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Michigan Supreme Court chief justice leaving bench this year

woman in judicial robe
Michigan Supreme Court
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Michigan Supreme Court

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack announced Monday that she will resign by the end of the year, clearing the way for Governor Gretchen Whitmer to name a replacement.

The announcement came as a surprise. McCormack is two years into an eight-year term. But, in a statement, McCormack, who is serving her second term as a justice, said she had fulfilled her goals on the court.

“After a decade, the time has come for me to move on, to let others lead, and to build on a foundation of progress,” McCormack said in a statement released by the court.

"I am a big believer that sometimes, especially when you feel like you've made a contribution, it can be time to step aside and let others have an opportunity to serve and to lead," she said a day later in an interview with Michigan Public Radio.

McCormack declined to name a specific successor she'd like to see take her place on the court. But she did express a desire for a more diverse judiciary.

"I would be very thrilled to see the first woman of color serve on the Michigan Supreme Court. There are 26 supreme courts right now in the country that have no justices of color, and Michigan is one of those 20," McCormack said. "I happen to be a big believer that a diverse bench that reflects a diverse population contributes to the public's confidence in the judiciary, and therefore the public's confidence in the rule of law."

McCormack was twice nominated by the Democratic Party to serve on the court. She did not give a specific date for her departure, although she said it will not be before November 22 — two weeks following the statewide election.

Once Whitmer appoints a replacement, the new justice will have to run in 2024 to serve out the balance of the term. The appointment does not require state Senate confirmation.

Whitmer called McCormack “a phenomenal public servant.”

“Whatever she touched, she made better, and we are grateful for all she has done to serve Michiganders and our state. … In the coming months, I will appoint a new justice with Michigan values and an unwavering commitment to the Michigan Constitution who can be an arbiter of justice and live up to the great responsibility that comes with the role.”

McCormack has made access to legal services regardless of ability to pay one of her priorities. She was also part of the majority that last week ordered a state elections board to place a petition-initiated abortion rights amendment on the November ballot.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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