Governor names Elizabeth Clement to Michigan Supreme Court

Clement is Snyder’s fifth appointee to the state high court

By David Eggert
Associated Press

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 1-1/2 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 husband and four children. “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.

“Beth is an exceptional attorney and leader who brings experience from various branches of government and areas of private practice to the state’s highest court,” Snyder said. “She is highly regarded by judges and her peers, and brings incredible skill to this role. I know Beth to be fair, a great thinker and someone who will faithfully adhere to the proper role of the judiciary. Her talent will be a great asset as the Supreme Court continues its work to improve efficiencies in courts statewide.”

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.”

Travis W. Weber will replace Clement as the governor’s new chief legal counsel and Frederick Headen will join the office as senior legal counsel.

Weber, of Lansing, currently serves as deputy legal counsel to the governor. Prior to that he was deputy legal counsel and senior policy advisor to former House Speaker Jase Bolger, and worked as an attorney at Clark Hill PLC in Grand Rapids. Weber earned a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and his juris doctor degree from Valparaiso Law.

Headen has served in several positions at the Michigan Department of Treasury since 1997, including as the director of the Bureau of Local Government Services and legal advisor to the state treasurer. He previously worked at the Citizens Research Council of Michigan. Headen earned a bachelor’s degree from James Madison College at Michigan State University, a master’s degree from the School of Labor and Industrial Relations at Michigan State University, and his juris doctor degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.