Kyra Harris Bolden Becomes Michigan’s Youngest And First Black Woman Supreme Court Justice

Kyra Harris Bolden Becomes Michigan’s Youngest And First Black Woman Supreme Court Justice

Kyra Harris Bolden made history on January 1, 2023, when she was sworn in as an associate justice of the Michigan Supreme Court. At 34 years old, she became both the youngest and the first Black woman to sit on the state’s highest court.

“My family has gone from lynching to law school and from injustice to Capital J, Justice,” Bolden shared with ESSENCE. Her decision to pursue a legal career was profoundly influenced by her great-grandfather’s tragic story. Jesse Lee Bond was lynched in Tennessee in 1939 after requesting a receipt from a store owner. His murderers evaded justice, a miscarriage that propelled Bolden towards a path of legal advocacy.

After graduating from the University of Detroit’s Mercy School of Law in 2014, Bolden embarked on a diverse legal career. She served as a civil litigator in Lansing, a staff attorney for the 3rd Circuit Court of Wayne County, and as a court-appointed criminal defense attorney in Southfield. In 2018, she entered politics and was elected as a Michigan House representative, subsequently re-elected in 2020.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer appointed Bolden to the Michigan Supreme Court in a historic move in 2022. Reflecting on her appointment, Whitmer praised Bolden’s commitment to justice and her potential to shape a brighter future for Michigan, echoing Bolden’s own aspirations for her newborn daughter and all children.

Bolden expressed profound honor at being the first Black woman on Michigan’s highest court, emphasizing its significance for future generations. She underscored the importance of representation, citing her own experience in an after-school program where a young girl’s question about college highlighted the impact of seeing oneself reflected in positions of influence.

Looking ahead, Bolden announced her intention to seek re-election, emphasizing her commitment to dismantling systemic barriers that hinder diversity on the bench. She stressed the personal nature of her pursuit of justice, rooted in her family’s history and the generational impact of Supreme Court decisions.

“As the first Black woman to ever serve on the Michigan Supreme Court and as the great-granddaughter of a lynching victim, justice is personal,” Bolden affirmed. Her advocacy extends beyond her role, aiming to ensure that state high courts across the country reflect the diverse perspectives and experiences crucial for fair and inclusive justice systems.

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