Gov. Whitmer to appoint first Black woman to serve on Michigan Supreme Court

With Bolden’s historic appointment, Democrats will maintain a 4-3 majority on the court

click to enlarge State Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden will be the first Black woman on the Michigan Supreme Court. - Courtesy photo
Courtesy photo
State Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden will be the first Black woman on the Michigan Supreme Court.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Tuesday that she will appoint the first Black woman to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Whitmer is selecting state Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden, D-Southfield, to fill the seat vacated by the resignation of Justice Bridget McCormack, a Democratic nominee.

With Bolden’s appointment, Democrats will maintain a 4-3 majority on the court.

“A state representative from Southfield, former law clerk and litigator, Kyra is passionate about the law and will be the first Black woman ever to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court,” Whitmer said in a statement. “She will bring a unique perspective to our high court as a Black woman — and as a new, working mom — that has too long been left out. Kyra is committed to fighting for justice for generations, and I know she will serve Michigan admirably, building a brighter future for her newborn daughter and all our kids.”

Bolden, who was first elected to the state House in November 2018, will join the court in January and serve a partial term expiring on Jan. 1, 2025.

Bolden said she is “incredibly honored” by the appointment and pledged to have an even hand on the court.

“I will ensure equal access to justice, apply the law without fear or favor, and treat all who come before our state’s highest court with dignity and respect,” Bolden said. “I also know that this moment – becoming the first Black woman to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court – would not be possible without leaders like Judges Shelia Johnson, Debra Nance, Deborah Thomas, Cynthia Stephens, and Denise Langford Morris. These are the Black women who blazed the path that I seek to follow. I hope that my voice on the Court will inspire future generations to pursue their dreams. I am humbled by this honor, and I am ready to get to work on behalf of all Michiganders.”

In the House, Bolden was the assistant Democratic leader and a member of the House Judiciary and Insurance committees. During her tenure, she has focused on criminal justice reform and crafted bipartisan legislation to protect survivors of sexual assault.

Before serving in the House, Bolden was a civil litigation attorney with Lewis & Munday, P.C. in Detroit. She also was a staff attorney for 3rd Circuit Court Judge John A. Murphy and served as a court-appointed criminal defense attorney for the 46th District Court in Southfield.

Bolden received her Juris Doctor degree from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. She also has a bachelor of science degree from Grand Valley State University.

“This is a monumental day,” said Murphy, her former boss, and the longest serving Black judge in Michigan history. “Kyra Harris Bolden's historic appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court will impact justice and fairness in Michigan for generations to come. Her experience as my judicial law clerk, litigator, and her time in the state legislature, coupled with her empathy, inquisitiveness, and sense of justice, will make her an asset to this role. Kyra is an excellent appointee and will make an excellent Justice. I look forward to seeing the impact she will make on the bench.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel applauded the appointment.

“The composition of our courts should reflect the population its rulings impact. I commend the Governor for selecting Kyra Bolden to serve on our state’s highest court,” Nessel said. “I know Representative Bolden to be a sincere, caring and thoughtful person who will always take into consideration the substantial impact of each and every one of her opinions. She will serve the state with integrity and humility and will do so honorably.“

The appointment was also supported by the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR).

“Governor Whitmer’s appointment of Kyra Harris Bolden to the Michigan Supreme Court marks a significant and consequential moment in the history of our state,” said MDCR Executive Director John E. Johnson, Jr. “As the first Black woman to serve in that capacity, she will bring a long-missing perspective to the deliberations of the state’s highest court. That alone makes this a monumental decision, but Ms. Bolden brings more to the table than her racial identity. Her trial experience as a criminal defense attorney, her leadership on important public policy and her dedication to justice – the legacy of her own great-grandfather’s lynching — will inform her decisions and bring the court closer to the goal of achieving equal justice for all.”

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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