Lincoln Day dinner draws big crowdPublished 9:38am Thursday, April 26, 2012
As a “rule of law” judge, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Markman reads what its says, resisting temptation to interpret what it ought to say, and “letting the chips fall where they may” without favoring interest groups.
In other words, the former Assistant Attorney General for Ronald Reagan and federal prosecutor said as keynote speaker to the Cass County Republican Party Lincoln Day dinner Saturday night at Southwestern Michigan College’s Mathews Conference Center, “No thumbs on the scales of justice.”
“The role of the judge to say only what the law is, not what it ought to be” goes back to Chief Justice John Marshall in Marbury vs. Madison in 1803. “It is the role of your legislature, your county commission, your city council, comprised of your elected and accountable representatives to say what the law ought to be — Sharon Tyler, Matt Lori, John Proos, Dave Agema and Fred Upton in Washington. We the people determine public policy — not lawyers in robes. We are faithful interpreters of law, not its maker or your adult supervisors. We do not get to improve upon laws with which we disagree” unless they are unconstitutional.
The “first of our civil rights” is “domestic tranquility,” with citizens “free of criminal predators. No society can prosper unless there is this sense of priority,” Markman said. “Judges must treat this as their first responsibility.”
Seeking re-election to a new eight-year term along with Gov. Rick Snyder’s January 2011 appointee, Brian K. Zahra, Markman said he “respectfully disagrees” with President Obama when the former law professor asserts that what is most important in a jurist is where his or her empathies or sympathies lie.
“That’s rule of judges,” not “government of and by the people,” “rule of law” or “our constitutional heritage,” Markman said.
“Our opponents will be talking about how corrupt we are every time we decide a case they don’t agree with,” he said. “How we’re in the pockets of special interests and tools of the Fortune 500. They run that kind of campaign every two years.
“One third of the people who go to the polls in November won’t vote for nonpartisan judicial offices, though the stakes are enormous.”
Conservatives hold a 4-3 margin on the high court, with another candidate at the head table, 18-year Court of Appeals Judge Jane Markey of Grand Rapids, which, ironically, as the state’s second-largest city, has not sent anyone to the high bench since the 1940s. Markey, a former Spanish teacher, grew up in Saginaw as one of six children. She and Professor Curt Benson of Thomas M. Cooley Law School and host of The Lawyers’ Radio show have two children.
Markman, of Mason, was one of the 28 appellate judges from 1995-99, when he was appointed justice on Oct. 1. He won re-election in 2000 and 2004.
Markman, who practiced law with the Detroit firm Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, was a U.S. attorney from 1989-93 nominated by President George H.W. Bush. In his 1985-89 position with Reagan coordinating the federal judicial selection process, Markman spent Thursday afternoons at the White House.
He has taught constitutional law at Hillsdale College since 1993 and twice traveled to Ukraine on behalf of the State Department.
Water Resources Commissioner Bruce Campbell received the “Diamond” clock award for faithful party service.