Justice David Viviano ’94 and Justice Joan Larsen won re-election to the Michigan Supreme Court Tuesday evening.
“I’m just really appreciative and humble to have the support of so many great people across the state,” Viviano told The Collegian.
With 92 percent of precincts reporting, Viviano is leading his Democratic opponent Wayne County Judge Frank S. Szymanski by more than one million votes. Attorney Doug Dern, the Natural Law Party candidate, secured just 10 percent of the vote compared to Viviano’s 67 percent.
Larsen also garnered an immense amount of support at the polls — with 92 percent of precincts reporting, Larsen had won 58 percent of the vote. Democratic challenger Judge Deborah Thomas secured 29 percent, and Libertarian challenger attorney Kerry L. Morgan brought in just 13 percent.
With the two incumbents securing their seats Tuesday evening, the Republican-nominated justices maintain a 5-2 majority on the court.
Viviano’s and Larsen’s campaigns gained significant traction, when they were both unanimously appointed at the state’s Republican convention in August, securing their spots on the ballot in November.
Although the judges appeared on the nonpartisan section of Tuesday’s ballot, they said following their Republican nomination in August that they follow many conservative principles and defined themselves as “rule-of-law” judges.
“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 in an interview with The Hillsdale Collegian. “The concepts of the separation of powers and limited government is how I understand a judge’s role through the framework of the Constitution.”
Larsen also won a significant amount of conservative support, when she appeared in May as one of 11 judges on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s shortlist of potential Supreme Court replacements for Antonin Scalia following his death. With Donald Trump’s Presidential victory on Tuesday evening, a US Supreme Court seat is now a strong possibility for Larsen.
“It was a shock and a surprise,” Larsen said in August. “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.”
Larsen had no experience as a judge before being suddenly appointed. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Larsen in September 2015, replacing Justice Mary Beth Kelly after she resigned. Larsen, who taught at the University of Michigan Law School at the time, said the appointment took her by utter surprise.
Michigan law required Larsen to run for election in 2016 to complete Kelly’s unfinished term. After her victory on Tuesday evening, Larsen will look at re-election in November 2018.
Viviano has served longer than Larsen. When former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway retired, Snyder appointed Viviano in February 2013. In 2014, Viviano won the general election, securing his partial term. Viviano will now serve his first full eight-year term on the court.
Hillsdale senior Bridget DeLapp, Viviano’s niece, worked for both Larsen and her uncle’s campaigns and said it was clear to her from the campaign trail that people were excited about their message.
“He has a lot of success because he reaches out to a lot of individual people,” DeLapp said in August. “It’s important to him to express his judicial philosophy to as many people as possible, and Justice Larsen comes out very strong. 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.”
Major media outlets in the state have fallen in love with both of the candidates. Larsen and Vivano secured big-ticket endorsements from The Detroit News as well as The Detroit Free Press.
“Michigan is fortunate to have a state Supreme Court that is collegial, committed to the rule of law, and not divided by partisan politics,” The Detroit News said in its endorsement. “Voters should make sure it stays that way.”
When asked about the new term, Viviano said he and Larsen both plan to continue serving as rule-of-law judges.
“The focus of our court, and of a good judge, is the rule of law and doing the things we learned at Hillsdale, respecting the Constitution and the separation of powers, the design of the government, and system of government that our founders put into place,” Viviano said.