Justice Kelly to receive WLAM's Coleman Award

After 24 years, Justice Marilyn Kelly recently retired from the Supreme Court. She was Chief Justice from 2009-2011. In 2010, she and James L. Ryan, senior judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, established the Michigan Judicial Selection Task Force. Their bipartisan reforms to Michigan’s method of selecting judges were praised by the Detroit Free Press as an “indispensable first step toward reform of a broken status quo that is undermining public confidence in the courts.” A well-known advocate for access to justice, Justice Kelly co-chaired the State Bar’s Open Justice Commission and is on the board of the National Consortium for Racial and Ethnic Fairness in the Courts. Justice Kelly is a Distinguished Jurist in Residence at Wayne State University Law School; she has established a scholarship for students interested in public service law.

Justice Kelly credits her advancement in the legal profession to her experience in the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan.

“I was elected to the bench immediately after serving as president of the Women’s Bar Association and WLAM. There’s no question in my mind that what I learned working in those organizations was essential to my later success.”

In 2012, Michigan Lawyers Weekly named her “Woman Lawyer of the Year.” She received in that same year lifetime achievement awards from the Michigan Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, the Appellate Practice Section of the State Bar of Michigan, the Michigan Chapter of the American Constitution Society, the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel, and the Detroit and Michigan Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. The award will be presented by Justice Bridget McCormack.

Elected to the Michigan Supreme Court in 1971, Justice Coleman was honored by the State Bar of Michigan with a Michigan Legal Milestone, entitled, “Pioneer, Advocate, Woman, Legend.” in 2000. Her contributions to Michigan’s judicial system included revising the state’s probate and juvenile justice codes. She drafted much of the state’s first child protection legislation. She received 15 honorary degrees and was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame. She passed away in November 2001.

In honor of Justice Coleman’s achievement, the award bearing her name is bestowed annually to a current or former member of the Michigan federal, state, or tribal judiciary whose leadership, talent, and significant contributions to women provide a role model for women in the profession and women in general.