Bernstein says Michigan Supreme Court will decide abortion, 2024 election

Democrats nominate ticket at state convention in Lansing

By: - August 22, 2022 3:35 am

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, Attorney General Dana Nessel, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson at the Michigan Democratic Party’s nominating convention in Lansing on Aug. 21, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

Updated, 5:03 p.m., 8/22/22 with Michigan GOP comments

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein highlighted the importance of elections to the court he serves on Sunday, making the case that it will have the final say on abortion rights in Michigan and, potentially, on how the 2024 election is conducted.

Bernstein’s remarks were made during the Michigan Democratic Party’s nominating convention, as he accepted one of the party’s two nominations for the court.

“The decisions that the Supreme Court make will affect people in the most personal ways, affect life in the most intimate of matters. Ultimately, it is the Michigan Supreme Court that will make the absolute final determination, it will be the Michigan Supreme Court that will have the final word, in a woman’s right to choose in the state of Michigan,” Bernstein said. “It is the Michigan Supreme Court that will decide issues as personal as if a woman suffers a miscarriage, will that require a police investigation.”

There are two cases challenging the state’s 1931 abortion ban working their way through the judicial system, likely eventually landing at the Michigan Supreme Court, where Democratic nominated justices currently have a 4-3 majority.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein speaks at the Michigan Democratic Party’s nominating convention in Lansing on Aug. 21, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

A ballot proposal enshrining abortion rights into the state Constitution could also appear on the ballot this November. There is currently a temporary injunction blocking enforcement of the abortion ban in Michigan.

A Michigan Republican Party spokesperson blasted Bernstein for “playing politics.”

“Michigan Supreme Court Justice, Democrat Richard Bernstein, showed his partisan hand regarding how he would rule on the issue of abortion while at a Democrat event yesterday,” said spokesperson Elizabeth Giannone,

Attorney General Dana Nessel, accepting her nomination, introduced her chief deputy, Christina Grossi, as “the woman who literally saved reproductive rights for everyone in the state of Michigan.”

Nessel also shared the spotlight with Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud, who she touted as the first Arab American woman to argue and win a case before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nessel was introduced by her wife, Alanna Maguire.

“Dana is real. She’s authentic and genuine. She’s not canned, pre-packaged or carefully poll-tested; anyone who has seen her Twitter can attest to this,” Maguire said.

Attorney General Dana Nessel speaks at the Michigan Democratic Party’s nominating convention in Lansing on Aug. 21, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

Bernstein said that the adversity he has faced as a result of being blind makes him keenly aware of the impact the cases he hears can have on people’s lives.

“Ultimately, the best justice is administered by a blind justice,” Bernstein ended his speech.

State Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden (D-Southfield), the party’s other nominee for the Michigan Supreme Court, made a surprise appearance at the convention after giving birth to her daughter just days earlier.

“Why am I so passionate about justice and access to justice? On April 28, 1939, my great-grandfather was lynched in Tennessee after simply requesting a receipt from a store clerk. Despite the fact that he was beaten, shot and castrated, and thrown into a river, the coroner ruled his death an accidental drowning,” Bolden said. “My great-grandfather didn’t have access to justice, but it is my hope that out of injustice can be born a justice.”

State Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden, a Democratic nominee for the Michigan Supreme Court, speaks at the Michigan Democratic Party’s nominating convention on Aug. 21, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

Bernstein also said the Michigan Supreme Court may be “on the road to the White House, for it is the Michigan Supreme Court that will determine the constitutionality for how our state runs its elections — who can vote, where they can vote, how they can vote, will be the sole determination of the Michigan Supreme Court.”

Bernstein and Bolden are expected to face off with the likely Republican-nominated candidates, Justice Brian Zahra and Paul Hudson, in the November general election. Michigan Republicans will hold their nominating convention to finalize the ticket Saturday. 

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, who was officially nominated for reelection Sunday, said that “our fundamental rights, our freedoms, and our democracy” will be on the ballot in November, warning that “conspiracy theorists, election deniers, they’re carrying out a coordinated strategy to delegitimize democracy.”

Benson added that the election results in Michigan “will determine the future of democracy not just in Michigan but in the entire nation.”

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson speaks at the Michigan Democratic Party’s nominating convention in Lansing on Aug. 21, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

Benson is expected to face Kristina Karamo in November, while Nessel is expected to square off with Matt DePerno. Both candidates have shared conspiracy theories about the results of the 2020 election.

Former Assistant Secretary of State Heaster Wheeler, who introduced Benson, recalled that “a bunch of mean-spirited white people came down to Detroit” after the 2020 presidential election former President Donald Trump lost to President Joe Biden to attempt to interfere with the counting of ballots.

“I want y’all to go back and tell them we’re ready for you this time,” Wheeler said. “We dare you to come back. We’re ready for you. We won’t be surprised, but you will be.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks at the Michigan Democratic Party’s nominating convention in Lansing on Aug. 21, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shared a similar message, adding that the election is a choice between “continuing to move our state forward or a dangerous agenda that would move us backwards. It’s a choice between culture warriors who want to divide us and distract us from their dangerous plans, or problem solvers who are proven and make a seat at the table for everyone and never forget that we work for the people of Michigan.”

Whitmer touted her signature campaign issue from the 2018 election, saying “I know a lot of you drove here today, so you saw the evidence: we are fixing those damn roads.”

“It doesn’t matter how tough things get; we keep showing up. Despite everything that we have faced, I still believe there is more that united us than divides us,” Whitmer said. “When we focus on the fundamentals, it’s a lot easier to see that we all want the same things: a good paying jobs, safe communities, thriving small businesses, resilient infrastructure, and high quality education.”

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist speaks at the Michigan Democratic Party’s nominating convention in Lansing on Aug. 21, 2022. (Andrew Roth | Michigan Advance)

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, who was successfully nominated for reelection Sunday, said that he wants more than just a blue wave in the midterms.

“I like the blue wave as much as the next person in Michigan. Let me tell you something, I want more than a wave. You see, waves are fleeting. They literally come and go. We have to build something that is more powerful and more permanent,” Gilchrist said.

“We are building a movement and all of you are part of that movement. This movement, to me, is more like a mighty, mighty river that forges a way where there was no way before, that when it has been forged cannot be emptied when we cultivate it.”

Whitmer will face Republican nominee for governor Tudor Dixon in November. Dixon has selected former state Rep. Shane Hernandez to be her running mate, but former gubernatorial candidate Garrett Soldano has indicated that he may seek the nomination at convention. 

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Democrats also nominated candidates for the State Board of Education and university governing bodies Saturday. 

Pamela Pugh, the Board of Education’s vice president, and Mitchell Robinson were nominated for the state Board of Education. Republicans have endorsed Linda Lee Tarver and Tamara Carlone.

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly and Danielle Atkinson were chosen to run for the Wayne State University Board of Governors. They are expected to face off with Craig Wilsher and Christa Murphy in the general election.

Incumbent Renee Knake Jefferson and Dennis Denno were selected to be the Democratic candidates for the Michigan State University Board of Trustees, while incumbents Kathy White and Mike Behm were both nominated to seek re-election to the University of Michigan Board of Regents. 

Republicans have endorsed former congressional candidate Lena Epstein and Sevag Vartanian for the University of Michigan Board of Regents, while Travis Menge and Mike Balow were endorsed for the Michigan State University Board of Trustees.

Republicans will confirm their endorsements during their official nominating convention Saturday in Lansing. 

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Andrew Roth
Andrew Roth

Andrew Roth is a reporting intern with the Michigan Advance. He has been covering Michigan policy and politics for three years across a number of publications and studies journalism at Michigan State University.

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