In its report yesterday about the Court of Appeals decision concerning Oakland County redistricting, Gongwer News (subsc. req.) included this description of the panel deciding the case:
Mr. Kelly is an independent-minded judge elected to his post. Ms. Krause was appointed to the court by former Governor Jennifer Granholm. Mr. Meter was appointed by former Governor John Engler.
There is much that is unfortunate about this sentence, which, sadly, is not entirely unfamiliar in reporting on the courts. Specifically, the sentence suggests that acceptance of a judicial appointment means forfeiting one's independent judgment to the partisan interests of the appointing Governor. Although judges who reach the bench by appointment from the same Governor may share common characteristics and display similar decisionmaking patterns, a blanket assumption about an abdication of independence is unwarranted and dangerous. SBM Blog points cynics to this opinion of the Michigan Supreme Court as a recent example refuting the underlying assumption of the Gongwer sentence.
While we're at it, we'd like to suggest to everyone covering the courts that stories about judges and judicial decisions are much more reader-friendly when the people in the story who are judges are identified as "Judge" or "Justice" or "Hon." rather than "Mr." or "Ms."
Having gotten that off our chest, it's also important to note that Gongwer News is an important and well-respected news source in Lansing.