About Us

Founded in 1895, the Ingham County Bar Association continues its 119-year tradition of service to the legal profession and the greater Lansing community, bringing lawyers together to join in a strong organization that works to achieve objectives that transcend the individual. The ICBA is proud to provide programs and services designed to improve our local judicial system, foster & enhance the quality of legal services in our community, and provide educational and professional programs for our members. Welcome to the Ingham County Bar Association!

Ingham County Bar Association Practical Guide

2012

A Resource for New Attorneys
Admitted in Michigan

A PUBLICATION OF THE YOUNG LAWYERS SECTION
OF THE INGHAM COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION

Task Force recommendations would dramatically change how the Michigan Supreme Court justices are selected

By: Liisa R. Speaker

On April 26, 2012, the Judicial Selection Task Force held a press conference at the State Capitol introducing its report and recommendations to overhaul the selection process for the Michigan Supreme Court. Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly and Sixth Circuit Judge James Ryan co-chaired the Task Force and presented the recommendations. Sandra Day O'Connor served as Honorary Chair to the Task Force. The Task Force's report is available at www.lwvmi.org.

The Task Force represents a bipartisan group of judges, attorneys, and non-attorneys who came together in an attempt to remedy the negative image of the Michigan Supreme Court. The Task Force is a private endeavor and was funded by the State Bar Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the League of Women Voters. As noted in the Task Force's report, Supreme Court elections in Michigan have "attracted national attention for its excessive cost, its lack of transparency, and its damaging negativity."

The Task Force made six recommendations. Making the recommendations a reality will involve a combination of legislative action, constitutional amendment, and executive order.

1. Reform the Campaign Finance Act to require the names of PAC contributors to be publicly available. This is the Task Force's first recommendation because Michigan has the highest spending of all states for supreme court elections. As Judge Ryan reported at the Task Force press conference, the 10th highest state (Iowa) spent less than $2 million. The 2nd highest state (Pennsylvania, whose population is larger than Michigan's) spent $5.5 million. Michigan is in 1st place with expenditures of over $9 million for the supreme court races, not including another $3 million from outside the State. Michigan's campaign finance system was highlighted in a recent report on "The New Politics of Judicial Elections: 2009-2010" (2011), available at http://www.brennancenter.org/content/resource/the_new_politics_of_judicial_elections_2009-10/. That report noted that most of the spending on Michigan's Supreme Court race came from special-interest groups, and that source of the special-interest spending was concealed from the public.

2. Eliminate the selection of Supreme Court justices through the political parties. The Task Force highlighted the importance of this recommendation because the allegedly nonpartisan judicial elections in Michigan ring hollow when political parties nominate candidates for the Supreme Court. In fact, the only way for a candidate to appear on the ballot is to secure the nomination of a political party. Eliminating political parties from the election process would give the public confidence in the nonpartisan elections.

3. Create a nonpartisan citizens' campaign oversight committee to monitor judicial campaign advertisements. The formation of the committee would help reduce negative campaigns, which "weaken public confidence in the justices." The oversight committee would check the factual claims in advertisements and "denounce false, misleading, or destructive messages."

4. Distribute a voters education guide to all registered voters, which would be prepared by the Secretary of State. The guide would provide voters neutral information about each candidate for the Supreme Court.

5. Create a nonpartisan Governor's Advisory Screening Committee consisting of nonpartisan attorneys and non-attorneys to advise the governor on appointments to the Supreme Court. The Task Force noted that the Governor would not be bound by the recommendation of the committee. The Task Force further recommends that the names and credentials of the candidates under consideration for the appointment to the supreme court be publicly available. The Task Force noted that "this process would assure the public that the Governor did not base his or her appointments on whim or political patronage but instead on a sound examination of each candidate's suitability for office."

6. Remove the age 70 limitation in the Michigan Constitution that prevents justices from running for election or being appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court after their 70th birthday.

The Task Force also explored the possibility of creating a judicial nomination committee which would replace the judicial election system for the Supreme Court. This is often referred to as a "merit selection" system. There are several models that could serve for a nomination-based system, such as a gubernatorial appointment with legislative confirmation or gubernatorial appointment with a retention election.

Although some member of the Task Force preferred a nominations system, that is not one of the Task Force's recommendations. In any event, if the six recommended changes were made to the judicial election system, and if those changes succeeded in "restoring public confidence in the supreme court, decreasing misleading attack advertisements, reducing the influence of political parties, better educating voters, and reducing undisclosed spending" then some members of the Task Force who favored a nomination process would still view the reform as a success.

The Task Force recommendations are a significant first step in what will certainly prove to be a long process to effectuating needed improvements to the judicial election system for the Michigan Supreme Court.

Bio: Liisa R. Speaker is the Chair of the State Bar of Michigan's Appellate Practice Section.

Case Evaluations

We are pleased to announce that as a law student member of the Ingham County Bar Association, you are eligible to sit it on case evaluations in the Ingham County Circuit Court. Case evaluations are designed to assist parties in a lawsuit in reaching a settlement. They generally occur after all discovery in a civil lawsuit has been completed and before trial. A panel of three experienced attorneys receives written briefs from the parties, summarizing the case. The attorneys for the parties are then generally given approximately 15 minutes per side to address the panel and respond to questions. The panel then deliberates and reaches an evaluation, which is a suggested settlement amount. The parties have 28 days thereafter to accept or rejected the case evaluation. A party who rejects a case evaluation is at risk of having to pay the other side's costs and attorney fees, from the point of rejection forward, if they do not improve their position at trial from the amount of the case evaluation. If the parties accept the evaluation, the case settles for that amount.

Case evaluations are not open to the public and usually occur in a setting where only the attorneys and panel members are permitted to be present.

In an effort to assist in the development of law students as they proceed in their careers, the Chief Judge of the Ingham County Circuit Court, the Honorable Janelle Lawless, has approved this program for law student members of our Association. The panels of case evaluators specialize in particular areas of law which are: tort, commercial litigation, and labor law.

If you are interested in attending a case evaluation, please complete the attached form. Download Registration Form

We believe that you will find this program worthwhile to your development as an attorney. It will give you a sense of how to prepare cases and inform you as to the way that experienced attorneys assess the strengths and weaknesses of a case. We encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity.

Sixty-Minute Mentoring is Back and Looking for You!

We all know that mentoring is critical to our profession. The best advice we often receive is from attorneys who take a few minutes to share their time and experience with us and answer our questions.


We hope that you are willing to spend 60 minutes – at a time, date, and location that you select – to spend time with 1 or 2 new attorneys or law students. You will be able to share information that only a practicing attorney can offer.


For more information, please contact Kathy Lawrence lawrenck@cooley.edu if you are interested in being a mentor or if you are an attorney or law student and interested in being mentored. If you can spare 60 minutes, you can be a mentor!

To register for Ingham County Bar Association events - go to calendar tab. You can register online or use a pdf registration form (when available).

Note: You can only register one person at a time using the online method. When using the online method for paying with a credit card, please make sure the address where the credit card statement/invoice is on record matches correctly or you payment will be rejected.

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Ingham County Bar Association (ICBA)
Located at: PO Box 66, Grand Ledge, MI 48837
Phone: (517) 627-3938
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