Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack joined the Michigan Supreme Court in January 2013, and became Chief Justice in January 2019.
Before her election to the Court in November 2012, she was a law professor and dean at the University of Michigan Law School. Since joining the Court, Chief Justice McCormack continues to teach at the Law School.
Chief Justice McCormack is a graduate of the New York University Law School, where she was a Root-Tilden scholar and won the Anne Petluck Poses Prize in Clinical Advocacy. She spent the first five years of her legal career in New York, first with the Legal Aid Society and then at the Office of the Appellate Defender. In 1996, she became a faculty fellow at the Yale Law School.
In 1998, she joined the University of Michigan Law School faculty. At Michigan Law, she taught criminal law, legal ethics, and various clinical courses. Her scholarship focused on the professional benefits of clinical legal education. She also created new clinics at the law school, including a Domestic Violence Clinic and a Pediatric Health Advocacy Clinic.
In 2002, she was named Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs. Responsible for the continuing development of the law school’s practical education, she continued to expand the clinical offerings at Michigan Law School, launching a Mediation Clinic, a Low Income Taxpayer Clinic, an International Transactions Clinic, a Human Trafficking Clinic, a Juvenile Justice Clinic, and an Entrepreneurship Clinic. In her capacity as professor and associate dean, she conducted and supervised many types of civil and criminal litigation at all levels of the state and federal courts. The University of Michigan Law School’s clinical programs are now recognized nationally as one of the best places to be trained as a lawyer.
In 2008, then-Associate Dean McCormack cofounded the Michigan Innocence Clinic, in which students represent wrongfully convicted Michiganders. The clinic has exonerated over 15 people so far, and has shined a light on the important justice issues underlying wrongful conviction. In 2010, McCormack won the “Justice for All” Award for the Clinic’s work, and in 2011 the Washtenaw County Bar Association gave her the “Patriot Award.” In 2012, she won the Cooley Law School’s “Distinguished Brief Award” for the best brief filed in the Michigan Supreme Court during the term. Also in 2012, the Justice Caucus presented her with the Millie Jeffrey Award and the Washtenaw County Women Lawyers recognized her with the Mary Foster Award. In 2013, Chief Justice McCormack was honored with the Hon. Kaye Tertzag Purple Sport Coat Award. The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee recognized her with its Guardian of Justice Award in 2014. She accepted the Impact Award from the Washtenaw County Dispute Resolution Center in 2017. In 2018, the Michigan Association for Justice honored Chief Justice McCormack with its Judicial Excellence Award.
Chief Justice McCormack participates with a number of professional organizations including the American Bar Association Access to Justice committee, the American Bar Association Litigation Journal’s Board of Editors (and is an Associate Editor for Litigation Magazine), the advisory board of the Michigan Civil Rights Academy, the Board of the Washtenaw County Chapter of Families Against Narcotics, and as a board member of the National Board of Legal Specialty Certification. In 2013, Chief Justice McCormack was elected to The American Law Institute. In 2014, Chief Justice McCormack was appointed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology to a newly-created National Commission on Forensic Science. In 2018, Chief Justice McCormack became a member of the University Musical Society National Council. In 2019, Governor Whitmer appointed her as Co-Chair of the Michigan Joint Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration. Chief Justice McCormack publishes on a broad range of topics in professional journals.
As the Chief Justice, McCormack has promoted statewide initiatives devoted to improving the courts service to the public, and in particular delivering on a promise that courts are independent, accessible, engaged with their communities and efficient. For example, together with the Attorney General, she launched an Elder Abuse Taskforce, which is actively working on improvements to the service to seniors in courts. Additional successful initiatives by Chief Justice McCormack include the Michigan Access for all Taskforce, Online Dispute Resolution throughout Michigan’s courts, the first expungement clinics in the state, and Michigan’s participation in the Regional Judicial Opioid Initiative (RJOI).