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Ex-Mich. justice says she recorded her colleagues

October 27, 2010
By ED WHITE Associated Press

DETROIT - A former Michigan Supreme Court justice says she recorded her fellow justices while discussing cases with them in 2006, a surprising disclosure in the last week of a hot campaign for control of the court.

Elizabeth Weaver provided a transcript of a court conference to the website It was intended to counter a black justice's explanation of how he had once used the N-word during private talks with other justices.

But instead it raises questions about why - and how - a member of the state's highest court was recording her colleagues four years ago.

''She probably committed a felony,'' said Justice Robert Young Jr., referring to a state law that requires consent of all involved before recording phone conversations.

Young, the justice who acknowledged using the N-word, said he believes Weaver recorded the court's discussion of cases on May 10, 2006, while participating by phone from northern Michigan where she lives.

Weaver, who quit the court in August, said state law allows one party to a conversation to record it. She said Young was ''trying to divert the public's attention'' from his choice of words and the secrecy and ''locker room'' manner in which the court conducts public business.

''It's a shame, it's a disgrace, and Young should himself be feeling shamed,'' she said.

She and Young are both Republicans, but they were not allies on the court. Weaver frequently voted with the court's Democrats.

Weaver recently gave a speech in Traverse City in which she said Young used the N-word in 2006 while talking with other justices about a Detroit-area judicial candidate. Weaver is white.

Young acknowledged to The Associated Press last week that he used the word during a passionate discussion about someone's rights. Weaver, however, struck back with a transcript to support her recollection of a different topic.

''Below is exactly what the Justices said, from my notes and from a transcript of a recording I made of that conference,'' Weaver wrote on ''I share these facts for the voting public to judge for themselves whether Justice Young is fit to continue to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court.''

Young reversed himself a bit Tuesday and said Weaver's version probably was right. He said he was quoting a disgraced former judge in Wayne County who was considering a comeback in 2006, years after she was removed for denigrating minorities.

''I surely was not using it as a racial epithet. I was quoting the person who used it as a racial epithet,'' said Young, who is seeking re-election Nov. 2. ''If I can be forgiven for remembering the emotion but not remembering the context after 4 1/2 years, I can live with it.''

He said he's more troubled that Weaver recorded the Supreme Court's internal deliberations. Cliff Taylor, who was chief justice at the time, said he's shocked.

''This rogue judge was a nightmare on the court the whole time she served on it,'' Taylor said of Weaver. ''And this is the capper. ... These discussions between judges have to be inviolately secret. Otherwise the system can't work.''

Court spokeswoman Marcia McBrien said the court's internal discussions are not officially recorded, nor is a court reporter present quoting justices when they decide whether to accept or reject appeals.

Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly declined to comment. She has ''no knowledge that former Justice Weaver ever taped a court conference. Indeed, this is the first she has heard of this,'' McBrien said.

The court is controlled by Democrats, 4-3. Two seats are in play in the election next week.



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