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Richard Bernstein looking at state Supreme Court

by: Eric B.

Thu May 01, 2014 at 12:52:15 PM EDT

This is interesting.

Is attorney Richard Bernstein of the Sam Bernstein Law Firm going to run for for a seat on the Michigan Supreme Court?

Rumors have been circulating that he will.

When asked about it, Bernstein said:

"It's being considered, but no decision has been made."

Universal name recognition, plus his family has more money than God.

Universal name recognition, plus his family has more money than God.

Eric B. :: Richard Bernstein looking at state Supreme Court
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Supreme Court this year
Republican nominees are a 5-2 majority on the Court - and one of the two Democratic nominees, Michael Cavanagh, is retiring due to age. Our only hope of winning back the Court in 2014 is to win all three seats - and unlike in 2012, I've heard little talk about trying to win those seats this year. (For some perspective, I've heard more people talking about winning the State Senate this year.)

So the focus appears to be on making sure that Cavanagh's replacement on the Supreme Court is a Democrat. Obviously, a Bernstein campaign would help immensely.

Kent County Judge Jim Redford is seeking a Republican nomination to the Court, presumably with an eye to replacing Cavanagh.

Brian Zahra is also running for an eight-year term, while David Viviano is running for a two-year term.

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

prospective candidates are averse to the campaign trail?  

After Hathaway in 2008, tons of potential candidates were interested in the nominations. They probably thought the party had finally figured out how to win challenging Supreme Court contests, unseating the incument Chief Justice and all that.

Now, not so much.

Obviously Kelley and Johnson would make it a race if they ran again, but both have their existing positions up for re-election in 2014.

Great Lakes, Great Times.

[ Parent ]
I have heard a few names...
but nothing concrete.

It is pretty well known that Richard Bernstein is going to run and that Sam is going to foot the bill for the MSC effort this cycle.  With the Bernstein money I cannot understand why it is so hard to find quality candidates.

So far, this has been my one complaint with Lon Johnson.  We were assured that Brewer's squabbles with the plaintiff's bar would be a thing of the past and they would once again open their checkbooks for the campaign.  But so far the failure to recruit 2 more good candidates for the MSC has been a big flop.

Additionally, I have heard from more than a few folks that Bridgett McCormick has been much less than expected.  So far she appears to be more in a get-along-to-go-along mode. Certainly, not what was expected.  Also, I can't help but think her less than stellar start on the MSC has dampened candidate recruitment as well.

The whole situation with judicial races is bothersome.  We really couldn't find two good Dems to challenge the Wayne County-based Engler appointees to the Court of Appeals? Including Bob Young's favorite henchman Mike Talbot?  The guy who has hollowed out the 36th District Court at the behest of Chief Young.  It all just pisses me off.  We need some leadership on our judicial campaign front.

[ Parent ]
I suspect the wariness would be more
related to continued Diane Hathaway fallout than anything to do with McCormick.  

Great Lakes, Great Times.

[ Parent ]
How so?
I'm not seeing how the Hathaway fiasco would hurt our ability to recruit good candidates any more than, say, Bolgergate would hurt Republicans' ability to recruit candidates to run for House.

Maybe there are folks who aren't running because of that? And if so, I wonder what their thinking might be?

Any ideas?

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

[ Parent ]
It's pretty simple.
Other than Bernstein, we don't have self-financing candidates. All the money is on the corporate side. Trial lawyers might be willing to kick in, as they have in the past, if there were a chance to win a majority, but there isn't -- not in this cycle. I think we should all be taking the long view, and taking every opportunity for a pickup, even if it takes a number more cycles to turn that into a majority, but most potential big donors don't have that kind of patience, it seems.

I had not heard that Bernstein was picking up the tab for the whole Dem MSC effort -- just Richard's race?

[ Parent ]
...if I understand you correctly, candidates' reluctance to run for Supreme Court isn't so much due to Hathaway-gate (as some here suggest) as it is a matter of funding?

Also, I note this point:

Trial lawyers might be willing to kick in, as they have in the past, if there were a chance to win a majority, but there isn't -- not in this cycle.

With three seats on the ballot, a Democratic sweep would give us the 4-3 majority. That we're now viewed as not having any chance is, to me, confirmation of what I mentioned below - that after two justices were defeated in recent years, people once again view the incumbency designations as very advantageous.

(Not to mention another sign of Democrats' willingness to concede elections months before the first vote is even cast. I mean, reality is one thing - but giving up in doggone May is another. That comment isn't directed at you, Mark - you're calling it as you see it. Just a general mini-rant.)

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

[ Parent ]
OK, I said "a chance", not
"a mathematical possibility". I didn't think I needed to lay out the possibility, I was just referring to my perception of others perceptions of what is realistic.

And I'm a guy who has organized walkers and callers for Supreme Court over the last three cycles, and I've seen what a targeted effort can do. But it's just not there this time. Still time to turn it around, but I'm not seeing it yet.

I think Hathaway does have an effect. It's not fear of turning into her, just deep depression that we worked so hard (and were the beneficiary of extraordinary circumstances as the Obama 2008 campaign found itself with excess capacity in Michigan with four weeks to go) -- and then this golden gift magically turns into a flaming bag on our porch filled with dog poop. It seems like fate that the corporatocracy will continue to control the MSC forever.  

[ Parent ]
That's what I was saying
...that it has seemed to me that folks aren't focusing on winning the Court this year - and now, your post seems to have confirmed that.

Again, you called it as you (and many others) see it - I'm certainly not faulting you at all, but rather, lamenting that we seem to have given up on it already.

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

[ Parent ]
I was told by two different people
That Sam is putting up the money for the whole MSC operation. Of course, this might not be accurate or things may have changed.

Who knows but your post reflects my general displeasure with the lack of leadership and apathy from Dems on judicial races. We have basically seeded the judiciary to the republicans and they have turned Michigan into a corporate kangaroo court.

[ Parent ]
Before 2008 it was assumed that defeating an incumbent justice would be all but impossible, given their ballot designation as "Justice of the Supreme Court." Taylor's 2008 defeat made people rethink that - and then Davis's 2010 loss seemed to confirm that incumbency wasn't the protection that it used to be.

Now, after the inability to knock off either of the incumbents in 2012, it seems we're back to where we were before 2008 - seeing incumbency as a major advantage, with 2008 and 2010 being viewed as wave-year exceptions to the rule which is still in place, so to speak.

That could also explain what you describe in the 36th District Court and, for that matter, other courts - the 3rd CoA district incumbents are unopposed (Jane Markey, who sought a Republican nomination for Supreme court in 2012, and Mark Boonstra, husband of Julie Boonstra).

Even if the odds of getting elected are long, it would seem that running for a judgeship can certainly help one in other ways - it can help one build name recognition for a future run for office or help boost business for one's firm, for instance.

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

[ Parent ]
1970 and Today
I read with dismay that Michigan Democrats are apparently unable to come up with a trio of Tier I Court candidates in a year that many think will be a decent year for the Party in Michigan.

How different this is compared to the year I first got involved politically, 1970. In that year there were two seats being contested, both held by veteran Republicans. One seat was held by the Chief Justice, John Dethmers, who had been on the Court for 25 years including a number of terms as Chief Justice and who was reported to have been a finalist for the US Supreme Court seat that went to Potter Stewart in the late 1950's.

The other seat had been held for 16 years by former Secretary of State and Former Governor Harry Kelly who, at age 75, was not eligible to run for another term. Instead the Republicans nominated Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Edward Piggins, a former Detroit Police Commissioner who gained national fame during his tenure taking on police corruption in Detroit and then in his mid-'60's role as a one-man Grand Jury investigating corruption in the Detroit Police Department.

Who, against that tandem were the Democrats able to round up for the two positions? None other than two former Governors, Soapy Williams and John Swainson, who won election to the Court expanding our edge to 6-1. While Soapy went on to serve two terms, sadly John Swainson was forced to resign from the Court in 1975 and was replaced by Judge Jim Ryan, who was later named by Ronald Reagan to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Speaking of Dethmers
he plays an interesting role in the 1940s tale of murder and corruption in the state legislature and Republican party.  The story is surreal.  

I read about it in "Three Bullets Sealed His Lips" -- a story that was previously foreign to me until I read that book last summer.  Picked it up at a local art gallery in Pontiac.

Great Lakes, Great Times.

[ Parent ]
Bernstein family's name recognition
Anyone who watches the Tigers on Fox Sports Detroit gets bombarded with Sam Bernstein commercials which, for a long time, have featured Sam's offspring Richard, Mark, and Beth as well as the family patriarch. After the game, the FSD hosts broadcast from the Call Sam Studio.

Richard Bernstein will go into the election with perhaps the highest name recogniation since Soapy Williams was on the court.

A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.

You got that right
And it's not just FSD but every Detroit station during the daytime hours or news programs. The name recognition must be off the charts.

[ Parent ]
I live in Lansing, and I feel like they are family friends I've seen them for so long growing up.  This would be a slam dunk.  We need the other seats, though.  The unfortunate thing about the supreme court races is that even a really high-profile candidate doesn't seem to drag the rest of our slate along.  I was really hoping McCormick would be able to pull at least one more seat with her, but incumbency seems to be a factor in the court races that even it's not in other races.

[ Parent ]
There's a reason for that
but incumbency seems to be a factor in the court races that even it's not in other races.

That's because incumbent judges are always designated on the ballot as "Justice of the Supreme Court," "Judge of the Court of Appeals," etc.

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

[ Parent ]
I feel like the number of elected officials with law degrees has fallen off on the Democratic side in recent cycles.

If I am correct there are only 2 in the Senate (Bieda, Whitmer) and in the house there are 8 (Banks, rose mary robinson, rashida tlaib, Kavanagh, Kandrevas, Ellen Lipton, Tim Greimel,Stacy Erwin Oakes).

While it obviously doesn't have to be an elected official, it could help name recognition-wise. Even those that do have law degrees, I think most people don't see them as attorneys but politicians.

Bernstein will be a great candidate because he has money and amazing name recognition. I think people could come out of nowhere and get their name out there, sorta like McCormack last election, but as was said before, its heard beating that incumbent recognition.

I think Whitmer could have won it this year if she had run but I doubt she will. (Probably has her sights set on something else down the road anyways). Kavanagh is busy running for Exec. but I think he could have had a chance. Lipton is a Harvard law grad but she is also busy with a Senate race, as is Oakes.   Kandrevas could be an interesting thought. He is term limited and his dad has been a district court judge in wayne county for decades. If Bernstein helps him raise money, he could have a shot.

I don't know why more politicians in general don't want to run for a spot, especially when they're term limited and have no other options. I know its a hard, state-wide race to win, but the party holds the hands of the candidates, you make about $170,000 a year and the terms are 8 years.

national trend too
fewer lawyers in elected office is a national trend too... http://economix.blogs.nytimes....

[ Parent ]
Lawyers being replaced by business and financial people
From the article at your link:
Banking and business have gradually been absorbing a larger share of the Senate, going from a low of 11.46 percent of senators in the 79th Congress (1945-46) to 20 percent in today's Senate.
Lawyers account for 23.91 percent of today's House, down from a high of 42.56 percent in the 87th Congress (1961-62). Today there are also about as many representatives who previously worked in banking and business as there are lawyers, with bankers and businessmen making up 21.38 percent of the House.
After seeing the results of the first MBA president, I'm not sure this is a good trend.

Greetings from Detroit, Ground Zero of the post-industrial future!

[ Parent ]
I might be a little biased, but I do think it is a bad trend.

While there are skeezy lawyers and a lot are just in it for the money, I think a background in law is only a positive. A lot of these lawmakers go into office never having to deal with the law or understand the reasons behind them. They run mostly on policy issues that are supported by the party.

While I know lawmakers have staffers and caucus lawyers and counsel, I think a law degree is always going to be the best thing to have for a lawmaker. If there's one career I think that is more centered on making money and exerting power, it is banking and business.  

[ Parent ]
At least the Dems aren't the Greens
I've been covering elections since 2010 for Examiner.com and one of the ways I distinguish myself is that I cover minor parties more closely than other reporters on the same beat.  During the past two statewide elections, I noticed that the Greens nominated no candidates for offices that required a legal background--no Attorneys General or Supreme Court nominees.  That suggests that they have no lawyers willing to run for office in their ranks.  Even the U.S. Taxpayers Party nominates candidates for Attorney General regularly, and two years ago nominated Mindy Barry for Supreme Court, who earned more votes than any other candidate nominated by one of the minor parties.

Greetings from Detroit, Ground Zero of the post-industrial future!

[ Parent ]
You mean, former Republican House staffer Mindy Barry?
This one?

With election fraud and fake candidate shenanigans making plenty of news in Michigan, some Democrats believe they've identified a bogus candidacy for the Michigan Supreme Court.

Grosse Pointe Park attorney Mindy Barry has filed to run for the high court as a Taxpayer Party candidate, but she's a former Republican House staffer who clerked for Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young Jr., a GOP nominee.

Democrats have nominated an all-female slate to try to unseat the two Republican nominees, Justices Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra, who face voters Nov. 6. Party Chairman Mark Brewer says the more candidates there are, the more it helps the GOP, and a female candidate is more likely to draw votes away from the Democratic nominees.

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

[ Parent ]
Yes, her
BTW, I disagreed with Brewer then and I disagree with him now.  Not on his contention that she's a ringer--Barry was by far the best qualified candidate that the U.S. Taxpayers Party ran in 2012.  My opinion of their slates is that they're mostly "amateur hour," even more so than the Greens and just as bad as Natural Law.  No, I think Brewer was wrong on her impact.  She was a conservative candidate nominated by a conservative party that runs to the right of the GOP.  If she did anything, it would been to pull more votes from Zahra than Johnson and collect the votes that would have otherwise gone to the Libertarians, since the latter didn't nominate a candidate for that slot.  In other words, she would have helped, not hurt us.

As for her being "illegitimate," that's for the U.S. Taxpayers Party to decide.  According to what the U.S. Taxpayers Party Chair Bill Mohr told me when I was wearing my journalist hat, they vet their candidates for ideology very closely and try to avoid opportunists.  For example, the national party (the Constitution Party) refused to let Alan Keyes run on their ticket, smelling a fake and a takeover by the GOP.  The national party actually split over this issue, with the California and Florida affiliates supporting Keyes and the rest of the state affiliates, including Todd Palin's party, the Alaska Independence Party, supporting Chuck Baldwin.  Mohr was quite proud of securing Barry.  If the GOP was trolling anyone, it was Mohr and the USTP, not the Democrats.

Greetings from Detroit, Ground Zero of the post-industrial future!

[ Parent ]
If Bernstein is as young as I think he is
...then he might be on the Court as long as Cavanagh has been.

This is Cavanagh's 32nd year on the Court. He's retiring because judges may not run again after they turn 70. (When they turn 70, they can serve out their current term, but they can't run again for another term.)

Bernstein, IIRC, is 41 - so he could be elected in:

2014 - age 41
2022 - age 49
2030 - age 57
2038 - age 65

...then retire at the end of 2046.

I'll be almost 60 by then.

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

No, he's 40.
I think he was born November 9, 1973.

[ Parent ]
Still means he can serve 32 years
Thanks for pointing that out.

Now on Great Lakes, Great Times, Great Scott: Cotter vs. Jesus and Reagan

[ Parent ]

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