Viviano, Larsen win re-election to Mich. Supreme Court

Michael Gerstein
The Detroit News

Michigan Supreme Court justices David Viviano and Joan Larsen won re-election Tuesday night, with both Republican nominees easily trouncing two Democratic challengers.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Viviano won 67 percent of the vote in his race against Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Frank Szymanski, according to unofficial results from the Associated Press, which called both races early Wednesday morning.

“It is an honor to continue to serve on Michigan's highest Court," Viviano said in a statement. "I believe in equal justice under the law. Working with my colleagues to follow the rule-of-law is of the utmost importance to me."

Michigan Supreme Court Justice David Viviano

Larsen led with nearly 58 percent of the vote over Deborah Thomas, also a Wayne County judge, with 98 percent of precincts reporting. The court races are nonpartisan, but the two major parties nominate candidates.

“I am deeply humbled to have earned the confidence of the voters of Michigan," Larsen said in a statement. "We have worked hard to move beyond partisanship on the court.

Political experts had called the races fo the state's highest court sedate compared to prior battles. The Republican-nominated incumbents had outraised their challengers by a 21-1 ratio, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

Viviano is a former chief Macomb County Circuit judge, while Larsen is a former special counsel to the University of Michigan Law School dean. They have received help from the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which paid for a string of broadcast television ads throughout October.

The court is dominated by five Republicans compared to two Democrats. Viviano won an eight-year term, while Larsen will serve out the remainder of the term ending at the end of 2018 for former Justice Mary Beth Kelly.

Viviano, 44, of Sterling Heights defeated Szymanski and independent candidate Doug Dern of Highland, an attorney who has run for the post unsuccessfully in 2012 and 2014.

Viviano was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder in 2013 to take over for Justice Diane Hathaway, who was convicted of bank fraud. He won election in 2014 to fulfill the final two years of her term.

Viviano said the court needs justices that “believe in the rule of law” and understand that they don’t make policy, the Legislature does.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen

Szymanski, 64, of Grosse Pointe Park was a schoolteacher and private practice lawyer before he was elected to the Wayne County Circuit Court in 2006.

Larsen, 48, of Scio Township defeated Thomas and Kerry Morgan of Redford, an independent candidate.

Larsen, who spent 15 years teaching constitutional law and criminal procedure at UM, was appointed to the court a year ago by Gov. Rick Snyder to replace retiring Justice Mary Beth Kelly. And she was named this summer by GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump to a short list of his possible picks for U.S. Supreme Court.

Thomas, 63, who was first elected to the Wayne County Circuit Court in 1994 and works in the criminal division, said she’s focused on expanding specialty courts, like the Veterans Treatment Court.