ELECTION: Democrats gain majority on Michigan Supreme Court with McCormack and Welch


A judge’s gavel is shown in a file photo. (Credit: iStock / Getty Images Plus)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Elizabeth Welch and returning Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack will serve on Michigan’s Supreme Court for the eight-year term.

The present 4-to-3 conservative lean will now shift liberal following the retirement of Justice Stephen Markman, who served until age 70, which is the state’s mandatory retirement age. Justice Markman was responsible for writing the majority opinion in a 4-3 decision that Gov. Whitmer had no authority to issue or renew executive orders relating to Covid-19 beyond April 30.

Returning Justice Bridget Mary McCormack dissented in the case against Gov. Whitmer’s orders. The court had ruled 4-3 that state law allowed the governor to declare emergency orders and keep them in place without legislative input, striking down the 1945 Emergency Powers of the Governor Act as unconstitutional.

McCormack and Justices Richard Bernstein and Megan Cavanagh dissented stating the high court was “needlessly” injecting itself into an “emotionally charged political dispute.”

On Wednesday, Governor Whitmer issued a congratulations message to Welch and McCormack.

“On behalf of the people of Michigan, I want to congratulate Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Senator Gary Peters, Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, and Justice-Elect Elizabeth Welch on their victories. This was a hard-fought election on both sides, shattering the record for the most votes cast in the history of our state, with more than 5.1 million votes and over 3.2 absentee ballots cast,” Whitmer said.

As of Oct. 2020, Elizabeth Welch had raised the most in contributions totaling $1.3 million followed by Justice Bridget Mary McCormack at $1 million.

Republicans Mary Kelly and Brock Swartzle both received more than $300,000 in contributions.

Here’s where the two winning candidates stood on the issues:

Bridget Mary McCormack

  • Courts must be independent from political pressure.
  • The courts belong to the people; they must be accessible to all, treat people with dignity and respect and be transparent.
  • Courthouses must dramatically increase innovation and technology to meet the access to justice challenge and make sure people can get their business done efficiently.

Elizabeth Welch

  • We need justices who will lead on important changes to the justice system. We need to continue the hard work of addressing disparities in our criminal justice system and the access to justice crisis (lack of counsel) in our civil justice system.
  • Our court system must be accessible and transparent. Important technological changes were forced upon the system due to the public health crisis. Many of these changes were long overdue and should remain in place to allow the public easier access to the court system (whether as a participant or viewer

Though Michigan Supreme Court judgeships are officially nonpartisan, political parties nominate candidates for election.

The candidates

Which political parties nominated which candidates?

Democratic Convention:

  • Bridget Mary McCormack
  • Elizabeth Welch

Republican Convention:

  • Brock Swartzle
  • Mary Kelly

Libertarian Convention

  • Katie Nepton
  • Kerry Lee Morgan

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.

There are seven justices on the court, one being the chief justice. Justices are elected to eight-year terms or appointed by the governor in the case of a vacancy. Most often, the court takes appeals from the Michigan Court of Appeals. It is also responsible for the administration and supervision of all lower courts in the state.

Our sister station at WOOD TV-8 reached out to the seven candidates and five responded.

You can watch their answers as to why they wanted to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court prior to the Nov. 3 election and how they would approach impartiality in the video below. 

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