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A Better Partnership


Jul 2011
July 01, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court Ruling Has Implications For Unions, Court

A Michigan Supreme Court ruling issued June 30 prohibits schools and other governmental units from collecting payroll deductions for public-employee-union-affiliated political action committees.  Warner Norcross partner Matt Nelson, who chairs the firm's Appellate Law Group, said that the ruling will have "significant ramifications for public employee unions, who will have a much harder time getting money into their PACs."  Nelson explained that the ruling prevents unions from using payroll deduction to gather contributions for their political action committees, which means they will have to encourage members to write checks like other political action committees.  "The political implications of this ruling are significant," Nelson noted, "because public-employee unions tend to be heavy contributors to the Democratic Party."
But the real import of the ruling, according to Nelson, lies in the court's decision to rehear only two of the decisions released in December before the new justices came in.  Nelson noted that the last time the ideological balance on the court changed, almost almost all of the cases decided in December were flipped after the new justice was seated.  In this instance, Justice Markman and Chief Justice Young voted to rehear several more cases in which they had earlier dissented, but new justices Brian Zahra and Mary Beth Kelly agreed to rehear only two -- this one and another on water rights.  "Although the tone of the two decisions demonstrates that all the justices are firmly committed to their respective positions," Nelson said, "the new justices have shown restraint in revisiting the court's decisions from earlier in the term."

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