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Michigan Supreme Court

Michigan Supreme Court

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The Michigan Supreme Court is the highest court
A court is a form of tribunal, often a governmental institution, with the authority to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and carry out the administration of justice in civil, criminal, and administrative matters in accordance with the rule of law...

 in the U.S. state
U.S. state
A U.S. state is any one of the 50 federated states of the United States of America that share sovereignty with the federal government. Because of this shared sovereignty, an American is a citizen both of the federal entity and of his or her state of domicile. Four states use the official title of...

 of Michigan
Michigan is a U.S. state located in the Great Lakes Region of the United States of America. The name Michigan is the French form of the Ojibwa word mishigamaa, meaning "large water" or "large lake"....

. It is known as Michigan's "court of last resort" and consists of seven justices who are elected to eight-year terms. Candidates are nominated by political parties and are elected on a nonpartisan ballot. Supreme Court candidates must be qualified electors, licensed to practice law in Michigan for at least five years, and under 70 years of age at the time of election. Vacancies are filled by appointment of the Governor until the next general election. Every two years, the justices elect a member of the Court to serve as Chief Justice.

Each year, the Court receives over 2,000 new case filings. In most cases, the litigants seek review of Michigan Court of Appeals
Michigan Court of Appeals
The Michigan Court of Appeals is the intermediate-level appellate court of the state of Michigan. It was created by the Michigan Constitution of 1963, and commenced operations in 1965...

 decisions, but the Supreme Court also hears cases of attorney and judicial misconduct, as well as a small number of matters over which the Court has original jurisdiction. The Court issues a decision by order or opinion in all cases filed with it. Opinions and orders of the Court are reported in an official publication, Michigan Reports, as well as in Thomson West's privately-published North Western Reporter
North Western Reporter
The North Western Reporter and North Western Reporter, Second Series are United States regional case law reporters. It is part of the National Reporter System created by John B...


The Court's other duties include overseeing the operations of all state trial courts. It is assisted in this endeavour by the State Court Administrative Office, one of its agencies. The Court's responsibilities also include a public comment process for changes to court rules, rules of evidence and other administrative matters. The court has broad superintending control power over all the state courts in Michigan.

Article 6, Section 30 of the Michigan Constitution
Michigan Constitution
The Constitution of the State of Michigan is the governing document of the U.S. state of Michigan. It describes the structure and function of the state's government....

 creates the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission. This is an agency within the judiciary, having jurisdiction over allegations of judicial misconduct, misbehavior, and infirmity. The Supreme Court is given original, superintending control power, and appellate jurisdiction over the issue of penalty (up to and including removal of judges from office).

The Court is located in the Michigan Hall of Justice
Michigan Hall of Justice
The Michigan Hall of Justice, also known as the Michigan Supreme Court Building is a six-story structure at 925 Ottawa Street in Lansing, Michigan. It is constructed in the postmodern style and faced with over 14,000 limestone panels...

 at 925 Ottawa Street in Lansing
Lansing, Michigan
Lansing is the capital of the U.S. state of Michigan. It is located mostly in Ingham County, although small portions of the city extend into Eaton County. The 2010 Census places the city's population at 114,297, making it the fifth largest city in Michigan...

, the state capital.


The Michigan Supreme Court can be dated back to the Supreme Court of Michigan Territory, established in 1805 with three justices. These justices served for indefinite terms. In 1823, the terms of justices were limited to four-years.

The Michigan Supreme Court was the only court created by the first Michigan constitution in 1837. It had three members and each also oversaw one of the three judicial circuits, located in Detroit, Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo. The court needed a quorum of two to operate and members were appointed to seven-year terms by the governor with the consent of the senate. In 1838, Justice William A. Fletcher
William A. Fletcher
William A. Fletcher is a United States federal appeals court judge who has sat on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals since 1998.-Education and legal training:...

 proposed a new plan for the court that the legislature approved. This increased the number of circuits to four and thus expanded the bench to four justices, but left the quorum at two.

In 1848, the court was expanded to five justices and the 1850 Michigan constitution provided that they be elected for six-year terms. In 1858, the Circuit Courts were split from the Supreme Court, so justices now only served on the Michigan Supreme Court and reduced its size to only four justices, one of whom was the Chief Justice.

In 1887, the court was expanded to five justices each serving for ten years. The court was again expanded in 1903 to eight justices serving terms of eight-years. In 1964, the new state constitution set the number of justices on the court at seven.

Historically, the Michigan Supreme Court has held to a conservative judicial philosophy and is known as one of the more conservative state courts in the nation. Since the 1980s the court has applied a strict originalist approach to solving constitutional issues and in its rulings on interpreting state laws and statutes. As of the 2010 midterm election, the court currently is headed by a 4-3 conservative majority and Robert P. Young, Jr. is, as of January 5, 2011, the Chief Justice.


The current Justices of the Michigan Supreme Court are:
Name Elected/Appointed Term expires Appointing Governor Party Affiliation Law School Attended
Chief Justice
Chief Justice
The Chief Justice in many countries is the name for the presiding member of a Supreme Court in Commonwealth or other countries with an Anglo-Saxon justice system based on English common law, such as the Supreme Court of Canada, the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the Court of Final Appeal of...

 Robert P. Young, Jr. 
1999 January 1, 2019 John Engler / Elected Republican Harvard University Law School
Michael Cavanagh
Michael Cavanagh
Michael F. Cavanagh is a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court.-References:...

1982 January 1, 2015 Elected Democrat University of Detroit Mercy School of Law
Marilyn Kelly  1996 January 1, 2013 Elected Democrat Wayne State University Law School
Stephen Markman
Stephen Markman
Stephen J. Markman is a Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. He advocates for judicial restraint and has argued for a more restricted role for the judiciary in matters of public policy.-Career:...

1999 January 1, 2013 John Engler / Elected Republican University of Cincinnati College of Law
Diane Hathaway
Diane Hathaway
Diane Hathaway has been a justice of the Michigan Supreme Court since 2008.Hathaway was born and raised in Detroit. She was a nurse for several years. She studied at Wayne State University and eventually earned a law degree from the University of Detroit Law School.Hathaway served on the Wayne...

2008 January 1, 2017 Elected Democrat Michigan State University College of Law
Mary Beth Kelly
Mary Beth Kelly
Mary Beth Kelly is a justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, elected in November, 2010. Ms. Kelly graduated from the University of Michigan. She was previously a trial court judge on Michigan's Third Circuit Court in Wayne County.-References:...

2010 January 1, 2019 Elected Republican University of Notre Dame Law School
Brian K. Zahra
Brian K. Zahra
Brian K. Zahra is a Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.Zahra attended Wayne State University and worked his way through by opening a health and beauty-aid store in downtown Detroit, which he expanded into a full grocery store. He subsequently graduated from the University of Detroit School of...

2011 January 1, 2013 Rick Snyder Republican University of Detroit Mercy School of Law

See also

Further reading

  • Noto, Scott A. A Brief History of the Michigan Supreme Court. (Lansing: Michigan Supreme Court Historical Society, 2001).

External links