Gov. Rick Snyder today thanked Justice Mary Beth Kelly for her service on the state Supreme Court, after the announcement she will retire Oct. 1. “Justice Kelly has shown tremendous leadership and dedication during her time on the Supreme Court,” Snyder said. “Her advocacy on juvenile justice issues has had a major impact on the state, and she has been instrumental in shaping innovative specialty courts meant to rehabilitate drug offenders and defendants who are veterans. “Her legacy will certainly reflect the time she spent working to change outcomes for some of the state’s most vulnerable residents. I thank her for her unwavering commitment to Michigan’s judicial system and wish her future success.” Kelly was elected to the Supreme Court in 2010, and prior to that she served as a judge on the Wayne County Circuit Court – including several years as chief judge – beginning with her appointment by Gov. John Engler in 1999. The state Constitution authorizes Gov. Snyder to appoint someone to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court for a term ending Jan. 1, 2017. To complete the remaining portion of Justice Kelly’s term, which ends in Dec. 2018, the appointee would need to run for election in Nov. 2016.
Supreme Court rules pensions taxable The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday, Nov. 18, upheld the constitutionality of the controversial Michigan pension tax changes made by our legislature last spring. Public Act 38, as signed by Governor Snyder, proposed taxing public pensions beginning on January 1, 2012. Private pensions have always been taxed, but public pensions paid to retired school, federal and state workers have not previously been taxed. The Act placed public and private pensions in the same pot and proposed taxing all of them at the same rate. However, there was some question as to whether the legislature had the power to levy a tax on those public pensions. Hence, the Michigan Supreme Court became involved in this sticky matter. It was asked to decide five issues. 1. Does or does not taxing public pensions “impair accrued financial benefits of a pension plan retirement system of the state…”? The pension recipients were promised a certain level of financial benefit upon retirement. Does taxing those pensions now reduce or impair that financial benefit? 2. Does or does not taxing public pensions “impair a contractual obligation in violation of the Michigan Constitution…”? Did the state have a Constitutional contract with the pension recipients to provide a promised level of pension benefit that would be reduced by the amount of tax incurred? 3. Does or does not taxing all pensions differently based on the date of birth “violate the equal protection of the law under the Constitution…”? People born before 1946 would pay no additional tax, so they were held harmless by the Legislature. People born between 1946 and 1952 would be impacted somewhat, while those born after 1952 would be extremely impacted by the bill. Is this legal? 4. Does or does not taxing all pensions differently based on the taxpayer’s total household resources “create a graduated income tax in violation of the Constitution…”? Michigan is a flat-tax state. Everyone pays at the same tax rate on their Michigan taxable income. The proposed law said taxpayers with total household resources in excess of $75,000 single and $150,000 joint were not entitled to a $20,000 single or $40,000 joint pension income exemption. Was this legal? 5. If the Supreme Court holds any part of the act as […]
Fischer takes brunt of scrutiny A year and two months and $158,000 later, Rockford’s Judge Servaas has had his day before the Michigan Supreme Court. Although a ruling could still be months away, Servaas is pleased with the hearing, which dragged to an hour long. It consisted – in part – of a grilling of Paul Fischer, the Judicial Tenure Commission director who ambushed Servaas in his Rockford office on January 16, 2008 with a hidden recording device, demanding his immediate resignation on threat of public humiliation. Several times Fischer asked that Servaas be immediately removed from office for a variety of alleged offenses and was refused each time. Now the case has gone all the way to the state’s highest court. During the hearing, the seven-judge panel did tell Servaas that it is never appropriate to comment on a co-worker’s breast size, an allegation he admits happened as a joke at a holiday party and which he says he regrets. Much of the rest of the time judges directed their comments to Fischer and his methods. “He took a beating,” Servaas stated.