Michigan Supreme Court
|Michigan Supreme Court|
|Composition method||Non-partisan election|
|Authorized by||Michigan Constitution|
|Decisions are appealed to||Supreme Court of the United States|
|Judge term length||8 years|
|Number of positions||7 (including chief justice)|
|Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court|
|Currently||Robert P. Young, Jr.|
|Lead position ends||2013|
|Jurist term ends||January 1, 2019|
The Michigan Supreme Court is the highest court in the U.S. state of Michigan. It is known as Michigan's "court of last resort" and consists of seven justices who are elected to eight-year terms. Candidates are nominated by political parties and are elected on a nonpartisan ballot. Supreme Court candidates must be qualified electors, licensed to practice law in Michigan for at least five years, and under 70 years of age at the time of election. Vacancies are filled by appointment of the Governor until the next general election. Every two years, the justices elect a member of the Court to serve as Chief Justice.
Each year, the Court receives approximately 2,000 new case filings. In most cases, the litigants seek review of Michigan Court of Appeals decisions, but the Supreme Court also hears cases of attorney and judicial misconduct, as well as a small number of matters over which the Court has original jurisdiction. The Court issues a decision by order or opinion in all cases filed with it. Opinions and orders of the Court are reported in an official publication, Michigan Reports, as well as in Thomson West's privately published North Western Reporter.
The Court's other duties include overseeing the operations of all state trial courts. It is assisted in this endeavour by the State Court Administrative Office, one of its agencies. The Court's responsibilities also include a public comment process for changes to court rules, rules of evidence and other administrative matters. The court has broad superintending control power over all the state courts in Michigan.
Article 6, Section 30 of the Michigan Constitution creates the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission. This is an agency within the judiciary, having jurisdiction over allegations of judicial misconduct, misbehavior, and infirmity. The Supreme Court is given original, superintending control power, and appellate jurisdiction over the issue of penalty (up to and including removal of judges from office).
Following the 2012 election, the court had a 4-3 conservative Republican majority, with Robert P. Young, Jr. serving as Chief Justice. The resignation of Justice Diane Hathaway in January 2013 created a 4-2 majority, and her position was filled by David Viviano, a Republican appointed by fellow Republican governor Rick Snyder creating a further imbalance of a 5-2 majority.
The Michigan Supreme Court can be dated back to the Supreme Court of Michigan Territory, established in 1805 with three justices. These justices served for indefinite terms. In 1823, the terms of justices were limited to four years.
The Michigan Supreme Court was the only court created by the first Michigan constitution in 1837. It had three members and each also oversaw one of the three judicial circuits, located in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo. The court needed a quorum of two to operate and members were appointed to seven-year terms by the governor with the consent of the senate. In 1838, Justice William A. Fletcher proposed a new plan for the court that the legislature approved. This increased the number of circuits to four and thus expanded the bench to four justices, but left the quorum at two.
In 1848, the court was expanded to five justices and the 1850 Michigan constitution provided that they be elected for six-year terms. In 1858, the Circuit Courts were split from the Supreme Court, so justices now only served on the Michigan Supreme Court and reduced its size to only four justices, one of whom was the Chief Justice.
In 1887, the court was expanded to five justices each serving for ten years. The court was again expanded in 1903 to eight justices serving terms of eight-years. In 1964, the new state constitution set the number of justices on the court at seven.
The current Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court are:
|Name||Elected/Appointed||Term expires||Appointing Governor||Party Affiliation||Law School Attended|
|Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr.||1999||January 1, 2019||John Engler / Elected||Republican||Harvard University Law School|
|Michael Cavanagh||1982||January 1, 2015||Elected||Democrat||University of Detroit Mercy School of Law|
|Stephen Markman||1999||January 1, 2021||John Engler / Elected||Republican||University of Cincinnati College of Law|
|Mary Beth Kelly||2010||January 1, 2019||Elected||Republican||University of Notre Dame Law School|
|Brian K. Zahra||2011||January 1, 2015||Rick Snyder / Elected||Republican||University of Detroit Mercy School of Law|
|Bridget Mary McCormack||2012||January 1, 2021||Elected||Democrat||New York University Law School|
|David Viviano||2013||January 1, 2015||Rick Snyder||Republican||University of Michigan Law School|
The Michigan Constitution allows vacancies on the state Supreme Court to be initially filled by the Governor, with that appointee serving until the next general election, at which time the elected winner is seated to fill the remaining portion of the vacated term.
- State Court Administrative service website
- See, Matter of Del Rio, 400 Mich. 665.
- Detroit News, David Viviano chosen to fill seat on Michigan Supreme Court (2/27/13)
- Tim Martin, How Michigan Supreme Court opening will be filled in wake of Diane Hathaway departure, MLive (January 8, 2013)
- Noto, Scott A. A Brief History of the Michigan Supreme Court. (Lansing: Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, 2001).