Attorney General: Constitution and State Law Must Be Followed in Judge Controversy

Contact: John Sellek or Joy Yearout 517-373-8060

January 7,  2011

LANSING - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette today filed a quo warranto motion in the Michigan Court of Appeals to require the removal of Lansing District Court Judge Hugh Clarke from office.  Clarke was a last-minute, 2010 appointee of former Gov. Jennifer Granholm who has remained in office past January 1, 2011 in violation of state law.

Clarke was appointed by the previous administration to the 54-A District Court (Lansing) on December 20, 2010.  Schuette says it was technically proper for Clarke to fill the last days of the unexpired term of former District Court Judge Amy Krause.  However, any attempt to remain in office past noon on January 1, 2011 is illegal because he cannot fulfill the new term Krause had been elected to on November 2, 2010, but had not started before she left the district court.

"In Michigan, the Constitution governs us.  We govern not by whims but by the rule of law, irrespective of partisanship," said Schuette.

Under state law, the Attorney General may seek, via a quo warranto motion, to remove a person who "...unlawfully holds or exercises a state office."  In the complaint, the Attorney General's office charges that Clarke is not lawfully permitted to serve in office at this time because the state constitution says that vacancies filled by the governor expire at "12 noon of the first day of January next succeeding the first general election held after the vacancy occurs…" 

Furthermore, Schuette cites Kelley v. Riley as precedent that an appointee may not serve the next term of the person they replace.  In Kelley, a majority of the Michigan Supreme Court granted quo warranto against then-Michigan Supreme Court Justice Dorothy Comstock Riley, a Republican.  In that 1982 case, the Court ruled that Justice Riley could not serve the new term of the judge she succeeded by appointment by then-Governor Milliken.  Justice Riley was removed from office and the next governor, Democrat James Blanchard, was entitled to appoint a new individual to serve the new term.