From the start, everyone knew it would be an uphill battle to unseat a sitting Supreme Court Justice. It has only happened a half dozen or so times in the entire history of Michigan’s highest court. The long odds did not deter Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Diane Hathaway from seeking to defeat Chief Justice Cliff Taylor, and in the end, she prevailed.
What is the most remarkable about this story is how unlikely it was to happen at the beginning. Michigan’s supreme court was ranked dead last, thanks to Cliff Taylor, in a study of all 50 state supreme courts. In a survey of lawyers who have argued before Cliff Taylor (pdf), he was ranked lowest in preparedness, lowest in efficiency, lowest in thoroughness and lowest in overall knowledge of the law. While on the court, Cliff Taylor put the interests of businesses and corporations ahead of people. Yet despite all of these problems with Taylor’s leadership, it was expected he would win and easily defeat Judge Hathaway because he was an incumbant.
What Taylor did not count on was the power of people to get out the vote and decide change was needed in all areas of Michigan government. Many long time incumbents lost their re-election bids based upon the idea that change was needed to get Michigan back on the right track. Diane Hathaway‘s message of being tough and fair resounded with Michigan residents who were tired of not receiving the justice they deserved from the supreme court. Judge Hathaway was able to win because she brought a message of change, something the supreme court needed to better represent this state. Another factor in Diane Hathaway‘s victory is her support from President-Elect Barack Obama, who had an impressive ground operation helping to get out the vote and educating people about why Judge Hathaway was needed on our high court.
Despite the long odds facing Judge Hathaway, she was victorious and will begin serving Michigan beginning next year on the supreme court. Thanks to the hard work and efforts of thousands of people, what was supposed to be impossible became possible. Yes we can and yes we did.
recently named in the 2009 edition of Best Lawyer's In America, David Mittleman has been representing seriously injured people since 1985. A partner with Church Wyble PC—a division of Grewal Law PLLC—Mr. Mittleman and his partners focus on medical malpractice, wrongful death, car accidents, slip and falls, nursing home injury, pharmacy/pharmacist negligence and disability claims.