State Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden is tapped to be the first Black woman to serve in Michigan’s top court in 2023.
By: Sherri Kolade and Andre Ash
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently made a historic appointment by selecting State Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden to a notable post at the Michigan Supreme Court. Bolden will become the first Black woman to serve on the state’s top court beginning early next year.
Otis Milton Smith, the first African American justice on the Michigan Supreme Court, was appointed in 1961 and served on the court until 1966.
Bolden would fill the seat left vacant by former Chief Justice Bridget McCormack who announced retirement in September.
Bolden ran for the Supreme Court in the mid-term election but finished in third place. She is currently a state lawmaker and a licensed lawyer.
Bolden will be officially appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court in January by Whitmer when her term in the House legislature expires.
Bolden gave an interview with the Michigan Chronicle recently on her historic appointment, which she describes as “wonderful.”
“I am just so honored and grateful for this appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court,” Bolden said. Bolden is a lifelong resident of her hometown of Southfield, and currently serves House District 35 (communities of Southfield, Lathrup Village, Beverly Hills, Bingham Farms, and Franklin).
Bolden added that she gets to be a “representation of what’s possible” on the highest court of the state of Michigan, and during her campaign trail, she has seen children who look like her cheering her on (as she cheers them on) every step of the way.
“I say this a lot but it’s hard to be what you cannot see – I think representation absolutely matters when children are thinking about their possibilities and I’m just honored to be selected to serve,” Bolden said.
Rep. Bolden sits on the Insurance and Judiciary committees. She also serves as vice chair of the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.
A graduate of Southfield Public Schools, Bolden received her bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University and later attended the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, according to her website.
After receiving her Juris Doctorate, Bolden became a civil litigation attorney. She is an active member of her community, serving as a member of the National Congress of Black Women-Oakland County, the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., and as a commissioner of the Total Living Commission for the city of Southfield.
Bolden has received several awards including the 2020 Michigan Chronicle 40 Under 40 honor, the 2021 Legislative Economic Development Champion Award and the 2021 Michigan Credit Union League Legislator of the Year award.
“She will bring a unique perspective to our high court as a Black woman — and as a new, working mom — that has too long been left out,” Whitmer said in a Detroit News article. “Kyra is committed to fighting for justice for generations, and I know she will serve Michigan admirably, building a brighter future for her newborn daughter and all our kids.”
Bolden, an experienced attorney and bipartisan lawmaker, connected with constituents across the state during her campaign for the Michigan Supreme Court earlier this year.
“I am honored to have been selected by Governor Whitmer to serve the wonderful state of Michigan and ensure greater trust and justice for generations,” said Bolden. “This is an important time for Michiganders, and I am grateful for the continued support to bring a fresh perspective to our highest court. This is a court that will ultimately have the final word on many items that will affect not only our lives, but our children’s, and their children’s lives for generations to come. I’m excited and ready to get to work!”
While working in Lansing, she advocated for Michiganders as a member of the Judiciary Committee and focused her work on criminal justice reform, crafting and passing pieces of critical bipartisan legislation into law, including the “Medically Frail” prison reform package, the revision of the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act, and the “Address Confidentiality for Survivors of Domestic Violence” package.
First Plan of Action
Bolden said that when she gets in office her first plan of action is to take it all in.
“A lot of people will have grand plans and when I start something new even… I believe it is important to be a sponge and not be the loudest person in the room. I am very much aware that there is going to be a learning curve. My objective going in is to build relationships with my colleagues, other justices – get as much information as I can from them about how they see things. What is their perspective.”
She added that it is important to know the space one is in to contribute the most to it, especially her own perspective.
“The voice of Black women has been absent from the Michigan Supreme Court since its inception,” she said. “I think that is an important perspective because everyone brings their lived experiences … to this work. … I am excited to get my hands wet and look at cases with fresh perspectives.”
A Bold Journey
Bolden said that a lot of people don’t know the part of her story involving Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence’s role that helped lead her to the point where she is at today.
“A lot of people think I popped up out of obscurity and it did not happen like that at all,” Bolden said adding that Lawrence encouraged her last June to run for the post. “I told her no because I was in leadership at the House [of Representatives] and she didn’t know but I was going to try to have a child – I didn’t think it would be prudent to run a statewide race while pregnant even though it happened.”
The experience is one she is “thankful for.”
“She is so proud of me … she called me her legacy and that really, really touched me,” Bolden said.
Lawrence told the Michigan Chronicle that “the stars lined up” with Bolden’s appointment.
“We are witnessing Kyra Bolden make history in Michigan,” Lawrence said, adding that she had the “good fortune” of watching Bolden’s entrance to public service from being an attorney to Michigan’s first Black woman Supreme Court justice. “She is so young yet so mature. I saw in her the leadership and compassion to serve with such professional discipline. That is why I knew she had a long career ahead of her. I’m incredibly excited for her to serve the people of Michigan and know she will uphold the rule of law.”