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Justice David Viviano | Facebook
Justice David Viviano | Facebook

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.

 

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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.