The Michigan Supreme Court unanimously ruled ex-Governor Jennifer Granholm’s appointment of Judge Hugh Clarke to the 54-A District Court in Lansing was constitutional. [Attorney General v Clarke, Lawyers Weekly 06-75876]
Attorney General Bill Schuette had challenged Clarke’s appointment because it was made during the “lame duck” period after Governor Rick Snyder was elected and Granholm left office.
The court found:
We conclude the following:
(1) A judicial vacancy “shall be filled by appointment by the governor.” Const 1963, art 6, § 23.
(2) The resignation of Judge KRAUSE created a vacancy on the 54-A District Court. Id. (“A vacancy shall occur . . . in the district court by . . . resignation . . . .”).
(3) “The person appointed by the governor shall hold office until 12 noon of the first day of January next succeeding the first general election held after the vacancy occurs . . . .” Id.
(4) Michigan law defines “general election” as “the election held on the November regular election date in an even numbered year,” MCL 168.2(h), and sets the November regular election date as “the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November,” MCL 168.641(1)(d). Accordingly, in this case, the “first general election held after the vacancy occurs” falls on Tuesday, November 6, 2012.
(5) Therefore, defendant “shall hold office until 12 noon” on January 1, 2013. Const 1963, art 6, § 23.
(6) The argument of plaintiff that an absurd result could conceivably arise under this Court’s interpretation of Const 1963, art 6, § 23 in circumstances not presented in this case raises an abstract issue that is not properly before this Court.
Justices Michael Cavanagh and Marilyn Kelly concurred:
I concur in the majority result dismissing the complaint for quo warranto, but only because I believe that there is no conflict between the statutes authorizing “holdovers” for district court judges and the Michigan Constitution. Specifically, MCL 168.467m(1) provides that “[i]f a vacancy occurs in the office of district judge, the governor shall appoint a successor to fill the vacancy” who “shall hold office until 12 noon of January 1 following the next general November election at which a successor is elected and qualified.” Additionally, MCL 168.467i provides that the term of office for a district judge “shall be 6 years” and “shall continue until a successor is elected and qualified.” These statutes clearly authorize holdovers for district judges and do not conflict with Const 1963, art 6, § 23. Therefore, defendant is entitled to hold office until noon on January 1, 2013.