Great-granddaughter of lynching victim sworn in as first Black female justice on Michigan Supreme Court

Kyra Harris Bolden is a second-term state representative and the youngest Michigan Supreme Court Justice.

Kyra Harris Bolden made history on Sunday when she was sworn in as the first Black woman to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court, CNN reports.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed Bolden, 34, in November to succeed retiring Justice Bridget McCormack. According to the Detroit Free Press, McCormack will become president and CEO of the American Arbitration Association-International Centre for Dispute Resolution in New York. As The Philadelphia Tribune reports, Bolden administered Whitmer’s oath of office.

Democratic Michigan Supreme Court candidate, state Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden, is seen during a Get Out the Vote rally on Oct. 29, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
Democratic Michigan Supreme Court candidate, state Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden, is seen during a Get Out the Vote rally on Oct. 29, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

Bolden, a lawyer and married mother of one daughter, was elected in 2018 to the Michigan House of Representatives, theGrio reported. She received a bachelor’s from Grand Valley State University and a Juris Doctorate from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law.

During her undergraduate studies, Bolden learned her great-grandfather Jesse Lee Bond was lynched in Tennessee in the 1930s. His killers reportedly castrated him and dumped him in the Hatchie River, according to Bond’s nephew Ronald Morris, via ABC 24 News. The coroner ruled his death as an accidental drowning, Bolden told Michigan Radio. The lynchers walked free.

Bolden told the Free Press that this tragedy fueled her decision to pursue a career in law and later work as a lobbyist for criminal justice reform.

“Her trial experience as a criminal defense attorney, her leadership on important public policy and her dedication to justice — the legacy of her own great-grandfather’s lynching — will inform her decisions and bring the court closer to the goal of achieving equal justice for all,” John Johnson Jr., executive director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, previously said in a statement, the Free Press reported.

Bolden is a second-term state representative and the youngest Michigan Supreme Court Justice. As the first Black woman to serve on the state’s high court, the Detroit News reports that Bolden “will ensure equal access to justice, apply the law without fear or favor and treat all who come before our state’s highest court with dignity and respect,” she said.

“I know what is required of the people of the State of Michigan, I know what the people of the State of Michigan deserve, you know, they deserve a hardworking Justice that takes the time to make well-reasoned and thoughtful decisions,” Bolden said, in part, after her historic appointment, Mid Michigan Now reports.

As theGrio reported, Bolden must run for election in November 2024 to finish McCormack’s remaining term and again in 2028 for the general election to serve a full eight years. Bolden could retain the position for more than 30 years since justices can run for reelection until they turn 70, according to The Detroit News.

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