Appointments made to court diversity panel

The Michigan Supreme Court recently issued an order appointing 26 members to the new Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the Michigan Judiciary (DEI Commission).

Commission members represent an interdisciplinary, wide range of stakeholders — courts, professional associations, advocacy groups, law schools, affinity and/or special purpose bar associations, and community members who have had contact with the justice system.

Supreme Court Justice Elizabeth M. Welch and retired Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Cynthia Stephens will serve as co-chairs.

“After over 35 years of continuous work and countless voices of advocates calling on the courts to take direct action to ensure that the courts reflect the people they serve, I am proud to say that we have finally and publicly taken that next necessary step in forming this commission,” said Welch. “We look forward to advancing our agenda as we work to strengthen the rule of law in Michigan — the very foundation of which is that people are treated equally and fairly.”

DEI Commission members include:

—Executive Committee

• Justice Elizabeth Welch, Michigan Supreme Court - Co-Chair
• Judge Cynthia Stephens, Michigan Court of Appeals (ret.) - Co-Chair
• Elizabeth Rios, State Court Administrative Office – State Court Administrator designee
• Peter Cunningham, State Bar of Michigan Executive Director
• Jennifer Bentley, Michigan State Bar Foundation Executive Director

—For terms ending December 31, 2023

• Josh Hilgart (Michigan State Planning Body)
• Dee Brooks, Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan
• Erika Bryant, State Bar of Michigan Board of Commissioners
• Zenell Brown, Michigan Court Administrators Association
• Jacqueline Freeman, Michigan ABA-Accredited Law School
• Angie Martell, Affinity Bar Association
• Belem Morales, Affinity Bar Association

—For terms ending December 31, 2024

• Nicole Huddleston, Justice for All Commission
• Chief Judge Kenneth Akini, Michigan Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum
• Judge Kathleen Brickley, Michigan Judges Association
• Judge Juanita Bocanegra, Michigan District Judges Association
• Michelle Crockett, Affinity Bar Association
• Syeda Davidson, Affinity Bar Association
• Alanna Lahey, community member

—For terms ending December 31, 2025

• Judge Kristina Robinson Garrett, Michigan Indigent Defense Commission
• Robyn Afrik, Michigan Association of Counties
• Judge Austin Garrett, Association of Black Judges of Michigan
• Judge Sima Patel, Court of Appeals
• Judge Shauna Dunnings, Michigan Probate Judges Association
• Louisa Wills, community member
• Siham Awada Jaafar, community member

The following are primary goals of the DEI Commission:

— Develop policies and standards to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

— Assist the judicial branch with elimination of disparities within the justice system.

— Increase participation of members from under-represented communities in judicial branch leadership.

— Assist local courts with implementation of diversity, equity, and inclusion plans and processes.

— Collaborate with other judicial branch commissions, governmental entities, and private partners to propose and implement policies aimed at achieving a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive justice system.

Next steps for the DEI Commission include developing a strategic plan and establishing work groups to address key issues.

Going forward, the commission will submit a biennial report (and any additional resources deemed necessary) to the Supreme Court about its activities and progress during the previous 24-month period and its goals for the next 24 months.

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