Okay, so maybe the title of this post is a little over-reaching. Still, if you define justice as whatever the Michigan Supreme Court decides, that’s exactly what I’m going to do here — predict the results of the first eight cases the Court heard in the 2009-2010 term.
Let me be very clear about this next part — I am not involved in any of these cases. I did not work on them, I have no interest in their outcome, and I have done precious little research about the issues. I have no sources in the MSC chambers. Quite simply, these predictions result from 27 years of studying law, practicing law, and observing courts.
In other words, pure guesswork.
Actually, I’m doing this to test a theory about our current MSC. Since the court went from majority conservative to majority liberal (or 3 conservatives to 3 liberals plus one wild card who hates the conservatives), the court has demonstrated its willingness to engage in obvious politics-based decision-making. So, without knowing too much about the cases being heard, we should be able to predict results based solely on ideology.
Let’s give it a try.
1. Adair v State of Michigan. The plaintiffs, a bunch of school districts, sued the state because the state requires school districts to compile certain data and to send in reports about it. The school districts argued that this costs money, and the state failed to appropriate funds for the reporting, in violation of Michigan’s so-called Headlee Amendment. The state pointed out that it had increased general appropriations for the school districts and that they therefore had the money to spend on the increased reporting. The school districts won in the lower court.
Prediction: The plaintiffs win again. Liberals hate the Headlee Amendment because it imposes fiscal discipline, but they will use it when necessary to increase money for school districts because that ultimately helps teachers unions, whom liberals love more than anything.
2. Pierron v Pierron. Parents get divorced, but both live in Grosse Pointe Woods, so the kids go to school there. Seven years later, Mother decides to move to Howell, taking kids with her. Father objects. Trial court rules for father, but Court of Appeals vacates the trial court’s ruling and remands for reevaluation. A question here about the burden of proof. Father appeals to MSC. The test is what is in the best interests of the children.
Prediction: A close one. Still, mother wins out because she is the primary caregiver and men are stupid.
3. People v Wilder. Defendant is charged with first degree home invasion. After a trial, he was convicted of third degree home invasion. Defendant argued that third degree HI is not a lesser included offense with first degree HI and, therefore, it had to be charged separately. The Court of Appeals agreed and vacated the conviction. Prosecutor appeals.
Prediction: Liberals love these kinds of loopholes. Defendant wins again.
4. Davis v Forest River, Inc. This is a products liability case involving a recreational vehicle the plaintiff bought from a dealer. He sued the manufacturer, seeking to return the vehicle and get a refund. The manufacturer order that undoing the sale (in legal terms, a rescission) was not proper since the manufacturer did not have a contract with the plaintiff-buyer. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, finding that rescission was possible even though the plaintiff and the manufacturer were not in “privity of contract.” The manufacturer appeals.
Prediction: An individual against a big corporation plus the chance to extend consumer protections into an area where it never existed? That’s too much for liberals to resist — the plaintiff wins again.
5. Insurance Institute of Michigan v Commissioner. The insurance commissioner promulgated a rule that prohibits insurance companies from using consumer credit report scores to establish insurance premiums. A group of insurance companies and their customers sued, and the trial court declared the rule illegal, invalid, and unenforceable. The commissioner appealed, and the Court of Appeals vacated the trial court’s ruling.
Prediction: Another easy one. Using credit scores sounds much too accurate and is, therefore, incompatible with the kind of social engineering liberals love. If we look at people individually, how will we ever see them as members of a protected class? The plaintiffs lose this one, although the court may simply say that the plaintiffs did not exhaust their administrative remedies before the commissioner (yes, that’s correct, the plaintiffs would have to go through all kinds of proceedings with the defendant before suing.)
6. First National Bank of Chicago v Department of Treasury. The Michigan Department of Treasury foreclosed on a tax lien. BankBoston held a mortgage on the property and was entitled to notice of the sale, but BankBoston had merged with Fleet National Bank and changed its name to FNB. Notice of the foreclosure sale was sent to FNB in Rhode Island instead of to BankBoston in, well, Boston, which was the address of record in the mortgage documents. The plaintiff, BankBoston’s trustee, sued, claiming its mortgage interest was foreclosed without due process. The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiff, and so did the Court of Appeals.
Prediction: A close one. Liberals hate banks, but they also hate foreclosures, and they wouldn’t mind throwing up a few more foreclosure roadblocks. This case helps them do it, and they can actually follow the law by ruling in the plaintiff’s favor. The plaintiff wins.
7. Department of Agriculture v Appletree Marketing LLC. This is a beauty. The Michigan Apple Committee provides marketing and research programs for Michigan apple growers. The Committee is required by law, and apple distributors must collect payments for the apples they sell and pay them over to the Committee. Appletree Marketing is a distributor and collected payments for 2004 and 2005, but did not pay them to the Committee. The Department of Agriculture sued for the back payments under the law, and also sought treble (legalese for triple) damages under a common law claim of conversion. The trial court and the Court of Appeals held in favor of the Department on the statute, but said the remedies under the statute were exclusive, so it could not bring a common law conversion claim. The Department appealed, because it wants treble damages.
Prediction: The liberals have been strongly criticized (and rightfully so) for ignoring statutory language to impose their own views of what the law should be. Here is their chance to rule in a way that allows them to claim that they follow statutes, particularly where the plaintiff is made whole anyway and there are no pet interests to be appeased. The defendant wins.
8. People v Feezel. The defendant, who was intoxicated and had been smoking marijuana, was driving along when he struck and killed a pedestrian. The victim, also intoxicated, was walking in the middle of a dark road during a rainstorm. Feezel was convicted of numerous charges, and the Court of Appeals affirmed. The primary issue before the MSC is whether evidence of the victim’s intoxication — excluded by the trial court — should have been admitted.
Prediction: Judges can’t be seen as soft on drunk drivers. This case gives the liberals a chance to be seen as tough on crime without going out on a limb or making any difficult choices. The conviction is affirmed.
That’s it for now — keep checking back to see how I did.