Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway was sentenced on Tuesday to 366 days in prison. She had pleaded guilty earlier to committing bank fraud by concealing holdings in the short sale of a home.
“I stand before you a broken person,” she told U.S. District Judge John Corbett O’Meara. “I am ashamed, embarrassed, humiliated and disgraced,” she said, according to an Associated Press report.
“We do not ask you to sentence Diane Hathaway based on who she is,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Lemisch told the court. “We ask you to sentence Diane Hathaway based on what she did.”
Her defense attorney, Steve Fishman, had argued that losing her prominent job was severe enough punishment for Hathaway. The former judge is depicted above, with her husband, in an Associated Press photo taken Jan. 29.
A former Michigan Supreme Court justice with a record for controversy has written a book that likely will spark more debate.
“Judicial Deceit: Tyranny and Unnecessary Secrecy at the Michigan Supreme Court” by former Justice Elizabeth Weaver and co-author David Schock will be released in mid-May, according to a Traverse City (Mi.) Record-Eagle article.
Justice Weaver is especially critical of “dark money” judicial campaign expenditures that cannot be traced to corporations or individuals.
“Reform the money,” she told the newspaper. “Instant, complete, reporting of all money. No hiding behind groups of Justice for People or People for Justice. Every contribution has to be individual, and it cannot be People for Justice, which is a whole bunch of unknown people. It’s dark money.”
In 2010, the Michigan Supreme Court justices censured the former justice over her actions in an earlier election, when she disclosed a partial transcript she had made from a secretly recorded conference with her fellow justices (see Gavel Grab). During her time on the court, she also served two years as chief justice.
Individuals contributing to political campaigns are looking for more ways to endorse candidates while avoiding campaign finance laws, according to Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
Robinson met with members of the League of Women Voters recently to discuss the issues in campaign finance, reports the Observer & Eccentric Newspaper. The Michigan Campaign Finance Network is a Justice at Stake partner organization.
Robinson says many TV ads for campaigns are “issue advertisements.” They don’t endorse or oppose a candidate; the ads urge the listener to contact a candidate and express their opinion on an issue, the article says.
While speaking at the Livonia Civic Center Library, Robinson noted that expenditures for these advertisements do not have to be reported to the Department of State’s campaign finance reporting system. Read more
Michigan’s Supreme Court contest last year was “the costliest and least transparent in state history,” according to a report by the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. The watchdog group, which does its own legwork to identify undisclosed political spending, said only $4.7 million of $18.6 million in total spending was reported publicly through Michigan’s campaign finance disclosure system.
Ads about Supreme Court candidates that were not reported to Michigan’s Department of State, MCFN said, were purchased by the Michigan Republican Party ($6.67 million), the Michigan Democratic State Central Committee ($6.17 million) and a DC-based nonprofit corporation called Judicial Crisis Network ($1.02 million).
Under state officials’ interpretation of the Michigan Campaign Finance Act, MCFN said, such ads aren’t considered campaign expenditures — and disclosure is not required for spending to pay for them — unless they contain such words as “vote for,” “vote against,” “support” or “defeat.”
“This anachronistic interpretation of the Campaign Finance Act means that three-fourths of the money spent in this campaign was off the books,” said Rich Robinson of MCFN. “The citizens of this state have no way to find out who was behind $14 million in dark money that was spent in the 2012 Supreme Court campaign.”
Michigan legislators haven’t introduced legislation to enact recommendations of a Michigan task force, made almost a year ago, for reforming judicial elections. But some advocates haven’t given up hope that the legislature will act.
State Sen. Glenn Anderson, a Democrat, said the legislature ought to consider some of the recommendations because it is important to reduce the influence of politics and campaign cash on the election of state state Supreme Court justices.
“We have to realize that this has the potential of contaminating the whole system and undermining any confidence that the public has in our judicial system,” Anderson told Michigan Radio for its article, “The influence of money and politics in Michigan Supreme Court elections.”
Prominently featured in the article is Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, a Justice at Stake partner group; Robinson has reported that three out of four dollars in the high-spending Supreme Court election last year supported “issue ads” by outside groups, and this spending was not required to be disclosed publicly. Read more
Recently retired Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway pleaded guilty to bank fraud on Tuesday. She could receive up to 18 months in prison when she is sentenced May 28.
Her lawyer, Steve Fishman, described the crime as “dumb. It made no sense,” according to an Associated Press article. The AP said the former judge pleaded guilty in a negotiated agreement to “bank fraud … for concealing assets, including a debt-free Florida home, while urging a bank to let her unload a Michigan house in a short sale, claiming financial hardship.”
Her recent retirement created a vacancy that Gov. Rick Snyder has not yet filled. To learn about Justice at Stake’s urging him to set up a merit commission, see Gavel Grab.
Michigan needs greater transparency in judicial campaign spending and the process of filling supreme court vacancies, says Rich Robinson of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.
Robinson and Susan Smith from the League of Women Voters are planning four forums in February and March to address potential changes to the state’s campaign finance laws and judicial selection process concerning high court vacancies, says the Daily Tribune.
Robinson is particularly interested in discussing how a major portion of the money spent for advertisements in November’s judicial elections came from “undisclosed sources.” “The issue ads were the equivalent of a drive-by shooting,” Robinson says of the TV advertisements. Read more
Only days before she prepared to retire from the Michigan Supreme Court under a cloud, Justice Diane Hathaway was charged with bank fraud. Gov. Rick Snyder, meanwhile, said there wasn’t enough time to appoint a merit-based selection commission to help him name her successor.
On Jan. 19, Justice Hathaway was charged by federal prosecutors with bank fraud in connection with the sale of a Detroit-area home, the Associated Press reported. Earlier, she had been accused in a civil suit of hiding assets to defraud a bank and get out of $600,000 in debt. On Jan. 21, she formally retired from the court.
Snyder, a Republican, had been urged by Justice at Stake (see Gavel Grab) and others to adopt a judicial selection task force recommendation and set up a judicial nominating commission to help him fill the vacancy. He told the Detroit Free Press the idea had merit but the timing of her retirement rendered it premature. He said he would use a “hybrid” selection method. Read more
Michigan’s judicial elections are a source embarrassment for the state, but Gov. Rick Snyder has an opportunity to turn things around, a commentator says.
With state Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway’s imminent retirement from the bench, Snyder could choose his nominee from a list of candidates fully vetted by individuals in the legal field and by private citizens, Phil Power argues in a Bridge Magazine opinion. Power is the founder and chairman of the Center for Michigan.
Snyder could go the route of past governors and make a partisan appointment to the high court, or he could follow the recommendation of a Michigan judicial selection task force in 2012 to choose someone vetted by a selection commission, Power says. Read more
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory recently killed a judicial selection commission that his predecessor had established to remove politics from judicial selection.
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway announced her resignation last week, in light of a lawsuit accusing her bank fraud and money laundering.
Now, newspaper editorials are portraying these episodes as opportunities for both states to reform current processes and adopt nonpartisan procedures for selecting judges.