The post-2000 majority on the Michigan Supreme Court has been acclaimed by some (including us) and heatedly criticized in some other quarters for its determined efforts to craft a principled jurisprudence of limited judicial power. Now the Federalist Society has published a paper by Matthew Schneider, visiting professor at Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan, which makes an excellent place to start in assessing why the post-2000 Michigan court has made such a difference. It can be found here.
Schneider examines the court's record not only on tort and liability issues, including governmental liability, but also such areas as standing (where it adopted the federal courts' view), criminal law, eminent domain, and stare decisis, among others. Of particular value, Schneider lays out in considerable detail the record of the liberal-dominated 1970-2000 Michigan court, which had cast aside longstanding precedent in one area after another; in civil law, the result was often to expand lawyers' power to sue and the scope of damages they could ask for. Many of the most widely assailed rulings of the post-2000 court have simply reversed these innovations and reinstated earlier rules; perhaps one reason emotions have run so high against the Taylor court is the widespread notion that legal change is a ratchet that can turn only one way, so that once a given court majority unilaterally liberalizes some aspect of the law, it becomes impermissibly "activist" for a later court to think of undoing matters (cross-posted at RightMichigan).