More women donning judicial robes in Michigan

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    At the start of Women’s History Month, the Michigan Supreme Court is highlighting the progress women have made in the state’s judiciary.

    Currently, 38 percent of judges statewide are women. This compares to 34 percent in 2017 after the 2016 election. That figure was 21 percent in 1999. In 1979, only 5 percent — 26 judges — were women.

    Megan Cavanagh (left), Elizabeth Clement (center) and Bridget McCormack (right) | Facebook

    Including appointments and those who won their elections last year, the number of female judges grew by 12.5 percent between 2017 to 2019. That’s a jump from 200 to 225 judges, the biggest increase on record.

    “Women in leadership positions are working together to solve problems,” said Chief Justice Bridget McCormack. “In the judiciary, our perspectives, life experiences, and skill-sets help us focus on our core principles of independence, accessibility, engagement and efficiency.”

    Justices Elizabeth Clement and Megan Cavanagh also serve on the state high court. McCormack is the sixth woman to serve as chief justice. As the Advance has reported women hold seven of nine statewide elected executive posts in Michigan.

    In a recent interview with the Advance, McCormack stressed that the number of female judges in Michigan has been rising steadily for two decades. 

    Michigan Supreme Court | Wikimedia Commons

    “The Michigan Supreme Court at one point had a majority of women,” McCormack noted. “There were four women on the court at one point, and that’s pretty unusual among not just in government, but among high courts. … The number of women judges creeps higher every year. I’m not sure why women are more likely to serve in this branch than the others.”

    Of the 29 newly-elected judges in 2018, 18 were women, per Michigan Supreme Court data. The Michigan Judicial Institute, the Supreme Court’s education division, recently held a training session for judges with less than two years’ experience on the bench. There were 64 attendees and 57 percent were women.

    Ken Coleman
    Ken Coleman reports on Southeast Michigan, education, civil rights and voting rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.

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