Stephen Markman

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Stephen J. Markman
69th Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court
Assumed office
January 6, 2017
Preceded by Robert P. Young Jr.
Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court
Assumed office
October 1, 1999[1]
Appointed by John Engler
Preceded by James H. Brickley
Judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals
In office
January 1, 1995 – October 1, 1999
Appointed by John Engler
Personal details
Born (1949-06-04) June 4, 1949 (age 68)
Detroit, Michigan
Spouse(s) Mary Kathleen
Children James, Charles
Alma mater Duke University (B.A.)
University of Cincinnati (J.D.)

Stephen J. Markman (born June 4, 1949)[2] is the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. He advocates for judicial restraint and has argued for a more restricted role for the judiciary in matters of public policy.[3]


Markman received his Bachelor of Arts from Duke University in 1971, and he graduated from University of Cincinnati Law School in 1974.[4]


Markman served as Chief Counsel of the United States Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution and as Deputy Chief Counsel of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary from 1978 to 1985. He was then nominated to be a United States Assistant Attorney General, heading the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy, by President Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the Senate.[1] While serving as Assistant Attorney General, his office wrote a recommendation regarding the issue of possible reconsideration of the Miranda v. Arizona decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. When the Chicago Tribune criticized the recommendation, Markman responded with an opinion piece which the paper published entitled In Defense of Reconsidering Miranda; in this op-ed column, Markman argued for a more flexible interpretation of Miranda to bolster fair treatment of suspects in custody.[5] He wrote:

After being nominated by George H. W. Bush and approved by the United States Senate, Markman served as a United States Attorney in Michigan from 1989–1993. He joined the private sector firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone in Detroit,[1] where he practiced until he was appointed to the 4th District Michigan Court of Appeals by Governor John Engler in 1995.[6] He held that position until 1999, when Governor Engler appointed him to the Michigan Supreme Court. Michigan voters re-elected him to the position in 2000, 2004, and 2012.[1]

Since 1993, Markman has taught constitutional law at Hillsdale College, where he holds the title of Distinguished Visiting Professor of Politics.[4]

Markman has contributed to numerous legal publications and was a contributing editor at National Review. He is a Fellow of the Michigan Bar Foundation, a Master of the Bench of the Inns of Court. Markman was sent to Ukraine by the State Department to assist in developing the country's post-Soviet constitution.[1]

Judicial philosophy[edit]

Markman has argued against an increased role by the judiciary in matters of public policy and suggested that unless citizens engage in a constitutional debate, public matters will be increasingly decided by judges.[3] In 2008, Markman wrote a piece for the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy saying, "[T]he Michigan Supreme Court has set as its priority the proper exercise of the 'judicial power,' to read the law evenhandedly and give it meaning by assessing its words, its grammar and syntax, its context, and its legislative purpose. The court's dominant premise has been on 'getting the law right'—moving toward the best and most faithful interpretation of the law—rather than reflexively acquiescing in prior case law that essentially reflected little more than the personal preferences of predecessor justices."[7]

In April 2010, Markman published an essay in Hillsdale College's monthly publication, Imprimis, in which he argued against a living constitution with expanded input from judicial governance. Markman prefers an interpretation closer to the 1787 Constitution, and predicts that unless citizens act, justices making under-the-radar decisions on "forgettable and mundane disputes" (as opposed to high–profile decisions such as Roe v. Wade) will steer public policy in directions of their choosing in such areas as "racial quotas, social services funding, and immigration policy." Markman prefers that public policy decisions be made by legislators instead of judges.[3]

Notable Supreme Court decisions[edit]

Domestic partner benefits[edit]

In Pride at work v. Governor of Michigan, the Michigan Supreme Court, in a 5–2 ruling, ruled that Michigan's 2004 gay marriage ban also bars same-sex domestic partners of public employees from receiving health insurance benefits. Markman wrote the majority opinion for the Court where he said that while "marriages and domestic partnerships aren't identical, they are similar."[8]

Ballot petition signatures[edit]

In Michigan Civil Rights Initiative v. Board of State Canvassers, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative should be placed on the November 2008 ballot, even if some petition signers signed the petition under the belief that it was in support of affirmative action. In his opinion, Markman wrote, "The signers of these petitions did not sign the oral representations made to them by circulators; rather they signed written petitions that contained the actual language of the MCRI. ... In carrying out the responsibilities of self-government, 'we the people' of Michigan are responsible for our own actions. In particular, when the citizen acts in what is essentially a legislative capacity by facilitating the enactment of a constitutional amendment, he cannot blame others when he signs a petition without knowing what it says. It is not to excuse misrepresentations, when they occur, to recognize nonetheless that it is the citizen's duty to inform himself about the substance of a petition before signing it, precisely in order to combat potential misrepresentations."[9]

Personal life[edit]

Markman lives in Mason, Michigan with his wife, Mary Kathleen, and their sons Charles and James.[1] Markman is ineligible to run for another term on the Supreme Court due to Michigan's Constitution prohibiting judges that are 70 or older running for office. Markman will be 71 in November 2020, when his seat on the Court is up for election.

See also[edit]

List of Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court


  1. ^ a b c d e f "Biographies of the Justices". Michigan Supreme Court. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  2. ^ Michigan Manual, 1995–1996. 534: Michigan Legislative Council: Legislative Service Bureau. 1995. p. 534. 
  3. ^ a b c Stephen J. Markman (2010-05-21). "The Coming Constitutional Debate: A Citizen's Guide". Center for Constitutional Studies & Citizenship – Hillsdale College. Retrieved 2010-05-21. This paper argues that unless citizens, those to whom this paper is addressed, engage the constitutional debate, it will be settled—without their participation—by judges. To be decided, whether through debate or by judicial imposition, is whether "we the people" will live under the Constitution of James Madison, and Abraham Lincoln, or under what is called here the "twenty-first century constitution." 
  4. ^ a b "Faculty Profile: Stephen J Markman". Hillsdale College. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  5. ^ a b Stephen J. Markman (February 18, 1987). "In Defense Of Reconsidering Miranda". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2010-05-21. 
  6. ^ "Swearing-In Ceremony for Justice Stephen J. Markman". Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  7. ^ Markman, Stephen J. (2008). "Resisting the Ratchet" (PDF). Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. 31 (3): 983–987. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  8. ^ "National Pride at Work v. Governor of Michigan" (PDF). Michigan Supreme Court. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  9. ^ "Michigan Civil Rights Initiative v. Board of State Canvassers" (PDF). Michigan Supreme Court. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 

External links[edit]

Legal offices
Preceded by
James H. Brickley
Associate Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court
Preceded by
Robert P. Young Jr.
Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court