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Attorney Adam Liptak, a Yale Law Grad, published an article in the January 28th, 2008 edition of The New York Times where he looked at the inherent conflict created when campaign donors to judicial campaigns appear in front of those same Judges as parties to a lawsuit. Studies of both the Ohio Supreme Court and the Louisiana Supreme Court documented the fact that the larger the contribution to the particular Justice, the more likely their case was decided in that contributor’s favor. The findings of these studies give us interesting insight into not only the political donations accepted by Michigan Supreme Court Justice Cliff Taylor, but also the possible reasoning as to why he ruled in cases here in Michigan involving those same litigants.

In Louisiana, Professor Vernon Palmer, a law professor at Tulane University, together with Professor John Levendis, an economics professor at Loyola University, analyzed the campaign contribution history of each of the Judges on the Louisiana Supreme Court against the cases decided by those same Justices. It was surprising that over a 14 year period, in nearly 50% of the cases reviewed by these professors, either a party to the case or their attorney had contributed to at least one of the Justices on the Louisiana Supreme Court. Statistically speaking, those Justices who had received contributions from either the litigant or the lawyer, voted in favor of that contributor on average 65% of the time. Of even greater interest was the fact that two of the Justices did so 80% of the time. Professors Palmer and Levendis took their analysis one step further in looking at the Judge’s tendencies to vote for either Plaintiffs or Defendants by analyzing their rulings in cases where neither the parties nor the litigants had ever contributed. They then compared that data to the cases where there were campaign contributions and found as high as a 65% swing in their voting tendencies when a campaign contributor appeared before them. There was no question in Professor Palmer’s mind that it was a donation, not that Judge’s particular philosophical orientation, that accounted for the legal outcome in the case.

Further, the larger the campaign contribution, the more likely that contributor received a favorable outcome in their case in front of the Louisiana Supreme Court. In fact, statistically speaking, Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Weimer was 300% more likely to rule in the favor of larger contributors. “The greater the size of the contribution, the greater the odds of favorable outcome”, stated Professor Palmer.

These same findings, that significant campaign contributions do sway a particular Judge’s ruling in favor of the contributor was found in a study of the Ohio Supreme Court in 2006. In that study by the New York Times, the findings illustrated “a classic scenario giving rise to every nuance of political influence in our courts which calls for self-disqualification”, according to Judge Robert Nader, an Ohio Appeals Court Judge.

A similar study of the Ohio Supreme Court conducted by The New York Times in 2006 continues to echo in that state. It appeared about a year after an appeals court there threw out a $212 million jury verdict in a case involving a business dispute between two companies, and it caused the lawyers on the losing side to take a look at who had contributed to the campaign of the judge who wrote the decision. It turned out that the judge, William G. Batchelder, had received a lot of money from Robert Meyerson, the chief executive of the company on the winning side, the Telxon Corporation.

The lawyers for the company on the losing side, Smart Media, asked for a rehearing and got one, sort of. In November, a substitute panel of appeals court judges refused to undo the earlier decision, saying there was no procedure to allow that. Judge Robert Nader, dissenting, could barely contain his disbelief, saying the initial decision was infected by “approximately $1 million in contributions from a very financially interested individual” to Judge Batchelder, a Republican, and to the local Republican Party.

I think the concern or question for us here in Michigan would be “are companies and/or individuals buying “justice” here in Michigan”? I think the answer in the case of Justice Cliff Taylor, a Michigan Supreme Court Justice is, undeniably and unfortunately, “yes”.

Below is a quote from Rich Robinson who testified on behalf of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network in front of the State House Judiciary Committee on October 10, 2007. The findings by Mr. Robinson and the facts as he testified to in front of the House Judiciary Committee are both shocking and appalling as it relates to Michigan Supreme Court Justice Clifford Taylor.

Below is a quote from Rich Robinson who testified on behalf of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network in front of the State House Judiciary Committee on October 10, 2007. The findings by Mr. Robinson and the facts as he testified to in front of the House Judiciary Committee are both shocking and appalling as it relates to Michigan Supreme Court Justice Clifford Taylor.

On the record in Michigan during the 2000 campaign, DaimlerChrysler’s then-
CEO, James P. Holden, hosted a fundraising reception for Justices Markman, Taylor and
Young at Meadow Brook Hall on October 10th. DaimlerChrysler’s PAC, employees,
Board members and their spouses made direct contributions of $39,000 to Justices
Markman, Taylor and Young, after giving $58,000 to Justices Corrigan and Taylor in
Before the 2002 election, the Michigan Supreme Court had heard oral arguments
on one case involving DaimlerChrysler and moved a second case onto its docket. In the
second case, Gilbert v. DaimlerChrysler, the Michigan Supreme Court ultimately
overturned a per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals and wiped out a $21 million
damage judgment against DaimlerChrysler plus $9 million in interest. None of the
justices who benefited from the Chamber of Commerce 2000 issue ad campaign or the
$98,000 in DaimlerChrysler direct contributions recused themselves from the case.

I find this shocking that a Michigan Supreme Court Justice, or any Judge for that matter, who received nearly $100,000.00 in campaign contributions directly from a party, refused to disqualify themselves from hearing a case involving that same campaign contributor. It is an embarrassment to the legal profession, it is an embarrassment to the Judge’s in the state who avoid such apparent conflicts of interest and it should be an embarrassment to every person that voted Justice Taylor onto the Bench of the Michigan Supreme Court.

This year, Justice Taylor will be running for re-election. I have no idea who will be running against him, but we, as voters, should remember that in the case of Justice Taylor, “justice” can be purchased in his courtroom if you can write a big enough check. As an officer of the Court and a member of the State Bar Association, I find this type of behavior to be appalling and would hope that you, as a reader, would too. Remember what type of “justice” is being dispensed right now at our Michigan Supreme Court when it comes time to vote in November and cast an educated vote against Justice Clifford Taylor. A vote against Clifford Taylor is a vote against conflicts of interest and a vote against purchasing “Justice”.

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