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Michigan Supreme Court Justice David Viviano ’96 was nom­i­nated by the del­e­gates at the state Repub­lican con­vention to be on the ballot in November. (Photo: Bridget DeLapp / Courtsey)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Hillsdale alumnus and Michigan Supreme Court Justice David Viviano was unan­i­mously nom­i­nated by con­ser­v­ative del­e­gates at the state Repub­lican con­vention Sat­urday, offi­cially securing his spot on the November ballot.

“We’ve had the unified support of the Repub­lican Party for a rule-of-law majority now in Michigan for some period of years,” Viviano said in an interview with The Col­legian. “People rec­ognize that the court is one of the areas of gov­ernment that is working well. And it’s because we know and under­stand our role well.”

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Joan Larsen was unan­i­mously nom­i­nated with Viviano Sat­urday, also advo­cating for Viviano’s cam­paign theme of main­taining a rule-of-law phi­losophy on the bench.

“That really just means judges who limit them­selves to their role of inter­preting and applying the law faith­fully and with fidelity to the cases that come before the court,” Viviano said.

When former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway retired, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Viviano in Feb­ruary 2013. In 2014, Viviano won the general election, securing his partial term.

“For me, getting through the general election was very sig­nif­icant,” Viviano said. “And having the governor’s choice approved by the voters was important to me.”

But now Viviano is looking to pursue a full eight-year term and is running as one of Michigan’s “rule of law judges.” For Viviano, however, it’s more than a cam­paign slogan, it’s a judicial phi­losophy, one the 1996 graduate said he cul­ti­vated at Hillsdale College.

“The con­cepts of the sep­a­ration of powers and limited gov­ernment is how I under­stand a judge’s role through the framework of the Con­sti­tution,” Viviano said.

Viviano and Larsen were joined on the cam­paign trail by senior Bridget DeLapp, Viviano’s niece.

During her three months with the cam­paign, DeLapp said she has seen over­whelming support for her uncle’s ideas.

“He has a lot of success because he reaches out to a lot of indi­vidual people,” DeLapp said. “It’s important to him to express his judicial phi­losophy to as many people as pos­sible. We are trav­eling 10 – 12 hours a week all over the state. I’ve seen a very pos­itive reaction to what they are saying at the con­vention.”

Although Viviano is running unop­posed for his seat, Lib­er­tarian Kerry Morgan is chal­lenging Larsen, his fellow “rule of law judge.” DeLapp said Larsen’s judicial phi­losophy, however, has risen above pol­itics.

“Justice Larsen comes out very strong,” Delapp said. “She clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia, and her phi­losophy has been straight on rule of law, and people just fall in love with her, when they meet her.”

She also won over Repub­lican pres­i­dential nominee Donald Trump. Fol­lowing Scalia’s death, Larsen was placed on a shortlist of 11 potential can­di­dates Trump said he would con­sider appointing to the Supreme Court.

“It was a shock and a sur­prise,” Larsen said. “The other 10 judges on the list are esteemed judges, and the ones that I know are very good people. I was very pleased to be in their company.”

Snyder appointed Larsen in Sep­tember 2015, replacing Justice Mary Beth Kelly after she resigned. Larsen said the appointment took her by sur­prise.

“I was actually teaching at Uni­versity of Michigan Law School, when I got the nom­i­nation,” Larsen said. “I knew that I was going to be nom­i­nated on a Tuesday, I was offi­cially nom­i­nated on Wednesday, taught my last two classes on Thursday and Friday, and showed up at the court on Monday.”

Since Scalia’s death, Trump and Demo­c­ratic pres­i­dential nominee Hillary Clinton have made filling the national Supreme Court a major talking point in both of their cam­paigns.

Although both Larsen and Viviano said they are bound by the canon of judicial ethics when it comes to endorsing par­tisan political can­di­dates, they both said the next pres­ident needs to follow what Michigan has done for several years now — appoint strong, rule-of-law can­di­dates.

“We need a rule-of-law majority on the national Supreme Court, and I’ve always thought that, ever since I was a student at Hillsdale,” Viviano said. “I’ve learned and read from the greats such as Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. Those are the type of people we need on the Supreme Court. It’s not a par­tisan idea, and I hope the new pres­ident will get behind the idea like Michigan has gotten behind it.”

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Thomas Novelly
Collegian Editor-in-Chief, Thomas Novelly was born in Novi, Michigan, but was raised in Franklin, Tennessee, making him a self-proclaimed "Yankee gone South." Thomas began writing for The Collegian as a sophomore, and since has served as a reporter, columnist, and Assistant City News Editor. He has also worked for two major publications, interning at the Washington Free Beacon in D.C. and The Tennessean in Nashville. His work has been seen in National publications such as CBS News, National Review Online, Stars And Stripes, and USA Today. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.