Government, Human Resources, and Law

Michigan Supreme Court justice is resigning

March 30, 2017
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Robert Young Jr., an outspoken conservative, is resigning from the Michigan Supreme Court after 18 years, including six as chief justice.

Young clashed with liberal justices earlier in his tenure and became a regular campaign target of unions and personal-injury lawyers. But in recent years, the court has been viewed as a more peaceful place without the rancor evident in sharp-elbowed opinions and caustic footnotes.

Young, 65, said Wednesday he's returning to the Dickinson Wright law firm, where he worked earlier in his career. He's leaving the Supreme Court by April 30 or earlier, with 20 months remaining in his term. Gov. Rick Snyder will pick a successor.

"Government doesn't have to be broken and it doesn't have to be toxic," Young, a Republican, said in a statement. "I believe we showed that in recent years on the Michigan Supreme Court, and I'm extremely proud of the role I played."

He wasn't available for an interview, spokesman John Nevin said.

While some justices ask no questions during arguments, the bow tie-wearing Young often dominates the setting, cutting off long-winded lawyers when they stray and sparring with them over facts and legal precedent. His humor can sting.

"It's a wonder that anyone got any work done," Young remarked last year in a case about a judge who exchanged thousands of text messages with an intern and is accused of interfering with her drunken driving arrest.

Young and Republicans have a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court. They refer to themselves as rule-of-law judges who say they decide cases strictly on law set by the Legislature and not their personal views.

In a 2010 interview, Young knocked what he called the "empathy school" of liberal legal philosophy.

"I'm not for the little guy but I'm not for the big guy, either," Young said. "Our job on the Supreme Court is managing the fabric of law to make sure the pattern develops evenly in a comprehensible way so you're not surprised when the next piece of fabric comes up."

As chief justice, Young lobbied for reducing the size of Michigan's other courts, based on caseloads and other factors. He also expanded so-called problem-solving courts involving veterans and people with alcohol, drug or mental health problems.

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