UM Law Professor Joan Larsen Named to Michgan Supreme Court

The new Michigan Supreme Court term officially starts Thursday with a new justice appointed by Governor Rick Snyder. He named University of Michigan law professor Joan Larsen to fill a vacancy.

“I’m confident in her legal scholarship that she’s going to represent Michigan well,” said Snyder, who is a graduate of the UM law school .

Joan Larsen’s resume includes clerking for the conservative US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and she says she is a fan of judicial restraint.

“I believe in enforcing the laws as written by the Legislature, signed by the governor,” she said at the press conference to announce her appointment. “I don’t think judges are a policy-making branch of government. Our role is to serve the people by enforcing the laws the way they were written by the Legislature.”

She says it’s been many years since she’s argued in a courtroom. But she says teaching and facing students’ question can be like arguing before the Supreme Court. The court’s first oral arguments will be in a couple weeks.

Larsen’s resume also includes serving in the Justice Department under President George W. Bush. The ACLU is raising questions about her work in the agency that issued opinions dealing with torture, indefinite detention, and wiretapping.

Larsen says she had nothing to do with those decisions.

But, according to a list compiled by the ACLU, Larsen is the author of at least one still-classified memo dealing with habeas corpus rights.

A statement from ACLU-Michigan Executive Director Kary Moss:

“As a matter of policy, the ACLU neither opposes nor endorses political appointees. However, given Professor Larsen’s tenure in the OLC, which authorized torture, warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention and other abuses, this appointment should be accompanied by full disclosure about the role Larsen played in the development of those policies. In addition, we strongly urge Professor Larsen to ask the DOJ to disclose the contents of the memo she penned regarding unlawful andindefinite detention.

Larsen will join the court’s 5-2 Republican majority. She will have to face voters on next year’s ballot if she wants to complete the term left by open by the resignation of Justice Mary Beth Kelly.

Image credit: Screen grab from University of Michigan Video

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About the Author

Rick Pluta

REPORTER / PRODUCER - MICHIGAN PUBLIC RADIO NETWORK

Rick Pluta has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.

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