Maura Corrigan has again surfaced in the buzz as being on the short list to replace outgoing Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. U.S. News and World Report describes Corrigan as having “just what some Republicans are looking for: practical experience away from the bench and a firm commitment to judicial restraint.” She graduated from Marygrove College in Detroit and then received her law degree cum laude from the University of Detroit Law School in 1973. Corrigan served as a law clerk for a year, then as an assisting prosecuting attorney for the state of, then worked for 10 years in the U.S. Attorney’s office in Detroit. She went to the private sector for a while and then in 1992 was appointed to the State Court of Appeals in 1992 by Michigan Governor John Engler. She won election to the Michigan Supreme Court in 1998 and served as Chief Justice from 2001 to 2004. U.S. News and World Report says of Corrigan:
Since 1999, four of the seven justices on the court, including Corrigan, have strongly emphasized their commitment to following legislative intent through “textual analysis,” a philosophy of judicial restraint championed by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. In a 2004 article, Corrigan criticized activist judges for relying on an “antidemocratic premise that judges just know better … . The constant temptation in judging is to be expedient, to reach out and fix what appears to be wrong. I know that I was not elected as chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court to be a philosopher-king.”I know that I was not elected as chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court to be a philosopher-king.”
The court’s four conservative justices make up the core of the court’s 5-2 Republican majority that almost always prevails. The split on the court has led to many heated dissents from the court’s two liberal justices. Some criminal-defense lawyers say the court’s philosophy has made it difficult for them to win appellate cases, yet other observers say the court’s rulings have become much more predictable and consistent since 1999.
“The court is a court that sees its role as having a more limited perspective than the courts in the 1970s and 1980s because it gives great deference to legislative intent,” said Patricia Boyle, a former justice on the Michigan Supreme Court.
Petoskey News-Review quotes Corrigan as saying, “Fundamentally, a majority of the court believes a court’s role is to interpret the law, not to make it.” She continued: “This is my concern with the philosophy of judicial activists, because an activist approach rests on an anti-democratic premise. The thinking is that judges just know better - that we are somehow smarter and wiser than the people we govern and serve - that we on the bench are the new philosopher-kings.”
Nothing is known of Corrigan’s personal or legal views on abortion. It is quite possible that her strict constructionist views and her strong deference to the legislative branch would lead her to vote pro-life, but conservatives deserve better than a stealth candidate. We control the Presidency, the House, and the Senate and we should not be ashamed of putting up a candidate who agrees with our views. Corrigan may very well be a good justice but we simply do not know enough about her to comfortably make that judgment.