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Bridget McCormack to step down from state Supreme Court

McCormack, who was nominated by the Democratic Party, was reelected to an eight-year term in 2020. She's been on the court since 2013.
Credit: Michigan Courts website

DETROIT — Bridget McCormack, the chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, said Monday she will quit by the end of the year.

McCormack, who was nominated by the Democratic Party, was reelected to an eight-year term in 2020. She's been on the court since 2013.

"After a decade, the time has come for me to move on, to let others lead, and to build on a foundation of progress," McCormack, 56, said in a written statement.

She said she would step down no earlier than Nov. 22 and no later than Dec. 31. She didn't explain the gap.

Election victories by McCormack and Justice Elizabeth Welch in 2020 put Democrats in the court's majority, 4-3, for the first time since 2010. Michigan governors choose new justices when someone resigns.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, called McCormack a "phenomenal public servant."

“The deep dedication and sound leadership she brought to our judiciary were matched only by her keen intellect, genuine warmth, and disarming wit," Whitmer said in a statement. "Whatever she touched, she made better, and we are grateful for all she has done to serve Michiganders and our state."  

Before her election in 2012, McCormack was co-director of the Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan law school, working with students to exonerate wrongly convicted people.

Her colleagues on the court picked her as chief justice in 2019. In that role, McCormack has left her mark across the state's judiciary, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when courthouses were closed and judges turned to video conferencing to handle cases.

"We've seen more change in seven months than in many decades in the courts. That part of the job has been kind of exhilarating," McCormack said in the fall of 2020. "Most of what we're seeing now is not going to go away."

Among her opinions, McCormack in 2018 wrote the 4-3 decision that said public schools can ban visitors from carrying guns.

Criminal law has been a specialty of McCormack's. In June, she wrote the court's unanimous opinion that indictments that were used to charge former Gov. Rick Snyder and others in the Flint water investigation were invalid.

McCormack last week was in the 5-2 majority that put abortion rights on the ballot in the November election. Republican members of a state election board had rejected the proposed constitutional amendment over the spacing of words on the petition.

"What a sad marker of the times," McCormack said.

Justice Elizabeth Clement, a Republican, said McCormack has been independent and fair.

"In a world that has become increasing partisan and angry, she is a voice of reason, compassion and thoughtfulness," Clement said.

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