Nov 29, 2022 - Politics

Kyra Harris Bolden to be MI's first Black woman Supreme Court justice

Kyra Harris Bolden waves to crowd at Renaissance High School

State Rep. Kyra Bolden speaks during the Get Out the Vote Rally in Detroit for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ahead of the 2022 midterms. Photo: Dominick Sokotoff/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

A Black woman will serve on the bench of the Michigan Supreme Court for the first time in its 217 year history.

Driving the news: State Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden (D-Southfield) is set to make history after being appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer last week.

  • Bolden will become the sixth Black person to ever serve.

What they're saying: "She will bring a unique perspective to our high court as a Black woman — and as a new, working mom — that has too long been left out," Whitmer said in a statement.

  • Bolden, one of five candidates to run for two Supreme Court seats during the midterm election, tells Axios that after running a campaign while pregnant, she feels like she can do anything.
  • She says she has been genuinely excited to see community members take credit in her success.

What she's saying: "It's important for the children to know that someone who can serve on the highest court in the state of Michigan sat in their seats," Bolden tells Axios.

  • Bolden, a former class president at Southfield Lathrup High School, says the city helped shape her. "Southfield is a majority-minority community, but also middle class; there aren't very many in the United States. I didn't grow up in a mindset where I was in the minority because everyone around me looked like me."

Between the lines: Bolden, 34, succeeds Justice Bridget McCormack, a Democrat leaving the bench at the end of the year to become the president and CEO of the American Arbitration Association.

  • Bolden maintains the high court's 4-3 Democratic majority.

The intrigue: Bolden's age and lack of judicial experience have been a point of scrutiny. She points to her election performance, finishing within 2% of incumbent Brian Zahra in the midterms (21.4% of votes), to show people are comfortable with her on the high court.

  • "There are five justices that didn't serve as judges previously — people have decided that that is a particular course they are OK with," Bolden says, adding that her experience as a state legislator also gives her a unique perspective. "I've practiced in multiple practice areas, maybe not as long as others, but I've seen the gamut and the depth and breadth of the law."

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