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(The Center Square) – The judge who granted a preliminary injunction against Michigan's 1931 "trigger law" to ban abortions in the state is a longtime abortion advocate with political ties to Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
Judge Elizabeth Gleicher received Planned Parenthood's Advocate Award in 1998. She additionally donated $1,000 to Nessel's campaign coffers last fall. Nessel was named a defendant in her capacity as AG in the lawsuit Planned Parenthood filed for the injunction issued by Gleicher despite the fact Nessel had publicly declared she would not enforce the state's abortion law.
Gleicher is also a 1998 recipient of Planned Parenthood's Advocate Award and worked as an attorney on several prominent abortion cases including:
"It is impossible for a judge who has represented an organization in numerous lawsuits, made annual donations and was awarded with an Advocate of the Year award to rule in an impartial manner," Michigan Rising Action President Eric Ventigmilia told The Center Square. "The people of Michigan deserve decisions based on the rule of law, not the personal feelings of activist judges."
John Bursch is senior counsel and vice president of appellate advocacy with Alliance Defending Freedom, a group representing the Michigan Catholic Coalition and Michigan Right to Life. In a news conference conducted Tuesday afternoon, Bursch called Gleicher's ruling a "rogue decision" and later added, "She should have recused herself from this case and not participated in it at all."
The Center Square spoke with Michigan Supreme Court Public Information Office Communications Director John Nevin, who stated Clerk Jerome W. Zimmer submitted a letter to counsel in which he disclosed Geicher's contributions to Planned Parenthood:
When this case was initiated, it was randomly assigned to Chief Judge Elizabeth L. Gleicher using the assignment algorithm in the court's case management system. Upon receiving this assignment, Judge Gleicher asked me to notify all counsel of record that she makes yearly contributions to Planned Parenthood of Michigan, a 501(c)(3) organization, and she represented Planned Parenthood as a volunteer attorney for the ACLU in 1996–1997, in Mahaffey v. Attorney General, 222 Mich App 325 (1997). While Judge Gleicher does not believe this warrants her recusal and is certain that she can sit on this case with requisite impartiality and objectivity, she believes that this letter of disclosure is appropriate. If any party disagrees with Judge Gleicher's assessment, an appropriate motion may be filed in accordance with MCR 2.003(D).
Nevin also noted Michigan court rules regarding a judge's recusal.
Bursch asserts Gleicher's regular contributions to Planned Parenthood indirectly subsidized "the very litigation which she is now deciding." He also stated he found it "extraordinary" the injunction was issued in a case with no "adverse parties," due to the fact Nessel was in explicit agreement with the plaintiffs.
In an ADF statement emailed to The Center Square, Bursch noted:
The court's ruling is egregious for many reasons. Because the defendant, Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, was not defending the law, the judge had no jurisdiction to rule in this case at all. What's more, the Michigan Court of Appeals previously held that the same pro-life law is valid under Michigan's Constitution — in a case where Planned Parenthood was represented by the same judge who issued today’s ruling. Michigan citizens are entitled to neutral decision makers, and government officials have a duty to uphold the law and protect their citizens, including unborn children. Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference are considering their next steps.
On Tuesday, Nessel issued a statement celebrating Gleicher's decision.
"This injunction is a victory for the millions of Michigan women fighting for their rights," Nessel said. "The judge acted quickly in the interest of bodily integrity and personal freedom to preserve this important right and found a likelihood of success in the state law being found unconstitutional. I have no plans to appeal and will comply with the order to provide notice to all state and local officials under my supervision."