State parties choose candidates for Michigan Supreme Court

DETROIT (AP) — Michigan Democrats on Sunday selected three women to run for a state Supreme Court that is sharply divided by partisan politics.
Republicans control the court, 4-3, and the races have seen large infusions of campaign money in recent elections. Bankers, hospitals, Realtors, farmers, doctors and insurance companies typically give campaign cash to GOP court candidates, while unions and personal-injury lawyers support Democratic nominees.

Political parties nominate people for the Supreme Court, but party labels don’t appear on the ballot.

“The institution has been politicized. I think that’s too bad,” Democratic nominee Bridget McCormack told The Associated Press in a telephone interview after her nomination at the Lansing convention. “People want the judicial system to be different from our other branches of government.”

McCormack is a University of Michigan law professor. The other Democratic nominees are Wayne County Circuit Judge Connie Kelley and Oakland County District Judge Shelia Johnson.

Democratic state convention delegates accepted their party leaders’ recommendations. Campaign literature has been in circulation for the three candidates.
Incumbent Democratic Justice Marilyn Kelly can’t run again because of age restrictions.

McCormack is an unusual candidate for the state’s highest court because she isn’t a judge. She’s best known for being co-director of the Innocence Clinic at University of Michigan law school, which has won the release of prisoners who were wrongly convicted. Her husband, Steven Croley, is a White House lawyer.

Voters often pay little attention to the judicial races on the ballot, McCormack acknowledged. She said that’s too bad.

“It affects all our families in a very important way,” she said. “I’m hopeful that the public will really tune in.”

The Democratic convention delegates also chose candidates for the four elected state education boards.

Nominated for the state Board of Education were Lupe Ramos-Montigny and Michelle Fecteau. For the Michigan State University Board of Trustees, the nominees were Joel Ferguson and Brian Mosallam. For the University of Michigan Board of regents, they were Mark Bernstein and Shauna Ryder Diggs. And for the Wayne State University Board of Governors, the nominees were Sandra Hughes O’Brien and Kim Trent.

Michigan Republicans hoping to maintain or expand their control of the state Supreme Court nominated an Oakland County judge Saturday to run with two incumbent justices in the fall election.

Delegates at the GOP’s state convention in Grand Rapids chose Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Colleen O’Brien over appeals court Judge Jane Markey.

O’Brien will join justices Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra as the Republican-backed candidates for three seats on the court.

Political parties nominate people for the Supreme Court, but the candidates don’t appear on the ballot with a party affiliation. With Republicans controlling the court by the slimmest margin, 4-3, the campaign leading to the Nov. 6 election promises to be as nasty and expensive as those in the recent past.
Markman has been a justice since 1999. Zahra was appointed in 2011 by Gov. Rick Snyder and is running to fill the remaining two years that belonged to Maura Corrigan, who resigned to become director of the Department of Human Services.

More than $10 million was spent in the 2010 election, which switched control of the court back to Republicans. Bankers, hospitals, real estate agents, farmers, doctors and insurance companies typically give campaign cash to GOP court candidates, while unions and personal-injury lawyers support Democratic nominees.

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