First-of-its-kind digital accountability tool tracks Michigan Supreme Court decisions on environmental issues in near real-time
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Michigan League of Conservation Voters today unveiled its newly-renovated “Green Gavels” tool on the Michiganlcv.org website. The Green Gavels tool was created in collaboration with students at the University of Michigan Law School and licensed attorneys who reviewed and scored cases before the Michigan Supreme Court that focused on environmental, good governance and democracy protection.
Michigan LCV’s Green Gavels was originally launched in 2012, scoring environmental cases from 1980-2012. The update with today’s launch includes cases from 2012-2020 while tracking scores for current justices. Cases and justices’ scores will be updated regularly to give users accessible information about key Supreme Court decisions and their impact on the environment, public health and our democracy.
“Decisions made at the Michigan Supreme Court can be difficult to track and understand, yet they have significant and long-lasting impacts to our air quality, pollution in our water and our right to vote,” said Lisa Wozniak, executive director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters. “We revamped our Green Gavels tool to give the public easy access to up-to-date information about these important rulings and to hold our elected Supreme Court justices accountable as they rule on cases that impact our environment, our health and our democracy.”
Each Green Gavels Supreme Court case decision receives a rating (green, yellow, or red) and a weighting (on a scale of 1-4) for the case’s majority opinion, based on how the decision impacts the environment. Additionally, each justice receives a rating based on how they ruled, individually, in each case. Justices who did not write an opinion will be rated based on the written opinion in which they concurred.
Based on the rating of each opinion in a case, a gavel is assigned to the justice(s) who authored the opinion.
- Green gavels are assigned when the opinion was good for the environment
- Red gavels are assigned when the opinion was bad for the environment, and there was a choice on the justice’s part
- Yellow gavels are assigned when:
- The case involved an environmental issue, but resulted in no impact
- The case was bad for the environment, but was decided based off precedent or an unrelated issue
- The case was bad for the environment, but correctly interpreted the law (which was just a bad law for the environment)
“Whom we elect matters, and we hope this new tool serves as a resource for Michigan voters to better understand how the Supreme Court works, who the justices are, and the impacts their decisions have on our everyday lives,” said Wozniak.
The tool can be accessed at Michiganlcv.org/green-