Michigan Top Court Begins Session

By: Brian Johnson Email
By: Brian Johnson Email

Medical marijuana in edible form, casinos and tribal land, right to work for state employees-- it could be a very busy session for the Michigan Supreme Court.

While in the past some have criticized the court's decisions for being split down party lines, that might not be the case in the future.

"Since I've been on the court it's been an incredibly collegial experience," said Justice Bridget Mary McCormack. "Like all of my colleagues, the Chief Justice especially has been very open to and interested in my views. Sometimes occasionally even persuaded by them and it's been a pleasure."

The Chief Justice says the court is moving and looking forward.

"I think we have worked very hard to put the past behind us, this is my 15th year. It is by far the best year of those 15," said Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr.

Don't be mistaken-- the justices say they often have very different philosophical views in their weekly meetings but after arguing, their opinions can sometimes change.

"Last term we had a couple of opinions that started out as dissents that became majorities because they had the stronger more persuasive analysis and that's what you really want in your senior court," said Chief Justice Young.

The Chief Justice says no matter the topic, the judges take each issue separately and can't predict the outcome.

On Wednesday, the opening day of the new term, the court ordered interpreters be provided to people with limited English proficiency. It's a decision that costs the state an estimated $7-9 million dollars each year.

"There have been cases where a domestic violence victim seeking a personal protection order has had to rely on the interpreter services of her abusive spouse and that's not acceptable to this court," said Justice McCormack. "This rule is in my view an enormous statement from this court, that access to justice-- meaningful consistent access to justice is a priority of this court. I'm proud that it's one of the first things that we've done this term."

The new rule will apply to all courts in the State of Michigan.

The state estimates as many as 320,000 people in Michigan may need interpreters. Macomb, Oakland, and Wayne counties were already providing the service.

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