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Traverse City, Michigan

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Tim Smith
Tim Smith
Attorney • 231-946-0700

Justice Taylor's Legacy Lives On

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Kreiner v. Fischer. A 2004 opinion by Michigan Supreme Court Justice Cliff Taylor that re-wrote Michigan Auto Insurance law as it was known up until that point in time. In that opinion, he literally re-wrote the legal standard that had been drafted by our legislature for individuals who had been injured in auto accidents. Back when the legislature enacted the Auto No-Fault Statute, individuals who had been hit by a car, who had broken bones that needed multiple surgeries to fix were given the legal right to make a claim against the at fault driver’s insurance company for their damages. Justice Taylor took that right away when he wrote the Kreiner decision. Now, 4 years later, the decision authored by Justice Taylor has taken away the legal rights of Rodney McCormick

On March 25th, the Michigan Court of Appeals applied Justice Taylor’s reasoning from the Kreiner decision and held as a matter of law that Rodney McCormick has no legal claim for an injury he sustained in January of 2005. In the accident, Rodney’s left ankle was crushed when a truck backed over it and snapped it. Rodney had to undergo 2 surgeries. He was unable to work for an entire year. Yet, the Court of Appeals was forced to apply Justice Taylor’s analysis from the Kreiner decision and they decided that Rodney’s injury wasn’t serious enough….

Out of work for one year? Two Surgeries? Not serious enough?

This may seem ridiculous, but that is the way Justice Taylor re-wrote Michigan’s auto no-fault law when he drafted and published the Kreiner decision.

The House of Representatives recognized Justice Taylor’s error and passed a bill [the Kreiner Fix bill] over a year ago to correct his re-writing of our No-Fault law. But, it remains stuck in the Senate.

I’ve been told by a number of friends, but I haven’t been able to personally confirm, that individuals who are backing Taylor in the upcoming election [he is the only Justice up for re-election this year] have instructed certain Senators to keep the Kreiner Fix bill from reaching a vote until Justice Taylor has been safely re-elected.

The funny thing is, none is this would even be an issue if Justice Taylor just called “balls and strikes” as opposed to legislating from the bench. In a recent Saturday evening meeting with Cass County Republicans, he told them that it was his belief that the role of the judge is not to make policy, but to interpret the words of the statute or constitution at issue.

I couldn’t agree more.

If he had only acted in this fashion when the Kreiner case came before him, Mr. Rodney McCormick would have had his day in court. Instead, he’s left with permanent scarring from 2 surgeries as a life-long reminder of the year in his life that was taken from him by a negligent driver and Justice Cliff Taylor.

Justice Taylor went on to say to Cass County Republicans that his judicial philosophy might earn him the undying enmity of certain kinds of folks. He mentioned the labor unions and trial lawyers. But he didn’t mention Republicans. I’m a Republican and I take issue with the manner in which he has legislated from the bench. I’ve talked to other Republicans who feel the same way.

Justice Taylor’s re-election campaign isn’t about Republicans v. Democrats or trial lawyers v. tort reformers. It’s about individuals who believe in a proper system of checks and balances where one branch doesn’t rise in power above the rest. Remember Mr. McCormick when it’s time to vote in November.