Michigan Supreme Court

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Michigan Supreme Court
Court information
Justices:   7
Founded:   1805
Location:   Lansing, Michigan
Chief:  $165,000
Associates:  $165,000
Judicial selection
Method:   Non-partisan election of judges
Term:   8 years
Active justices

Michael Cavanagh  •  Stephen Markman  •  Brian Zahra  •  Mary Beth Kelly  •  David Viviano  •  Robert P. Young, Jr.  •  Bridget Mary McCormack  •  

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The Michigan Supreme Court is the court of last resort in Michigan. The Court is located in the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing, the state capital.


The current justices of the court are:
JudgeTermSelected byParty
Justice Michael Cavanagh1982-2015Democratic
Justice Stephen Markman1999-2020Gov. John EnglerRepublican
Justice Brian Zahra2011-2015Gov. Rick SnyderRepublican
Justice Mary Beth Kelly2011-2019Republican
Justice David Viviano2013-2014Gov. Rick SnyderRepublican
Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr.1999-2019Republican
Justice Bridget Mary McCormack2013-2021Democratic

Chief justice

Every two years members of the court elect one of their own to serve as Chief Justice.[1]


The Court's term starts August 1 and runs through July 31 of the following year.[2] Most cases involve review of Michigan Court of Appeals decisions, but the court also hears cases judicial misconduct, as well as some cases of original jurisdiction such as is the case in a bypass appeal.[3] The court has broad superintending control power over all the state courts in Michigan.

Judicial selection

Seven justices sit on the court, chosen in non-partisan elections for eight-year terms. Should a vacancy occur, the governor may appoint a temporary justice. Though justices' and potential justices' political affiliations are not listed on state ballots, most are nominated by either the Democratic or Republican Parties.

Political outlook

See also: Political outlook of State Supreme Court Justices

In October 2012, political science professors Adam Bonica and Michael Woodruff of Stanford University attempted to determine the partisan outlook of state supreme court justices in their paper, State Supreme Court Ideology and 'New Style' Judicial Campaigns. A score above 0 indicated a more conservative leaning ideology while scores below 0 were more liberal. The state Supreme Court of Michigan was given a Campaign finance score (CFscore) which was calculated for judges in October 2012. At that time, Michigan received a score of 0.05. Based on the justices selected, Michigan was the 21st most conservative court. The study is based on data from campaign contributions by judges themselves, the partisan leaning of contributors to the judges or, in the absence of elections, the ideology of the appointing body (governor or legislature). This study is not a definitive label of a justice but rather, an academic gauge of various factors.[4]


To be a qualified candidate for the state Supreme Court, a person must have been licensed to practice law in the state for at least five years, and must be younger than 70 years old, the time of mandatory retirement.[5] If a vacancy occurs, the governor of the state can appoint a temporary replacement, which lasts until the next general election. The newly appointed justice then must run for re-election to retain the seat.[6]

Removal of justices

Michigan judges may be removed with impeachment by the house of representatives and conviction by the senate, the governor may remove a justice with "concurrent resolution" of two-thirds of both houses, or a justice may be removed with the recommendation of the Judicial Tenure Commission.[7]


Fiscal Year Filings Dispositions
2013 1,884 1,789
2012 1,978 2,048
2011 1,924 1,976
2010 1,960 2,054
2009 2,224 2,240
2008 2,402 2,422
2007 2,612 2,625


Notable decisions



In People v. DeJonge (1993), the court held that Michigan parents have the right to homeschool their children. However, the court struck down the requirement that at least one parent be a certified teacher.

Human cloning

While the court has yet to hear a case on human cloning, the Michigan Court of Appeals has heard a case involving surrogacy. As the issue of surrogacy gained momentum in the late 1980s, the Appeals Court addressed the constitutionality of Michigan's "Surrogate Parenting Act," during the 1992 case Doe v. Attorney General. "In Doe, infertile couples and prospective surrogate mothers sought a declaratory action interpreting the Surrogate Parentage Act as invalid and unconstitutional due to an alleged violation of the 'due process guarantee of freedom from government interference in matters of marriage, family, procreation, and intimate association.'"

The Court of Appeals rejected plaintiffs’ claim of a due process violation, reasoning that 'the Legislature [had] a compelling state interest sufficient to justify intrusion into plaintiffs’ right to procreate in the surrogacy context.'"

The Court went on to determine that the Legislature "had three compelling reasons that justified the government intrusion." First, the Legislature had an interest in preventing children from becoming mere commodities. Second, the Legislature had a concern with the best interests of the child born to a surrogacy arrangement. Third, the Legislature had a compelling interest in preventing the exploitation of women. Ultimately, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the Act stood for the following propositions:

  • 1. A surrogate parentage contract is void and unenforceable per MCL 722.855.
  • 2. A surrogate parentage contract entered into for compensation is unlawful and prohibited by MCL 722.859.
  • 3. For a surrogate parentage contract to exist there must be present the elements of (1) conception, through either natural or artificial insemination, of, or surrogate gestation by a female and (2) the voluntary relinquishment of her parental rights to the child.
  • 4. A contract, agreement, or arrangement that does not contain both elements set forth in 3 above is neither void and unenforceable under MCL 722.855 nor unlawful and prohibited by MCL 722.859, even when entered into for compensation.[9]

Abortion cases

In November of 1972, immediately prior to the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, the people of Michigan overwhelmingly voted to uphold their ban on abortion--i.e. abortions were still considered illegal unless executed in order to save the mother's life (the ban had only been amended a few times since its inception in 1846, and with little consequence).[10]

Per a white paper by Americans United for Life:

"In the decades since Roe v. Wade...the Supreme Court of Michigan has only addressed the question of abortion rights directly in two June 1973 companion cases: People v. Bricker and Larkin v. Calahan. In "Bricker," the defendant was charged and convicted of attempting to perform the abortion procedure in violation of Michigan’s penal code under section 750.14 of the Michigan Compiled Laws. Since the defendant’s crime had taken place in 1967, his appeal to the Court in 1973 was premised on the notion that Michigan’s pre-Roe... criminal ban on abortions was now inapplicable due to the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings in those two aforementioned cases. The Bricker Court acknowledged that 'the judicial opinions filed by the United States Supreme Court in Roe....[is] binding upon us under the Supremacy Clause.' Yet, the Court held that in the case at hand the defendant was still criminally responsible under Michigan’s pre-Roe statutory abortion ban, section 750.14....Thus, the Bricker Court preserved section 750.14 so as to continue to attach criminal responsibility to those persons who would perform abortions--all persons, except that is, licensed medical physicians, in accordance with the Roe...[holding].

"In Larkin --the companion case to Bricker--...the Court held that section 750.14, as discussed in Bricker, was constitutional and applicable against all persons except licensed medical physicians. With regard to section 750.15, which expressly prohibited the providing, advertising, publishing, selling or publicly exposing for sale of any “pills, powder, drugs or combination of drugs” (i.e. abortifacients) used for procuring an abortion, the Court ruled this statute was also constitutional. Yet, the Court preserved section 750.15 because the statute--unlike the statutory language contained within section 750.14--specifically excluded physicians who could provide an abortifacient via prescription: '[It] would appear to be entirely consistent with the rationale of Roe v Wade. It makes the sale of drugs or medicines designed to produce abortion a medical rather than a commercial activity.'" [11]

Assisted suicide

In 1994, the high court ruled on whether or not Michigan's ban on assisted suicides was constitutional. At the center of the cases in question (People v. Kevorkian; Hobbins v. Attorney General) were the actions of Jack Kevorkian for his participation in numerous assisted suicide procedures prior to the ban's enactment. "In their rulings, the Court held the assisted suicide provisions of section 752.1027 of state law were validly enacted and did not violate the state's constitution. Second, 'the United States Constitution does not prohibit a state from imposing criminal penalties on one who assists another in committing suicide.'" Further, "after a commission study, the Michigan Legislature established a permanent law criminalizing the act of assisted suicide in 1998 (section 750.329a). In November 1998, Michigan citizens voted overwhelmingly against a ballot measure that would have legalized assisted suicide in Michigan."[12]


Financial disclosure

See also: Center for Public Integrity Study on State Supreme Court Disclosure Requirements

In December 2013, the Center for Public Integrity released a study on disclosure requirements for state supreme court judges. Analysts from the Center reviewed the rules governing financial disclosure in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as personal financial disclosures for the past three years. The study found that 42 states and Washington D.C. received failing grades. Michigan earned a grade of F in the study. No state received a grade higher than "C". Furthermore, due in part to these lax disclosure standards, the study found 35 instances of questionable gifts, investments overlapping with caseloads and similar potential ethical quandaries. The study also noted 14 cases in which justices participated although they or their spouses held stock in the company involved in the litigation.[13]

History of the court

Chambers of the Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Territory

On July 24, 1805 the first Supreme Court for the new Territory of Michigan was created. Its first Justices were Augustus B. Woodward, Frederick Bates, and James Witherell. From July 9 through October 8, 1805, a series of statutes, known as the Woodward Code, was created to serve as the basis of Supreme Court legal procedure in the Michigan Territory. Complaints about the inadequacies, including indefinite tenure, were corrected; in March of 1823, an act was passed that limited the terms of Supreme Court justices to four years.

The First Constitution

The Constitution of 1835 provided a Supreme Court with three justices, and one session of court was to be held in Wayne County, Washtenaw County, and Kalamazoo County. Justices were appointed by the governor with consent of the senate, and held terms of seven years. The court had original and appellate jurisdiction in common law and equity cases, as well as action of right and the extra legal remedies of mandamus, quo warranto, habeas corpus, and writs of certiorari over decisions made by the Circuit Courts. "On July 18, 1836, Governor Stevens T. Mason nominated fellow Democratic Party members William A. Fletcher, George Morrell, and Epaphroditus Ransom to be Chief and Associate Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court, respectively. Morrell was assigned to the first Circuit Court, Fletcher to the second, and Ransom to the third. Each appointee was approved by an almost unanimous vote in the Senate."

Early Flaws

The Michigan Constitution of 1850 made several changes to the Court, most significantly, the elimination of the separate Court of Chancery, the change from appointment of superior court Justices to popular elections, and a Supreme Court comprised of four members: one Chief Justice, and three associates.[14]

Notable firsts

See also

External links


Portions of this article have been taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Copyright Notice can be found here.


8-year term, candidates competing for 2 open seats
CandidateIncumbencyPrimary VoteElection Vote
ZahraBrian Zahra Yes   
RedfordJames Robert Redford No   
MurphyWilliam B. Murphy No   
DernDoug Dern No   
BernsteinRichard Bernstein No   
2-year term
CandidateIncumbencyPrimary VoteElection Vote
ThomasDeborah Thomas No   
VivianoDavid Viviano Yes   
MorganKerry L. Morgan No   


Candidates competed for two seats.

CandidateIncumbencyPrimary VoteElection Vote
RoddisBob Roddis    No2.79%   DefeatedD
McCormackBridget Mary McCormack   ApprovedANo23.59%   ApprovedA
O'BrienColleen O'Brien    No21.42%   DefeatedD
KelleyConnie Marie Kelley    No21.61%   DefeatedD
DernDoug Dern    No3.38%   DefeatedD
MorganKerry L. Morgan    No4.07%   DefeatedD
MarkmanStephen Markman   ApprovedAYes23.1%   ApprovedA

Candidates competed for one seat.

CandidateIncumbencyPrimary VoteElection Vote
ZahraBrian Zahra   ApprovedAYes49.54%   ApprovedA
BarryMindy Barry    No8.73%   DefeatedD
JohnsonShelia Johnson    No41.72%   DefeatedD


See also: 2010 State Supreme Court elections

Incumbent Robert P. Young, Jr. defeated challenger Denise Langford-Morris

Michigan Supreme Court
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Robert P. Young, Jr. (R) BallotCheckMark.png n/a 56.62%
Denise Langford-Morris (D) n/a n/a

Incumbent Alton Davis was defeated by challenger Mary Beth Kelly.

Michigan Supreme Court
2010 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Mary Beth Kelly (R) BallotCheckMark.png n/a 61.8%
Alton Davis (D) n/a n/a


See also: State Supreme Court elections, 2008

Incumbent Clifford W. Taylor was defeated by challenger Diane Hathaway.

Michigan Supreme Court
2008 General election results
Candidates Votes Percent
Diane Hathaway (D) BallotCheckMark.png n/a 49.3%
Clifford W. Taylor (R) n/a 39.4%

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