LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday named a Macomb County judge to the Michigan Supreme Court to replace a justice who stepped down last month amid a scandal over her real estate dealings.
The appointment of Circuit Judge David Viviano, 41, gives Republicans a 5-2 edge on the high court. Democrat Diane Hathaway pleaded guilty to fraud in a scheme to mislead a bank in the short sale of her Grosse Pointe Park home.
Viviano, of Sterling Heights, was elected to the Macomb County bench in 2006. He previously worked for large law firms in Detroit and Chicago before starting his own practice in Mount Clemens. He graduated from Hillsdale College and the University of Michigan Law School.
“Judge Viviano has a distinguished record of judicial integrity and innovation,” Snyder said in a statement. “His deep respect for the judicial branch of government and his commitment to the rule of law will serve Michigan well. I have every confidence that he will be a compassionate, principled justice. He is an outstanding addition to the Michigan Supreme Court.”
Viviano is Snyder’s second appointment to the Supreme Court. Shortly after taking office in 2011, the governor named Court of Appeals Judge Brian Zahra to replace Justice Maura Corrigan , a Republican who stepped down to become director of the state Department of Human Services.
Viviano and his wife, Neran, have two children. His father was a judge in Macomb County for 18 years before retiring, and his sister is a family judge there now.
“It is a tremendous responsibility and one that I cherish,” Viviano said in a statement. “I look forward to working with my esteemed Supreme Court colleagues to provide the thoughtful, impartial justice that citizens deserve.”
Jocelyn Benson, the Interim Dean at Wayne State University’s school of Law says, while she is not disappointed with the selection of Viviano personally, the process leaves something to be desired.
“I’m disappointed that the process that was best for the Michigan people was not followed,” said Benson. “The governor has every right to choose to be partisan and to choose to take advantage of his position and make a call, as he’s done.
“But I would expect more from leaders of the state to proceed in a non-partisan way that’s open and transparent,” she said.
(It should be noted that Benson made an unsuccessful run for the Secretary of State’s office in 2010, as a Democrat).
Viviano must run in a statewide election in 2014 to serve the last two years of Hathaway’s term. He could seek re-election in 2016 for a full eight-year term.
Although the candidates have the blessing and financial backing of political parties, Supreme Court races appear on the nonpartisan end of the ballot. There is no political label next to a candidate’s name.
Viviano ran as a Republican for Macomb County prosecutor in 2004.
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