Meet the candidates vying for 2 seats on Michigan Supreme Court


The Michigan Hall of Justice, which houses the state Supreme Court and Court of Claims. (File)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — It’s a race that happens every eight years, and this year, seven people are vying for the two seats that are up for election Nov. 3.

Current Court Standings

One of the seats on the Michigan Supreme Court Justice, Stephen Markman is retiring this year after reaching the state supreme court’s mandatory retirement age of 70. 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.

Justice Bridget Mary McCormack dissented in the case against Gov. Whitmer’s orders. Her term expires on January 1, 2021. She is running for re-election.

The court has a current 4-to-3 conservative lean, but that could change tonight.

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. 

Meet the seven candidates

Candidates submitted their own biographies and key messages to Ballotpedia ahead of the November election. Here’s what they had to say.

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

Mary Kelly

  • In 2015, Mary was awarded by her peers in the St. Clair County Bar Association with the James T. Corden Civility Award. This Award recognizes attorneys who practice law with dignity and respect. It honors attorneys who place a premium on integrity, honesty, ethics and fairness.”
  • Kelly’s campaign website said she “has developed a special empathy with those who have lost family and friends to drunk driving and substance abuse. 
  • Brock Swartzle
    Judge Brock Swartzle is a proven rule-of-law conservative, and you can judge that for yourself by reading his published opinions
  • A judge cannot be beholden to a particular political view; rather, a judge must be beholden to the Rule of Law. This is true even in the case of the Michigan Supreme Court, where political parties nominate candidates—we still run as nonpartisans, and the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct (applicable to judges and judicial candidates alike) reminds us that we must always be ‘unswayed by partisan interests, public clamor, or fear of criticism’ when performing our professional duties.”

Kerry Lee Morgan

  • The Supreme Court needs Justices who will apply the law as written, not as it could be written in the mind of the Judge. My background in the law for over thirty five years has taught me the importance of this purpose. 

Katie Nepton

  • “I want to give people options. The two-party system hurts America and individual Americans. I believe in freedom – as much freedom for the individual as possible. No politician was talking about this.”
  • “I believe in freedom. I believe each American should be given as much freedom in running their lives as possible. I believe every time we take away any freedom we undo the possibilities of tomorrow.

Susan L. Hubbard

  • Independence- throughout my public service I’ve been known as an Independent whose loyalty has always been to the public. I will continue to apply the Rule of Law equally to all.
  • Integrity – As a Dearborn Council member and County Commissioner I fought to protect residents and sponsored the county’s first Ethics Ordinance prohibiting officials from self-dealing.
  • Committed – As a family division judge, Judge Hubbard authored the first instructional video on how to file for divorce for those who cannot afford attorneys providing real Access to Justice.

About Michigan Supreme Court

In Michigan, political parties nominate candidates for some offices at their conventions instead of holding a primary.

Candidates for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, Supreme Court, and the boards of Michigan State University, Wayne State University, the University of Michigan and the state Board of Education are nominated by political parties.

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

The candidates

Which political parties are nominating 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.

Political composition

This is the political composition of the supreme court heading into the 2020 election.

■ Richard BernsteinElected in 2014
■ Megan CavanaghElected in 2018
■ Elizabeth ClementAppointed by Gov. Rick Snyder (R) in 2017
■ Stephen MarkmanAppointed by Gov. John Engler (R) in 1999; elected in 2004 and 2012
■ Bridget Mary McCormackElected in 2012
■ David VivianoAppointed by Gov. Rick Snyder (R) in 2013; elected in 2014 and 2016
■ Brian ZahraAppointed by Gov. Rick Snyder (R) in 2011; elected in 2012 and 2014

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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