Who Is Kyra Harris Bolden? First Black Woman Judge to Serve on Michigan Supreme Court

A state lawmaker and former civil attorney has made history as the first Black woman judge to be appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Kyra Harris Bolden, a Democratic House representative for Michigan’s 35th district, will be appointed to the bench in the state’s highest court in January. It is Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s first Supreme Court appointment since taking office in 2019. Bolden will replace Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, who will retire at the end of the year.

Who Is Kyra Harris Bolden? First Black Woman Judge to Serve on Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden has been appointed to the Michigan Supreme Court. (Photo: Twitter/Kyra Harris Bolden)

“Kyra brings a perspective, and an aptitude, a temperament and an unwavering commitment to the law to the bench. And I think that she will make us all very proud here in Michigan,” Whitmer said at a press conference announcing Bolden’s appointment late last month.

Bolden will serve part of McCormack’s eight-year term until Jan. 1, 2025. After that, she would have to run for reelection in November 2024 to complete the remainder, which expires on Jan. 1, 2029.

The announcement comes on the heels of Bolden’s unsuccessful election bid for the court in November. She was defeated by Democrat incumbent Justice Richard Bernstein and Republican incumbent Justice Brian Zahra.

“For years, a Black woman’s experiences and perspective have been absent from our state’s highest court,” Bolden said at the Nov. 22 press conference. “To the countless Black women upon whose shoulders I stand, who, like my own mother and grandmother, instill in our community the core responsibilities of honesty, empathy and justice, I promise that I will honor our experience from this new vantage point.”

Who is Kyra Harris Bolden?

Bolden, 34, a new mother, lives in Southfield, Michigan, with her husband, Dr. Greg Bolden, and their daughter, Emerson Portia Bolden. She is currently serving her second term in Southfield as a state representative, who dedicated some of her work in the Michigan Legislature to criminal justice reform. Bolden has pushed legislation that allows medical frail people to seek parole and protects sexual and domestic violence victims and for a revision of the state’s Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act.

Before being elected to the statehouse in 2018, Bolden was a judicial clerk for Judge John A. Murphy in Wayne County and a civil litigation attorney at Lewis & Munday. She also served as a court-appointed criminal defense attorney for the 46th District Court of Southfield.

The soon-to-be judge earned her bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University and a juris doctor from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. Bolden is a member of various bar associations, including the Black Women Lawyers Association of Michigan and a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the National Congress of Black Women.

Who Is Kyra Harris Bolden? First Black Woman Judge to Serve on Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan state Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden, center, her grandmother, left, mother, right, and her newborn daughter, Emerson Portia Bolden. (Photo: Instagram/@kyrahbolden)

In a recent interview, Bolden said she chartered her path to a legal career while studying psychology at Grand Valley. While an undergraduate student, Bolden’s great-grandmother told her about her great-grandfather, Jesse Lee Bond’s lynching in the 1930s.

Bond was shot and castrated. His body was dragged behind a truck to the Loosahatchie River, where it was dumped after he demanded a receipt at an Arlington, Tennessee, store in April 1939.

Authorities found his body five days later. His death was ruled an accidental drowning. Bond’s funeral drew protests, and two white men, the store’s owner and his friend were formally charged but later acquitted. Bolden said the injustice inspired her to go to law school.

“I 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,” Bolden said in a statement.

Who Is Kyra Harris Bolden? First Black Woman Judge to Serve on Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced on Nov. 22, 2022, that she is appointing state Rep. Kyra Harris Bolden, seated in the center, to the Michigan Supreme Court. (Photo: Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office)
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