Weaver gets last word, Justice resigns, calling for reform of selection process

By John Minnis

Legal News

Originally a Republican Party nominee, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth Weaver often disagreed with her GOP counterparts on the bench.

In May, three Republican justices -- Maura Corrigan, Stephen Markman and Robert Young -- asked the Judicial Tenure Commission to investigate Weaver for possible misconduct, alleging that Weaver improperly disclosed the court's internal deliberations with an attorney involved in a case before the court.

Weaver denied wrongdoing.

''Nothing particularly surprises me anymore in the politics of Supreme Court Justice Elections,'' she said following the allegations. ''My colleagues have gone to great lengths to create a controversy. They are politically attacking me in an attempt to bully me into not running for re-election because they want this Court to be a 'secret club.'''

Weaver formed her own club, running for re-election in 2010 as an Independent rather than a Republican. After a lot of thought, however, she decided not to run after all.

''I have concluded that I have done all that I can do as a justice,'' Weaver said at a press conference Thursday with Gov. Jennifer Granholm, ''and now believe that I can be of most use as a citizen in helping further the critically needed reforms of the judicial system.''

Specifically, the former justice wants to devote her time to reforming the selection and nomination process. She seeks to end the involvement of Michigan political parties in nominating justices and wants justices elected by district, which would allow judicial candidates out-state to be elected. She wants the governor's unbridled appointment power curtailed. (Her six reform recommendations can be found on her Web site, www.justice weaver.com.)

Weaver, however, took advantage of the governor's appointment power in getting another northern Michigan jurist, Alton T. Davis, named to the Michigan Supreme Court.

''You have been an incredible servant to the people of Michigan,'' said Granholm to Weaver. ''We appreciate your courage.''

Weaver was one of few Michigan Supreme Court justices who made it to the court without being appointed. In fact, Weaver has earned all her judicial offices through election.

In 1974, she was elected to the Leelanau County Probate Court and was re-elected in 1976 and 1982. In 1986, she was elected to the Michigan Court of Appeals. She ran for the Michigan Supreme Court in 1994 and won. She was re-elected to the state's high court in 1994 and 2002.

Weaver earned her bachelor's degree at H. Sophie Newcomb College in 1962 and her law degree from Tulane University in 1965. She began her law practice in Louisiana before moving to Michigan.

Justice Weaver was appointed to the Michigan Commission on Criminal Justice by Gov. William Milliken; to the Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice by Govs. James Blanchard, John Engler and Jennifer Granholm. She was also appointed to chair the Governor's Task Force for Children's Justice and the Trial Court Assessment Commission by Govs. Engler and Granholm. She has served as chair of the State Bar of Michigan Juvenile Law Committee and as president of the Top of Michigan Probate and Juvenile Judges Association.

She has served as secretary of the Probate and Juvenile Judges Association of Michigan.

Weaver's honors and awards include being selected as one of five ''Outstanding Young Women in Michigan'' by the Michigan Jaycees and as one of ''Thirty Outstanding Women in Michigan'' by the Michigan Womens' Commission. In 1999, she was named ''Jurist of the Year'' by the Police Officers Association of Michigan.

In 2000, Weaver received the ''Michigan Champions in Childhood Injury Prevention: Lifetime Dedication to Children Award''; also in 2000, she was honored by Gov. Engler and the Family Independence Agency for outstanding service to the children and families of Michigan. The Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals honored her in February 2002 for her exceptional service to and support of Michigan's drug courts.

In 2003, she was recognized as an ''Outstanding Woman in Leadership and Learning'' by Ferris State University. In 2005, Weaver was inducted into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame and was recognized by Newcomb College as the Alumna of the Year. In 2006, she received the Mid-Michigan Women Lawyers Association of Michigan ''Judge of the Year'' award for her dedicated service to Michigan's judicial system. Justice Weaver has also been featured in People magazine and on ABC's ''Good Morning America'' on juvenile justice issues.

Ending her tenure on the state's top court, which included serving at one time as chief justice, Weaver said, ''I am most grateful to the people of Michigan for electing me as a justice and trusting me with the privilege of serving them on the Michigan Supreme Court for nearly 16 years.''

Published: Thu, Sep 2, 2010

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