October 26, 2012 at 1:00 am

2012 Voter Guide

Democrats seek gains in state Supreme Court

Stephen Markman )

Conservatives have long held a majority on the Michigan Supreme Court, and Democrats hope this year to break that hold.

Though technically nonpartisan, candidates for the state's highest court are nominated by the political parties. GOP-backed justices hold a 4-3 majority, and decisions are frequently handed down along party lines.

In November, voters will elect two candidates to full eight-year terms and one candidate to a partial term on the panel.

One of the full-term seats belongs to Republican-backed incumbent Justice Stephen Markman. The other is open because Democrat-backed Justice Marilyn Kelly must retire by law. Incumbent Justice Brian Zahra, nominated by the GOP, is running to complete a partial term that is up at the end of 2014.

Markman and Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Colleen O'Brien are the two Republicans running for the two full-term seats. They are challenged by Bridget Mary McCormack, dean of clinical programs with University of Michigan Law School, and Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Connie Marie Kelley. Zahra, who hopes to hang onto his partial-term seat, is challenged by 49th District Court Judge Shelia Johnson.

Brian Zahra

Age: 52
Place of birth: Detroit
Residence: Northville
Family: Wife, Suzanne, and two children
Education: Juris Doctor, University of Detroit School of Law; bachelor of General Studies, Wayne State University
Current position: Justice of the Supreme Court
Career highlights: Two years on Michigan Supreme Court; 12 years on Michigan Court of Appeals; four years on the Wayne County Circuit Court, including one year at Detroit’s Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, one of the nation’s busiest criminal courts; partner in the Dickenson Wright law firm, practicing commercial and product liability law; started his career as a clerk in the U.S. District Court.
Money raised: $624,951 through Sept. 28
Key endorsements: Republican Party, The Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce PAC, Michigan Fraternal Order of Police, prosecutors and sheriffs across Michigan.
Web: www.zahraforjustice.com

Colleen O’Brien

Age: 56
Place of birth: Pontiac
Residence: Rochester Hills
Family: Husband, Tom Cory, and three children
Education: Juris Doctor, Detroit College of Law; bachelor’s degree, University of Michigan
Current position: Circuit Court judge, Oakland County
Career highlights: Oakland County Circuit judge since 1998; presiding judge of the Oakland Circuit Court’s Female Division Adult Drug Treatment Program since 2003; presiding judge of the Oakland County Circuit Court from 2008-10; 17 years private practice preceding judicial election; member of the Michigan Judges Association Board of Directors; appointed to Indigent Defense Commission
Money raised: $271,103 through Sept. 28
Key endorsements: Republican Party, Associated Building Contractors, Michigan Court Officers Association, Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Realtors Association, Michigan Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Restaurant Association, Michigan Right to Life, National Federation of Independent Businesses, Chaldean Chamber of Commerce
Web: www.colleenobrien.org

Shelia Johnson

Age: 55
Place of birth: Detroit
Residence: Southfield
Family: Single, no children
Education: Juris Doctorate, University of Michigan Law School; bachelor’s degree, Dartmouth College
Current Position: 46th District Court judge in Southfield
Career highlights: Ten years as judge and chief judge pro-tem with the 46th District Court, where she was the first African-American to serve as judge; 18 years practicing law with Jaffe Raitt Heuer & Weiss PC, and in private practice, working in civil and criminal litigation; U.S. District Court law clerk; visiting law clerk with U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals
Money raised: $142,938 through Sept. 28
Key endorsements: Democratic Party, UAW, Michigan Education Association, various other unions, Michigan Justice Caucus, Equality Michigan Pride, Michigan Association for Justice, MI NOW, Yemeni American Political Action Committee, Fannie Lou Hammer, Michigan Black Democratic Caucus, The Black Slate
Web: www.judgesheliajohnson.com

Connie Marie Kelley

Age: 56
Place of birth: Detroit
Residence: Redford Township
Education: Juris Doctor, Wayne State University Law School; bachelor’s degree, University of Michigan
Family: Husband, Kevin Kelley, and three adult children
Current position: Wayne County Circuit Court judge
Career highlights: Wayne County Circuit Court judge since 2008; 12 years with the law firm of Powers Chapman in Troy, becoming the second woman to be named partner in the history of the 83-year firm
Money raised: $246,082 through Sept. 28
Key endorsements: Michigan Democratic Party, Michigan Association of Police Officers,Michigan Professional Firefighters Union,Michigan Fraternal Order of Police,Police Officers Association of Michigan,Michigan Nurses Association, Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers,United Auto Workers, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO
Web: www.conniekelleyforjustice.com

Bridget Mary McCormack

Age: 46
Place of birth: Washington, D.C.
Residence: Ann Arbor
Education: Juris Doctor, New York University Law School; bachelor’s degree, Trinity College
Family: Husband, Steven Croley, four children
Current position: Dean of Clinical Programs at University of Michigan Law School
Career highlights: Dean of Clinical Programs at University of Michigan Law School since 1998; four years with Legal Aid Society in New York serving as senior trial attorney; two years with Yale Law School, serving as Cover Fellow; Equal Justice Award, National Lawyers Guild, 2012
Money raised: $413,056 through Sept. 28
Key endorsements: Democratic Party, Detroit Free Press, Detroit News, Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, Michigan Professional Firefighters, Detroit Police Officers Association, Women Lawyers Association of Michigan, UAW, AFL-CIO, Michigan Nurses Association, Michigan National Organization for Women, Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon
Web: www.McCormackforJustice.com

Brian Zahra
Colleen O'Brien
Shelia Johnson
Connie Marie Kelley
Bridget Mary McCormack