Viviano joins colleagues Mary Beth Kelly, Brian Zahra and Mike Cavanagh as a justice with experience in the trenches of the trial courts, where jurists have to apply state Supreme Court rulings and make them work. Viviano is, not surprisingly, a Republican, having unsuccessfully vied against Democratic Macomb County Prosecutor Eric Smith for the prosecutor’s job before he went on the bench.
Given that trial court chief judges are named by the state’s highest court, Viviano is already well-regarded by most Supremes. His appointment strengthens the court’s GOP-connected majority.
There’s a certain irony in the fact that he replaces the disgraced Diane Hathaway – a Democrat who had to leave the Supreme Court this year after pleading guilty to bank fraud in federal court. Hathaway defeated former Chief Justice Cliff Taylor – in part with a dishonest ad in her 2008 campaign accusing him of being asleep on the bench. Snyder didn’t heed calls from Dems and their media chorus to name a bi-partisan committee to select a justice – a call that is often made when Republicans have appointive power, but is seldom followed by Democrats themselves.
Viviano’s appointment continues the rout of state Democrats in the 2012 election, when they failed to get a number of ballot issues written into the state Constitution and failed to change the balance on the state Supreme Court. The loss of Hathaway’s seat by the Dems to a GOP appointee is an unforced error.