State high court mulls new policy on nepotism, welcomes comments

By Edward Wesoloski
The Daily Record Newswire

DETROIT - The Michigan Supreme Court is considering whether to replace the current anti-nepotism policy in place for trial and appellate courts.

The proposed adoption of Administrative Order No. 2016-XX, according to a staff comment, "would provide a clearer and simplified version of the antinepotism policy to be used by courts in Michigan," and would rescind Administrative Order No. 1996-11, which spells out the current policy.

The proposed order would cover not only relationships by blood or marriage, but would also include same- or different-sex relationships of a "romantic, intimate, committed, or dating nature."

The proposed order states, "All courts in Michigan are committed to make all business decisions - including decisions regarding employment, contracting with vendors, and selecting interns - on the basis of qualifications and merit, and to avoid circumstances in which the appearance or possibility of favoritism or conflicts of interest exist. Based on this policy, the following situations are prohibited:

"a) A superior-subordinate relationship existing at or developing after the time of employment between any related employees; and

"b) A related chief judge and a court administrator in the same court, regardless of whether the chief judge was elected, appointed, or named chief, and regardless of whether there is a superior-subordinate relationship."

The Supreme Court is also considering whether to include an additional provision:

"c) A relative of a judge or justice employed within the same court."

In an explanatory note, the high court states, "The Court is considering whether an antinepotism policy should prohibit the employment of relatives in a subordinate/superior relationship and prohibit a chief judge and court administrator from being related as reflected in paragraphs 'a)' and 'b)'; in addition, the Court is considering - whether such a policy should also prohibit any relative of a judge or justice from being employed in the same court, as reflected in proposed paragraph 'c).'"

The proposal expands the definition of "relative."

Under the current version of the policy, "the term 'Relative' is defined to include spouse, child, parent, brother, sister, grandparent, grandchild, first cousin, uncle, aunt, niece, nephew, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, son-in-law, mother-in-law, and father-in-law, whether natural, adopted, step or foster."

The proposed policy retains that definition but provides that the "term also includes same-sex or different-sex individuals who have a relationship of a romantic, intimate, committed, or dating nature, which relationship arises after the effective date of this policy. The definition of relative does not include two related judges who are elected to or appointed to serve in the same court."

The high court is seeking comments on the proposal through July 1. Comments on the proposal may be sent to the Office of Administrative Counsel in writing or electronically at P.O. Box 30052, Lansing, MI 48909, or ADMcomment@courts.mi.gov. The court advises that "[w]hen filing a comment, please refer to ADM File No. 2014-03. Your comments and the comments of others will be posted under the chapter affected by this proposal at Proposed & Recently Adopted Orders on Admin Matters page."

Published: Thu, Apr 07, 2016

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