May 4, 2020
For Immediate Release:
LANSING, MI – On April 25, 2020, the State Bar of Michigan Representative Assembly voted to adopt the Michigan Coalition for Impartial Justice’s proposal to modify Michigan Judicial Canon 2(F) to preclude judges from being members of organizations that practice invidious discrimination on the basis of religion, race, national origin, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Proposed Canon 2(F), however, would not diminish a judge’s right to the free exercise of religion. If adopted by the Michigan Supreme Court, the modification would bring Michigan in line with the ABA Model Judicial Canon, along with 43 other states in the country which have already adopted the rule or a similar mandatory rule.
Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (WLAM) President Alena M. Clark appeared before the Representative Assembly on behalf of the Michigan Coalition for Impartial Justice to argue for the proposed modification to Michigan Judicial Canon 2(F). According to Clark, “Judges are the faces and gatekeepers of our courts. The public’s confidence in the courts depends on their belief that judges are unbiased and fair. Membership in an organization that engages in invidious discrimination is incompatible with a judge’s assertion of impartiality.”
The endeavor to update the judicial canon to be consistent with the vast majority of the country (Michigan is one of only seven states that has not yet adopted a version of the ABA Model Rule) has been a project that WLAM has spearheaded for over a year. The project has involved a vast amount of hard work and research accomplished by the WLAM Legislative and Legal Affairs Committee, one of WLAM’s thirteen standing committees.
The proposed modification to Judicial Canon 2(F) will now go to the Supreme Court for approval. If adopted into official canon, it will send a positive message to the public, and those practicing in the court system, that impartiality and equal access to justice is a cornerstone of the legal profession. It establishes the expectation that our judges—the gatekeepers of our justice system—will remain unbiased and be free from the appearance of impropriety.
In addition to WLAM, the Michigan Coalition for Impartial Justice is comprised of a total of 12 bar associations and state bar law sections, including the American Indian Law Section, Animal Law Section, Arab American Bar Section, Attorneys for Animals, D. Augustus Straker Bar Association, Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, Genesee County Bar Association, LGBTQA Law Section, Marijuana Law Section, Michigan Asian-Pacific American Bar Association, and the Washtenaw County Bar Association.