Court Admits Mistake

It takes courage to admit one’s error. It takes even more encourage to do so publicly. But a panel of our Michigan Court of Appeals has done that in a well-written opinion issued this week. Judges Gadola, Gleicher and Stephens are to be commended for their honesty, and their example.

The case, Barnowski v Cleary University, concerns a woman who was denied unemployment compensation after losing her job. Her protest of the denial was late, and all the reviewing bodies, including the Court of Appeals, affirmed that she had no good cause for her late protest.

Ms. Barnowski appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, which remanded her case to the Court of Appeals. This time, the court acknowledged its mistake, entitling a lead paragraph, “Mistakes are Teaching Moments,” with sub-headings including, “Background Facts, Corrected” and “Our Error.” The court even acknowledges that its “confusion” over the two notices Ms. Barnowski received from the Unemployment office, noting, “Our own error in understanding the two notices and the process that generated them demonstrates that Barnowski’s claim has merit.”

It’s healthy to admit one’s mistakes, even for judges. Maybe especially for judges.


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