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Weekday mornings on Michigan Radio, Doug Tribou hosts NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to news radio program in the country.

Meet the MI Supreme Court Candidates: Paul Hudson

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This year, Michigan voters will elect justices to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court. Two of the seven seats will be filled. They'll go to the candidates with the two highest vote totals. Michigan Radio's Morning Edition is featuring interviews with each of the five candidates running for the court.

Paul Hudson is an attorney with Miller Canfield. He chairs the firm's appeals group. Hudson also clerked for Judge Raymond Kethledge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit.

Hudson was nominated by the Republican Party, although candidates appear without party affiliation on the ballot.

He spoke with Michigan Radio's Doug Tribou.

Doug Tribou: Let's start with a bit about your legal career. Tell us about the kinds of cases you work on now and how that work would inform your work on the Supreme Court if you're elected.

Paul Hudson: I've been practicing law for 16 years, and for the past decade or so, I've specialized in cases in the Michigan Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals. I've handled over 150 cases in the Michigan appeals courts. I also serve on my firm's pro bono committee, and I've dedicated my time to providing free legal services to those who need representation. So I've been very fortunate to have a varied and diverse career.

DT: Is there a particular type of case that you specialize in, or is it wide-ranging because of the nature of the firm?

PH: It really is wide-ranging. I'll tell you my very favorite case that I've ever handled. I represented a retired couple who had built their dream home on a little lake in West Michigan, and their neighbors sued to have the house torn down.

The couple had used some modular components in their home, and there was a restrictive covenant in the in the neighborhood guidelines that said you couldn't have a modular home. So the question was whether using some modular components in the house made it a modular home.

We argued no. And I argued that case all the way up to the Michigan Supreme Court. And I'm very pleased to say, very proud to say that they're still living in the house to this day.

DT: Why did you decide to run for the Supreme Court?

PH: I've been fortunate to have the appellate career that I've had, and I think that the best training to be an appellate judge is to be an appellate lawyer. The skill sets really overlap. So we need really good legal writers, good legal thinkers. And I felt a sense of duty to step up and run for this position.

DT: Supreme Court justices often get the chance to work on projects to try to improve the court system and its procedures in Michigan. As an attorney who's appeared in many Michigan courts, what areas of the judicial system do you think could use improvement?

PH: Our justice system, as a whole, needs to be far more efficient. It can take years to process cases. I think the unfortunate reality is, in many courtrooms across the state, the system is set up for the convenience of the individual judge rather than the public at large.

I think we learned a lot during the pandemic that smart use of technology and technology platforms can really help move cases along. We don't need to have expansive proceedings in-person for a lot of the more minor court hearings. So that's an area where I think we can really improve.

DT: Who is a current or former state or U.S. Supreme Court justice you admire? And what about their work do you admire?

PH: Well, I've always thought that the very best judges are not extreme politicians. They are umpires. They just call balls and strikes. And that metaphor for the judge as an umpire goes back, of course, to Chief Justice [John] Roberts at his confirmation hearing to the United States Supreme Court, but then far beyond that, to [former U.S. Supreme Court] Justice Robert Jackson, early 1950s. He was really an American hero. He dissented from the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II then led the prosecutions of Nazi leaders after the war. And he gave a speech that really fleshed out that judges-umpires metaphor. And so, he's always someone that I've looked up to.

DT: I want to turn to the campaign. You have received the endorsement of the anti-abortion group Right to Life of Michigan. Why do you think your candidacy got their support?

"I think we just have to recognize that judges are in a very different position than a lot of these other political candidates. I'm not focused on the politics of the moment, and I don't think good judges can be."
Paul Hudson

PH: My approach has been I'll sit down and talk with anybody of any political persuasion across the board. And my message every time is the same, that we need our judges to act less like politicians and more like neutral umpires. I think that message has resonated across the ideological spectrum.

I was very fortunate recently to be endorsed by the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News, and I'm the only candidate in the race who has been endorsed by both. So, I think we're doing something right here. Whatever your political leanings are, Republican, Democrat, independent, I think people understand deep down that we don't want our judges to be politicians or biased against either side.

DT: Now, I recognize that candidates can't control who issues endorsements for them, but I believe I have it correct that Right to Life of Michigan only endorses anti-abortion candidates. Does that endorsement not say something about your position on the issue of abortion rights or or maybe how you might rule about it?

PH: I haven't made any commitments to anyone on any policy matters or any issue that might come before the court. I take that very seriously. This is a nonpartisan race. You know, look, I think we just have to recognize that judges are in a very different position than a lot of these other political candidates. I'm not focused on the politics of the moment, and I don't think good judges can be.

DT: I want to turn to some other areas of the law. I know that you cannot comment on specific cases that might come before the court. But I would like to ask more broadly, what legal issues seem especially important to you right now for the state of Michigan?

PH: I think the overarching concern that I have with the court system right now is the increased politicization of the courts. People need to be able to trust that their judges and their courts are truly nonpartisan. And I think people are losing that trust.

And there's a real temptation, I think, for people to say, "Well, look, judges are just politicians. Let's be honest about it, and let's run politicians to advocate for our side in the courts." And I think that's a damaging trend. I think we need to recommit to the judicial role, which is to keep politics out of the courtrooms and just apply the law as it's written.

DT: Well, many people agree with you. It's a common complaint that politics has become a problem in America's court systems. Do you have any more specific thoughts on how to change that?

PH: I think it's a slow and steady process, but it starts with picking judges and judicial candidates who are really committed to neutral principles of law, to being nonpartisan. And we have an interesting system in Michigan where it's a nonpartisan race for the Michigan Supreme Court, but the political parties nominate candidates.

I think it's probably a good time to take a look at whether that's the best system for selecting our judges. Chief Justice McCormack or the Michigan Supreme Court recently questioned whether this is a good system. Justice Zahra said the same thing and I'll add to the chorus. If the goal is to have nonpartisan judges, and I think that should absolutely be the goal, then I don't think it makes much sense to have the political parties involved in this process.

Editor's note: Quotes in this article have been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to the full interview near the top of this page.

Doug Tribou joined the Michigan Radio staff as the host of Morning Edition in 2016. Doug first moved to Michigan in 2015 when he was awarded a Knight-Wallace journalism fellowship at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.
Lauren Talley is Michigan Radio’s Morning Edition producer. She produces and edits studio interviews and feature stories, and helps manage the “Mornings in Michigan” series. Lauren also serves as the lead substitute host for Morning Edition.
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