Justice Mary Beth Kelly to leave state's high court

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The Michigan Supreme Court announced Monday that Justice Mary Beth Kelly will be leaving the Supreme Court to return to private practice, effective October 1, 2015.

"I am grateful for the opportunity to have served on our state's highest court," said Kelly. "I leave the Supreme Court knowing that our judicial system is better equipped to help families and children."

"Justice Kelly has written important opinions and made her presence felt on this bench," said Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. "In particular, my colleagues and I have appreciated the experience and insights she brought from leading the state's largest circuit court. Justice Kelly is a good friend, and I will miss her presence on the court. I wish her well in the next phase of her career."

Gov. Rick Snyder thanked Kelly for her service to Michigan. "Justice Kelly has shown tremendous leadership and dedication during her time on the Supreme Court," Snyder said. "Her advocacy on juvenile justice issues has had a major impact on the state, and she has been instrumental in shaping innovative specialty courts meant to rehabilitate drug offenders and defendants who are veterans.

"Her legacy will certainly reflect the time she spent working to change outcomes for some of the state's most vulnerable residents. I thank her for her unwavering commitment to Michigan's judicial system and wish her future success."

Kelly will join Bodman PLC as a member on October 15, 2015. She will practice in Bodman's Detroit office.

At Bodman, Kelly will become vice chair of the firm's Litigation and Alternative Dispute Resolution Practice Group. She will focus her practice on business litigation, government relations, and public affairs. She will become an active participant in Bodman's pro bono and community service programs and other leadership initiatives.

Bodman PLC Chairman Ralph E. McDowell said that Kelly brings to the firm an exceptional mix of legal expertise, professional integrity, and personal commitment to causes that promote the welfare of children and families and an equitable juvenile justice system.

"We are thrilled that after sixteen years of distinguished service to our state, Justice Kelly has chosen to join Bodman as she reenters private practice," McDowell said. "Her vast experience, keen legal insight, leadership abilities, and impeccable reputation will enrich our firm. Justice Kelly will be an invaluable resource to our clients and our attorneys."

Kelly believes this is the right time to bring her judicial experience back to the private sector.

"It's an exciting time to reenter private practice, particularly at a firm like Bodman where the culture and service philosophy fit me perfectly," said Kelly. "During my years on the bench, I feel that I have achieved all of the public service objectives I set out to achieve when I first became a judge. My work at Bodman will allow me not only to enter a new phase in my career but will also open many community service opportunities that I could not pursue as a Supreme Court justice."

Kelly joined the Michigan Supreme Court in January 2011. Before her election to the court in November 2010, she served as a judge on the Wayne County Circuit Court from 1999-2010, and worked as a lawyer and commercial litigation partner in the law firm Dickinson Wright in Detroit from 1987-1999.

Governor John Engler appointed Kelly to the Wayne County Circuit Court in 1999. She was elected to that court in 2000, and re-elected in 2002 and 2008. During her tenure on the Wayne County Circuit Court, the Michigan Supreme Court appointed Kelly to serve for three terms as chief judge; she remains the only woman in history to serve as chief judge of that court. Under her leadership as chief judge, she joined with the National Center for State Courts to increase the racial diversity of the Wayne County jury pool. She also entered into deficit reduction agreements to ensure the long-term sustainability of the court's budget. She also led efforts to increase the size of the court's Family Division and to improve the Friend of the Court system in Wayne County. Those efforts resulted in a doubling of the size of the Family Division and the implementation of the Friend of the Court's privatized call center.

Since joining the Supreme Court, Kelly has authored several opinions of major public significance. She authored the court's seminal interpretation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act in unanimous opinion of People v Kolanek, which provided much-needed guidance regarding the medical use of marijuana in Michigan. She authored the lead opinion in Stand Up for Democracy v Secretary of State, which held that a referendum petition strictly complied with the relevant provisions of Michigan's election law and, therefore, must be submitted to the voters for their consideration. She has also written opinions that protect the rights of children, among them: the majority opinion in People v Likine which held that "impossibility," not simply the inability to pay, governs a defense to the crime of failure to pay child support, and a dissenting opinion in People v Carp which would have applied retroactively the constitutional requirement that juvenile offenders must receive an individualized sentencing determination that considers the offender's youth, personal characteristics, and circumstances of the crime before being sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Kelly served as the Michigan Supreme Court's liaison for treatment courts, drug courts, and veterans' courts. In January 2015, Governor Snyder appointed Kelly as chair of the Michigan Committee on Juvenile Justice. Recently, as co-chair of the Michigan Race Equity Coalition, she examined the need for the juvenile justice and foster care systems to improve policies and racial disparities in these systems through accurate and meaningful data. Kelly has also served as chairperson of numerous other statewide committees, primarily focused on child welfare and family matters, and has received awards for her work in child welfare issues. She has also taught Children and the Law as an adjunct professor at the University of Detroit Mercy Law School and has served as an advisor to numerous non-profit organizations.

Kelly graduated from the Notre Dame Law School (1987) the University of Michigan-Dearborn (1984).