Roberts Appalled at Legislature's Court of Claims 'Reform'

SB 652 flouts democracy, accountability in changing court structure
Thursday, November 7, 2013

LANSING - State Representative Sarah Roberts (D-St. Clair Shores) voted against Senate Bill 652 today, a measure that moves the state’s Court of Claims from the Ingham County Circuit Court to the state Court of Appeals, where the Michigan Supreme Court chief justice would decide which judges hear cases brought against the state. The proposal makes it difficult for citizens to challenge the constitutionality of controversial laws or to bring Freedom of Information Act and Open Meetings Act claims against the state. It also ensures that the Republican-led Legislature and Republican governor can have a Republican chief justice pick which judge hears challenges to the Legislature and administration.

“It’s crucial to our democracy that citizens are able to challenge laws they feel are unconstitutional and have a fair trial in a court of law,” Roberts said. “Our government is supposed to be transparent and accountable to the people it represents, and this bill flies in the face of all that.”

SB 652 also blurs the lines of separation of powers and turns the state’s judicial system into an extension of a political party by allowing one person to pick which judges sit on the Court of Claims. SB 652 has been hastily pushed through the legislative process after being introduced to the Senate on Oct. 24. The governor is anticipated to sign the bill. The bill is also being rushed into law despite any analysis of what it might cost taxpayers. Not one single judge, justice, attorney or legal scholar has supported this legislation.

“Our founding fathers separated the branches of government to make sure that no one had too much power,” Roberts said. “SB 652 allows one party in charge of the legislative branch to unfairly exert authority over the judicial branch. Today is a sad day for democracy and justice in Michigan.”