Governor names Elizabeth Clement to Michigan Supreme Court
LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Gov. Rick Snyder looked within his own staff to make his latest appointment to the Michigan Supreme Court on Friday, choosing his chief lawyer Elizabeth Clement to fill a vacancy created when a justice left for the federal appellate bench.
Clement is the Republican governor’s fifth appointee to the high court. She can run for a full eight-year term in 2018.
Joan Larsen, whom Snyder put on the court in 2015, recently was confirmed for a lifetime judgeship on the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati after being nominated by President Donald Trump.
“She’s going to be a wonderful rule-of-law judge. I’m convinced of that,” Snyder said while announcing Clement’s appointment at his main office in Lansing. “I’ve seen her legal mind work in wonderful ways.”
The 40-year-old Clement, who has not been a judge, was Snyder’s chief legal counsel the past 1½ years and previously worked as deputy chief of staff and deputy legal counsel. She joined the executive office when Snyder became governor in 2011, after working as a policy expert and attorney in the GOP-led state Senate.
Snyder joked that Clement is achieving a “trifecta” of serving in all three branches of government.
“As a justice, I will be committed to a fair and impartial interpretation of the law as written,” Clement said while standing next to the governor, her children and her husband. “I will honor this great opportunity with my strongest commitment to hard work every day. And I will treat all persons who come before the court with respect, patience and my utmost attention.”
Republicans have a 5-2 majority on the court. Clement is one of two female justices. Her husband, Tom Clement, is general counsel for the Supreme Court.
She lives in East Lansing and has bachelor’s and law degrees from Michigan State University.
Of Snyder’s four previous appointees to the court, three are still there. All had judicial experience prior to their promotions.
Larsen, though, has not been a judge. She was a law professor, clerked for the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and worked at the Justice Department.
Snyder said he has always had a “merit-based process” and when his office began asking for names: “Beth’s name came to the top immediately. And I mean that in a very widespread basis, from judges to people in the legal community to other people.”
Clement joins the court in time for oral arguments in December.
Asked if she would recuse herself from any Flint water-related cases that reach the court, Clement said she was aware of the potential for conflicts and would decide on a case-by-case basis.
Justices makes $164,610 a year, a salary that has not changed in 15 years.
Also Friday, Snyder promoted deputy legal counsel Travis Weber to chief legal counsel. Frederick Headen, who was legal adviser to the state treasurer and who chairs a state board overseeing Flint’s transition from emergency management, was named the governor’s senior legal counsel.
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