Corruption and the Courts: Michigan Justice Mary Beth Kelly

In the state of Michigan, justices serve eight-year terms and do not officially run as Republicans or Democrats. However, they are nominated by the political parties. Mary Beth Kelly was picked by Republicans and elected to Michigan’s Supreme Court this past year. While State Supreme Court races aren’t usually well covered (except in Wisconsin earlier this year), they can really affect a lot of people.

Mary Beth Kelly was being pushed by big money GOP donors like John Rakolta Jr. (amajor bundler for John McCain in 2008) and Mike Jandernoa (the former CEO of Periggo, a health-care provider). Of course, t he Michigan Republican Party supported Kelly with $60,000, while the Health PAC gave Kelly $34,000. The Auto Club PAC of Michigan donated Kelly $15,000. The funniest named PAC that gave to Kelly was Frankenmuth PAC ($10,000), a PAC that gives about equal to Democrats and Republicans (as well as hefty donation to McDonald’s PAC). Michigan Farm Bureau ($10,000) and MI Doctors PAC ($10,000) also gave to Kelly. Michigan Chamber PAC gave Kelly $10,000. The PACs plan is to “back candidates who back business”. The PAC brags that they take on auto workers and the AFL-CIO. The Detroit Regional Chamber chipped in Kelly $5,000. She was also one of the Michigan Right to Life PAC’s featured candidates. This PAC has also given money to John McCain, Thad McCotter, and Bart Stupak. The Michigan Association of Realtors spent 225,000 dollars for Kelly. On the Association’s site, they decry “burdensome regulations” and have backed legislation that would remove all business taxes.

Kelly was a commercial litigation partner for Dickinson Wright law firm for 10 years before joining the Supreme Court. Dickinson Wright was thelargest contributor to Democrat Candidate Pat Miles in a House race (with over $30,000) in a Michigan district. In 2008 they donatedalmost exclusively to Republicans. Most of their political spending was on the state level rather than the federal level. However they did donate to Obama, Biden, and Clinton (they donated to McCain and Romney as well).

In January, the Michigan Association of Auto Law accused her backers of being against victims of auto collisions and claimed that “very little is known about Justice Kelly and her beliefs on personal injury law.” Mary Beth Kelly has already been a lightening rod for controversy when she attempted to privatize the Friend of the Court system, causing protests from unions. She also made new rules for runaway children that made it harder for them to get access to attorneys. It is bad enough we let our politicians take money from business interests, but to allow our judges to be purchased as well is the stuff of corrupt third world countries.

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