Markman keynotes GOP fundraiser

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By John Minnis

Legal News

Justice Stephen J. Markman not only hopes to maintain the 4-3 conservative majority on the Michigan Supreme Court, he also looks to expand it to a 5-2 majority. But first he must win his third election for the state's high court, and Brian K. Zahra, a January 2011 appointee by Gov. Rick Snyder, must win his first election.

"If we can retain that 4-3 majority, you can be very proud of what this court does," Markman told a record crowd April 26 at the Thomas Robert McCleary Jr. Memorial Eastside Republican PAC fundraiser at Sindbad's on the Water in Detroit. Noting an open seat on the bench due to Justice Marilyn Kelly's mandatory retirement, Markman added, "We change that 4-3 majority to a 5-2 majority."

"This is the largest group we've ever had," said John Stempfle, ERC-PAC chairman.

Markman stood in for scheduled guest speaker Michigan Republican Party Chairman Robert I. "Bobby" Schostak, who spoke briefly during the cocktail hour before heading to another speaking engagement.

Schostak was introduced by ERC-PAC member John Chouinard. "Bobby's goal is to broaden and grow the Michigan Republican Party," Chouinard said.

After the lengthy, flattering introduction, Schostak said, "If I did all those things all I'd need to do is beat Barack Obama. I don't think anyone would find fault with that objective."

Among his main accomplishments, Schostak said, was spending 48 hours on a bus touring the state with former State Rep. Andrew Richner, R-Grosse Pointe Park, now a University of Michigan regent. "I know, a lot of you are thinking that is not so great," Schostak said.

After acknowledging Ann McCleary, wife of the late Eastside Republican Club founding member Tom McCleary who died a year ago, Schostak said, "We are at ground zero in the next election."

Citing the "amazing" progress Gov. Snyder has made in his short time in office, Schostak said, "You have an important election coming up. It is important because of Michigan's turnaround."

He noted Michigan's drop in unemployment from 12.9 percent to 8.5 percent in 15 months, as well as the Republican leadership's elimination of a $1.5 billion deficit and the dreaded Single Business Tax.

"Legislators eliminated lifetime healthcare benefits and lifted the cap on charter schools, putting the child first," Schostak said. Alluding to former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, he said, "This is what being 'blown away' is all about."

Markman was introduced by Judge Kirsten Frank Kelly of the Michigan Court of Appeals. "We look to the (state) Supreme Court to set the path for the rest of the state," she said, noting the "rule of law" conservative majority on the court and the "caliber and quality" of Markman as part of that majority.

Markman, for his part, said, "When I see Judge Kelly's name on a majority opinion or dissent, I look at it very carefully."

Among the many attorneys and judges present, the justice recognized Wallace Riley, husband of the late Chief Justice Dorothy Comstock Riley, "whose opinions are still read today."

Markman said that as assistant attorney general in the Reagan administration, part his job was to recommend judicial appointments to the president. He met with President Reagan every week for four years. During that time, Reagan appointed 290 district court judges among his record 376 judicial appointments.

"The standards were set by the president himself," Markman said. "The question was not liberal or conservative candidates, but those committed to rule of law."

As he often does, Markman cited U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall's opinion in Marbury v Madison that judges are interpreters of the law, not its makers.

"We do not get to alter laws we do not agree with," he said. "Absent constitutional prohibitions, the citizens get to make such decisions, not the lawyers on the bench."

Markman said judges must resist the "great judicial temptation" to put their "thumbs on the scale of justice."

"Judges must respect the decisions of your elected representatives," he said. "If it was the role of the judge to reflect his personal beliefs, why limit it to lawyers? ... We only put lawyers on the bench because they alone are trained to read the law.

"In my mind, for a judge to render a decision based on his personal conscience, gut feeling, is unconscionable."

Markman noted that running for the state Supreme Court has become "extremely expensive." "We must raise at least $1 million," he said, "and they will too."

"My promise, as in all my past campaigns," Markman said, "is to bring the values I've brought to all my years on the court and as iterated by Ronald Reagan."

Published: Thu, May 3, 2012

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