By Danielle Salisbury |

JACKSON, MI – Calling themselves “rule of law” judges, two Michigan Supreme Court justices and a candidate for the court touted on Monday the importance of making decisions based on statutes and not personal opinions or affiliations.

“Whether we agree with the statutes or don’t agree doesn’t matter. It is our job to follow the law,” said Oakland County Circuit Judge Colleen O’Brien.

O’Brien and Justices Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra were at the Jackson County Courthouse on Monday as part of a three-day tour that will take them to courthouses in Fremont, Muskegon, Cadillac and elsewhere.

They are running together for three available spots on the court. All were nominated by the state Republican Party, but they appear on the ballot as non-partisan.

Zahra, appointed last year by Gov. Rick Snyder, is campaigning against Southfield District Judge Shelia Johnson for the two remaining years of former Justice Maura Corrigan’s term.

Markman, appointed in 1999 and reelected in 2000 and 2004, and O’Brien are in a four-person race for two slots. Justice Marilyn Kelly is beyond the age she can run again, which means at least one new justice will join the court.

Democrats nominated Wayne County Circuit Judge Connie Marie Kelley and University of Michigan law professor Bridget Mary McCormack for the eight-year seats.

Late Monday morning, O’Brien, Zahra and Markman stood in Prosecutor Hank Zavislak’s office, made brief statements and met staff members and judges. They then followed Zavislak to District Court and the county clerk’s office, where they shook hands with court officials and employees.

Markman told prosecutors one of the legacies of the current court is in transforming the criminal justice system.

“This is a court that believes that the first responsibility of government is to ensure a criminal justice system in which all of our first civil right is upheld, namely the right to be free from violent criminal predators.”

The law now is a fairer, more responsible law than it might have been 10 or 15 years ago, he told prosecutors.

Zavislak urged the crowd to pay attention to a race, despite its significance, that many people do not understand or know much about.

Supreme Court decisions affect everyone, O’Brien said.

Zahra said he would like to see the state do away with Supreme Court elections and move to an appointment system.

Political party nominations for justices give decisions the appearance of being partisan, even though the court’s record shows otherwise, Zahra said.

Unlike legislators, justices do not represent the people; they represent the law, he said.

Much money is spent on the races, the source of which is not always identifiable, he said as he and others headed toward District Court.

There, they met District Judge Daniel Goostrey, who replaced former Judge James Justin. Zahra and Markman were among the justices who removed Justin from the bench for misconduct.

Comments are closed.