At a talk at the Ann Arbor City Club in February, new Michigan Supreme Court justice Bridget McCormack said she’d enjoyed her first weeks on the bench and that her new colleagues had all been warm and helpful. But she admitted to being humbled recently when her son, an eighth grader at Slauson Middle School, asked his mother at the breakfast table, “Mom, do you know anything about the Constitution?”
As it happens, McCormack not only knows a fair amount about the U.S. Constitution, she has thoughts about how Michigan’s constitution could be improved–by changing the system that put her on the bench.
“Michigan Supreme Court candidates are nominated at the major political party conventions,” she told the group. “The November election is nonpartisan, but the hoops we jump through to appear on the state ballot are held by the state politicos.”
McCormack believes that may finally change, because people across the political spectrum are frustrated with the current system. “Last spring, a bipartisan task force led by two veteran jurists–Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly and Senior Judge James L. Ryan of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit–noted that Michigan’s process for choosing Supreme Court justices has attracted national attention for its excessive cost, its lack of transparency and its damaging negativity,” she said.
McCormack knows about that, too–she survived “a million-dollar negative ad campaign” to win her seat last November. “My view is that partisanship and secret spending undermine the public’s confidence [in] the court, and for understandable reasons,” she emails, “and a system with funding transparency and without party nominations would be a vast improvement.”