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Beth Clement selected by colleagues as new MI Supreme Court chief justice

headshot of elizabeth clement
Matt Mitchell

Elizabeth Clement is the new chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. She was chosen this week in a closed-door meeting of the justices.

Clement — who was named to the court in 2017 by Republican Governor Rick Snyder — has shown an independent streak. She has outraged conservatives by joining decisions to allow a redistricting question onto the 2018 ballot and finding that LGBTQ rights are protected by the state’s civil rights law. She was even booed by some delegates at a Republican convention that nominated her.

“The other two branches of government are partisan,” she said in an interview with Michigan Public Radio, “and the judiciary is intended to be non-partisan, and that — we take that very seriously and we all do our best to make sure that the public feels that with every single interaction they have with the judicial branch.”

Clement is not a fan of Michigan’s quirky system where state Supreme Court candidates are nominated by Republican or Democratic conventions but appear on the non-partisan part of the ballot.

“Oh yeah, I have very strong feelings on that,” she said. But Clement also said she’s not ready to lobby for any specific changes. She says any future system should include voter-approval to fill Supreme Court vacancies.

Clement’s predecessor, Justice Bridget Mary McCormack is getting ready to leave the court for a new position with an organization that helps provide arbitration as an alternative to court battles. McCormack, a Democratic Party-nominated candidate, was selected as chief justice while the court had a Republican majority.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer will name a replacement for McCormack once she formally exits the Supreme Court.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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