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Whitmer appoints first Black woman to Michigan's top court

Supreme Court Michigan
Joey Cappelletti/AP
/
Report for America via AP
Michigan state Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden, center, speaks at the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing, Mich. on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2022, after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced her appointment in 2023 to a state Supreme Court seat that will be vacated at the end of the year with Justice Bridget McCormack’s retirement. (Joey Cappelletti/Report for America via AP)

Kyra Harris Bolden will become the first Black woman to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Tuesday, choosing a young lawyer who lost a close election just two weeks ago.

Bolden will take the seat of Justice Bridget McCormack, who announced in September that she was resigning by the end of 2022 with six years left in her term.

Bolden "will be bringing a unique perspective that has too long been left out, not only as a Black woman but also as a new mom," Whitmer said during a news conference at the Supreme Court.

Bolden, 34, is a state lawmaker from the Detroit area who has been a licensed lawyer for only eight years. She was a Democratic nominee for the Supreme Court in the Nov. 8 election but finished third in a race for two seats.

Bolden will join the court in January after her House term expires. Democrats will continue to have a 4-3 majority on the court.

She acknowledged her family and "the countless Black women on whose shoulder's I stand." Bolden especially mentioned her great-grandfather, who was killed in 1939.

"In just a few generations our family has gone from lynching to law school. From injustice to a capital 'J' justice," Bolden said. "This is the greatness of possibility in our country."

Two Black women, Detroit-area judges Denise Langford Morris and Deborah Thomas, had sought Supreme Court seats in past elections but didn't win. Black men from both political parties have served as justices, the last being Kurtis Wilder, a Republican, who lost his seat in the 2018 election.

McCormack served as chief justice until this week when members of the court chose Justice Elizabeth Clement to take over.

McCormack described Bolden as "smart, savvy and hardworking," and told her that while the job isn't always going to be easy "it's always going to be vital to our system of constitutional democracy."

"On a personal note, as I leave the court after a decade of being privileged to serve, I find it very satisfying to see the next generation of judges like Kyra Harris Bolden assume the bench," McCormack said.

If Bolden wants to keep the seat through 2028, she must run in the 2024 election.

She worked as a lawyer in civil litigation before her 2018 election to the House. Bolden also worked for a Wayne County judge and was a court-appointed defense lawyer in a Southfield court.

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