Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

April 28, 2013

Ex-chief justice pens book about court's 'dark money'

GLEN ARBOR — The Michigan Supreme Court is corrupted by “dark money,” secrecy and ideology.

So contends former Supreme Court Chief Justice Elizabeth Weaver, a Republican from Glen Arbor, who’s co-authored a book in which she alleges Michigan’s highest court often rules on behalf of special interest groups that bankroll judges’ election campaigns, as opposed to the merits of cases.

“In the $18.6 million spent last time for the Supreme Court, two-thirds or three-fourths was dark money,” Weaver said, referencing judicial campaign contributions that can’t be tracked to individuals or corporations.

“Reform the money,” Weaver said. “Instant, complete, reporting of all money. No hiding behind groups of Justice for People or People for Justice. Every contribution has to be individual, and it cannot be People for Justice, which is a whole bunch of unknown people. It’s dark money.”

Weaver knows how the Supreme Court works — she served on it for nearly 16 years, including two years as chief justice. She penned the book, “Judicial Deceit: Tyranny and Unnecessary Secrecy at the Michigan Supreme Court,” to be released May 15, with co-author David Schock because she believes the public needs to know the state’s highest court is broken and that citizens need to demand immediate reform.

“I have a duty to a public that needs to know,” Weaver said. “The book is filled with examples (of) the deceit, the abuse of power, about what they’ve done to employees (who) are in the way, judges who are in the way, or who have the nerve to stand up.”

Weaver’s tenure on the court from 1994 to 2010 was stormy at times. She repeatedly advocated for more transparency on the court and clashed with her colleagues. Her fellow justices rebuked Weaver for secretly recording a 2006 internal discussion in which she participated by telephone. She also released a transcript in which a fellow justice, Justice Robert Young Jr — now the court’s chief judge — purportedly used a racial slur. Young is African American.

Several court officials, past and present, either did not return calls or declined comment. Young declined comment through a spokewoman, noting Weaver is the only justice ever to be censured by the Supreme Court. The censure was the result of her recording conversations of her colleagues and making a transcript public.

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