This past weekend, Michigan's Democrats and Republicans nominated four women for seats on the state's highest court. While they may be divided by ideology and party loyalty, all four nominees share a connection to Washtenaw County through their experiences at the University of Michigan, which three attended and the fourth teaches.
All three of the Democrats' nominees, who the party is marketing as "The Three Supremes," either attended the University of Michigan or currently teach there. Oakland County District Court Judge Shelia Johnson graduated from the University of Michigan Law School. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Connie Kelley graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. before earning her law degree from Wayne State University. Bridget Mary McCormack currently serves as the Associate Dean of Clinical Affairs at the University of Michigan Law School.
Republican nominee and Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Colleen O'Brian also went to the University of Michigan, earning a Bachelors degree before attending the Detroit College of Law.
Johnson is currently serving her second term as a District Judge and is currently the Chief Judge Pro Tem of the 46th District Court, which serves Southfield and the adjoining municipalities of Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms, Franklin, Lathrup Village, and Southfield Township. She became the first elected female African-American judge in Oakland County after defeating the incumbent chief judge on her first attempt. Johnson claims another first; she was elected the first African-American president of the University of Michigan Law School Student Senate.
Johnson is running against Republican incumbent Brian Zahra, who was appointed by Governor Snyder to serve out the remainder of the term of Maura Corrigan. Corrigan resigned from the Michigan Supreme Court with three years remaining in her term to serve as Director of the Michigan Department of Human Services.
In addition to facing Zahra, Johnson will also contend with the fifth woman running for Michigan Supreme Court, Mindy Barry, who is the nominee of the U.S. Taxpayers Party. Barry earned her law degree from Georgetown University and teaches at University of Detroit-Mercy.
Kelley was elected in 2008 to the 3rd Circuit Court, which serves Wayne County. Before she was a judge, she practiced law for 27 years. She graduated from the University of Michigan in 1978 and Wayne State University Law School in 1981.
In addition to serving as an associate dean in the University of Michigan Law School, McCormack is the co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic, which represents wrongfully convicted prisoners in Michigan. Before coming the to Michigan, she taught in the Yale Law School. McCormack earned her law degree from New York University and her B.A. from Trinity College in Connecticut.
O'Brien, who won a narrow victory at the Republican's state convention this past Saturday over Jane Markey, was appointed to the 6th District Court in 1998. She has been re-elected at least twice, the last time in 2010. O'Brien serves on the Board of Directors of the Michigan Judges Association. She also teaches at Cooley Law School, Baker College, and Oakland Community College.
In addition to facing each other, Johnson, Kelley, and O'Brien are running for two eight-year terms against incumbent Republican Justice Stephen Markman, Libertarian nominees Kerry L. Morgan and Robert W. Roddis, and Natural Law Party nominee Doug Dern.
While political parties nominate candidates for Michigan Supreme Court, they appear on the non-partisan judicial section of the ballot without party affiliation.