Republicans railroad citizens and the democratic process while highjacking the Court of Claims
By Phil Cavanagh
Whether the reason was for allegations finally being heard of a pending legal case regarding the way in which the Legislature violated the Open Meetings Act by locking people out of the Capitol during the 2012 lame duck session, or trying to protect Governor Snyder’s NERD Fund from any challenges, the Republicans railroaded through — at lightning speed — Senate Bill 652, which completely removes the Court of Claims from the 30th Judicial Circuit Court and places exclusive jurisdiction within the Michigan Court of Appeals. This move stacks the courts in the Republicans’ favor and would allow them to quickly pass controversial legislation, obtain a governor’s signature and create laws without constitutional concerns or even receiving a hearing. This includes many claims, demands and counterclaims against the state or any of its departments, commissions, board, institutions, arms or agencies, and puts undue burdens on people filing Freedom of Information Act or Open Meetings Act claims against the state.
While Republicans claim this bill brings fairness to the judicial system by having this heard in a court where the judges are all elected by the citizens of Michigan instead of a court with county-elected judges. This is a blatant move by the Republicans to rig the judicial system against the people — allowing a political party in power (currently Republicans dominate all three branches of government) to hand-pick the judges who hear cases against the state of Michigan.
This move stacks the Court of Claims in the Republicans’ favor — making it harder for citizens to hold our government accountable for its actions or misactions. Whether Republican or Democrat, we are all elected to serve by people who hope and pray we will protect and uphold their constitutional rights. Everyone should be allowed a fair process through the judicial system.
This bill makes a mockery of our constitutionally designated separation of powers by allowing the Legislature to meddle in the affairs of the court. The Republicans, by passing this strictly on party lines, scream the message to citizens, “we will make it difficult for citizens to hold their government accountable.”
I came up to Lansing to address real issues facing our great state. Not once have I had anyone say to me we need remove the Court of Claims, a trier of fact and original jurisdiction, and place exclusive jurisdiction with the Michigan Court of Appeals. This was a self-serving act that will diminish the public’s faith in government, our judicial system and lead many around the state to believe corruption doesn’t just lie within the city of Detroit and Wayne County’s borders, but instead, has spread like a poisonous rash over our great state.
Phil Cavanagh is a member of the Michigan House of Representative from the 17th district. He is a Democrat who represents Redford Township. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 517.313.0857.