Thursday, April 04, 2013

Judge chides Republican legislators for right-to-work laws

By Kristen M. Daum/Lansing State Journal via Detroit Free Press

MASON -- Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette took a verbal shot Wednesday at the Legislature over Michigan's new right-to-work laws, saying he was "amazed" legislators would create laws "to avoid me."

Collette's comments came as attorneys delivered arguments in a lawsuit over whether the new labor laws were passed in violation of the state's Open Meetings Act.

Attorney General Bill Schuette had asked Collette to throw out the lawsuit, filed by a coalition of labor supporters who seek to invalidate the laws that prohibit requiring the payment of union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Part of Schuette's argument was based on the fact that the right-to-work laws say that any legal challenges must originate in the Michigan Court of Appeals, not the lower courts.

Collette said he had no "great deal of interest" on the jurisdictional issues of the lawsuit because potential violations of the state's open meetings law are the foremost issue of the legal challenge.

However, Collette took a few moments to chide the Republican-led Legislature for creating such an issue in the first place.

Typically, Ingham County is the starting point for lawsuits against the State of Michigan because Lansing, the capital, is in that county. Judges in Michigan are nonpartisan.

"I find it amazing that a law would be created to avoid me," he said, to brief chuckles from the courtroom audience of mostly lawyers and journalists. "I find it absolutely amazing that they would be so afraid of me and those few others like me that serve (in the court) that the Legislature would pass a law."

Ari Adler, spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall, deferred comment on Collette's remarks to the Attorney General's Office because it is representing the Legislature and other state entities in the lawsuit.

Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout declined to comment.
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