Legal circles are abuzz with speculation about the possible impact the stunning election of Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Diane Hathaway will have on the Michigan Supreme Court and more importantly, Michigan Law. It is uncertain, but there is some consensus that it is bound to be an improvement where there has been so much contention on the bench commonly attributed to insurance friendly rulings from the gang of four.
There is also agreement that the Court between 1998 and present, overturned binding precedent 5 times as much as the average from previous years, mainly using strict constructionism to interpret Michigan Statute. Key issues affected by the Taylor Court’s controversial rulings include: premises liability, consumer protection law, standing in environmental cases, employer liability for rape of employee, landlord liability, governmental immunity exceptions, liability of drug companies, Michigan no-fault law, and virtual abrogation of the exclusionary rule in Michigan, to name a few.
The high Court is still comprised of a majority of conservative Justices including: Justices Markman, Weaver, Corrigan, and Young, but Justice Weaver’s votes are unpredictable as she has a reputation for breaking from the pack. Even though the Court must give deference to the rulings made under the conservative “gang of four” Court under the doctrine of stare decisis, there will certainly be an increase in the number of applications to the Michigan Supreme Court in an attempt to reverse or clarify some of the decisions that created roadblocks to avenues of relieve for aggrieved citizens in almost every area of law. Regardless of the outcome of these cases, the outpouring of increased interest in Michigan appellate law will increase the quality of appellate briefing, leading to more thoughtful argument. Consequently, the new court is a winning situation for everyone!