'Influential woman' throws her hat in the ring for Michigan Supreme Court

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Judge Jane Markey in her office at the new Court of Appeals location in the State Office Building.

LEGAL NEWS PHOTO BY CYNTHIA PRICE

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

At least one of the 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan 2012, as recognized by the Grand Rapids Business Journal, intends to intensify her efforts at making her mark in the world.

Court of Appeals Judge Jane Markey, proud Grand Rapidian, community welfare advocate, tireless contributor to advancement of the legal profession and the judiciary, has now announced that she is in the running for nomination as a Michigan Supreme Court Justice candidate.

The legal profession fared well on this year’s Most Influential Women list; in addition to Markey, there were two other judges honored: District Court 63-B Judge Sara Smolenski and Maria Ladas-Hoopes from Muskegon’s 60th.

As previously noted, the Grand Rapids Business Journal (GRBJ) designated attorney Mary Bauman of Miller Johnson, along with attorney Joy Fossel and Human Resources Director Carroll Velie of Varnum were designated. Attorney Raquel Salas of Avanti Law Group, and  Grand Rapids City Commissioner Rosalynn Bliss, who has appeared in the Grand Rapids Legal News many times, were also honored.

Judge Markey notes that the GRBJ deliberately chose judges for the award who were from the other side of the state. “That’s remarkably thoughtful I think, to avoid concerns about their being partial,” she says. The 2012 judges were Michelle Richards, the Executive Director of the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development, and Anne Doyle, author of a Forbes Woman column and the book Powering Up! How America’s Women Achieves Become Leaders —though Doyle did get her start in Grand Rapids as a WZZM-TV reporter.
A highlight of the March 7 recognition ceremony was Susan Ford Bales speaking about her mother, Betty Ford, clearly one of the most influential women ever to come out of West Michigan.

“Susan had a hard time starting her speech. Her mom’s death is still quite fresh,” Markey comments.  “She was very emotional throughout, but it was  really good speech and a really good event.”

Several of the influential women, including Markey, participated in a video telling how they had in turn been influenced by First Lady Betty Ford, which can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAE4Qm7MVz4&feature=youtu.be.

Now Markey turns her focus to winning the Republican Party nomination in the race to replace Justice Marilyn Kelly upon her retirement.

Though judicial contests are non-partisan, each major party goes through a process to endorse one person to run.

The Democratic Party has already chosen its candidate, Bridget Mary McCormack, a University of Michigan Law Professor and founder of the Pediatric Advocacy Clinic.
The Republican Party will not choose its candidate until September.

Markey, who has formed a committee for her run and has mounted the website www.janemarkey.com, feels very strongly that her Court of Appeals (COA) position gives her the best credentials of anyone seeing the nomination from either party.

“First and foremost,” she says, “this is my 18th year on the COA — it’s pretty much a Farm Club for the Supreme Court, and even though the justices also do more administrative type work, and that will allow me to hit the ground running.”

The COA considers cases across the state and publishes its opinions, similar to the Supreme Court. “My husband [Cooley Law School professor Curt Benson] always says, why don’t people realize that the COA makes 95% of the case law in the state,” Markey comments. “Unless the Supreme Court takes on the case, our decisions are the law of the land.”
Judge Markey also thinks that the court needs some geographic balance. “There hasn’t been a Supreme Court justice from the Grand Rapids area since 1946.”

She adds, “The COA is the best-run most efficient entity I’ve ever worked for, with the most amazing people top to bottom.”

Other career stops along the way have been in the non-legal world based on her degrees from Michigan State University in Spanish/Secondary Education and English; then as as attorney for Baxter and Hammond and Dykema Gossett, where she successfully litigated civil tort and commercial litigation; and, from 1990-1994, as a judge in the Grand Rapids District Court.

She actually started out her career, after receiving her Juris Doctor from Cooley Law School, as a research attorney and law clerk at the COA. Her 1994 run for the COA judgeship resulted in her finishing second out of a field of 20 candidates, and she was re-elected in 2002 and 2008.

Her community and legal profession involvement is vast, and includes serving on the faculties for the National Institute for Trial Advocacy, the Hillman Federal Trial Skills Workshop, and the Michigan Judicial Institute, working with the Institute for Continuing Legal Education, and serving as a hearing panelist for the Attorney Discipline Board from 1989 to 1996. One of her passions is reflected in her long service on the Thomas M. Cooley Law School Board of Directors. She has referred to herself as a “cheerleader for Cooley.”

Markey acknowledges that she is not really a politician, and running for office is very difficult. She feels her judicial career stands on its own, both in terms of published opinions which can be reviewed, and in terms of comportment. “In a way I welcome the scrutiny, because I have one thing that none of the other candidates has. I have a record. I take the laws and the facts and I apply them the way I’m supposed to I don’t worry about whether I agree with how it comes out. If I do my job faithfully in that manner, I create a record that’s open to the public.

“I’ve always had the support of the bench and the bar when I’ve run, and that’s helped immensely and is so important to me,” Markey says.“I’m also an enormous believer in being civil and having collegiality on the bench.”