Michigan’s Democratic chief Supreme Court justice to retire

Bridget McCormack, the Democratic chief justice of Michigan’s Supreme Court, is retiring by the end of the year.

The timing of the decision guarantees that Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) will be able to handpick a successor, even if she loses re-election.

Michigan justice retires

The Democrats control the court 4-3, which means it will remain safely in the party’s hands, for now. In a letter to Whitmer, McCormack, who leaves with six years left in her term, said she was leaving the governor “the time you need to select my successor.”

Whitmer, who is facing a challenge this November from Republican Tudor Dixon, called McCormack a “phenomenal public servant.”

“She upheld the rule of law, stood strong for our constitutional values, and protected the fundamental rights of every Michigander,” Whitmer said.

McCormack voted to allow ballot proposals amending Michigan’s constitution to guarantee the right to abortion, the primary issue for Whitmer and other Democrats in this year’s elections, and early voting despite Republican objections.

The justice said Republican challenges to word spacing were a “game of gotcha” and a “sad marker of the times.”

Oversaw prison reform

The justice also co-chaired a panel Whitmer established on reducing the state’s prison population. On McCormack’s watch, the court also expanded the state’s civil rights laws to cover LGBT individuals.

McCormack signaled she hopes her successor is “younger and more diverse.”

“If my generation — I’m now 56 — steps aside and lets a younger and more diverse group of leaders get to the table and lead, I really think that’s always going to be better for institutions,” she said.

The justice was praised by a Republican colleague, Justice Elizabeth Clement.

“In a world that has become increasing partisan and angry, she is a voice of reason, compassion and thoughtfulness,” Clement said.