system, where candidates are first nominated at political party conventions, after which those candidates run in non-partisan general elections. Moreover, vacancies are filled by interim appointments made by the governor with no outside input or oversight. How did Michigan come to utilize this system which is different from all other states in the country? In this study we discuss the history behind Michigan’s judicial selection system. We show how Michigan transformed from an appointive system to one that employed partisan elections, and finally to the current hybrid system. The accounts behind the manner in which Michigan selects its Supreme Court justices provide a glimpse into the political forces among political and legal elites, interest groups, and the electorate that have shaped judicial politics within the state. We thus illustrate how the form of judicial selection that is unique to Michigan evolved and has been sustained over time.
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