A Discussion with Justice Bernstein
Justice Bernstein’s offense. Many Democrats across the state of Michigan were outraged last month when newly re-elected Michigan Supreme Court justice Richard Bernstein publicly condemned one of the first hiring decisions of the newly appointed Justice Kyra Bolden, the first Black woman to serve on the Court. The WCDP campaigned hard for both of these candidates, featuring them in programs and on the front page of the 2022 Voter Guide. The candidates barnstormed the state together for months, to all appearances enjoying each other’s company.
Mr. Pete Martel. But immediately after Justice Bolden was appointed to the bench by Governor Whitmer, to serve the remainder of retiring Chief Justice Bridget McCormack’s term, Justice Bernstein lashed out at her. He was angered by Justice Bolden’s hiring of attorney Pete Martel as a law clerk. Mr. Martel served 14 years in prison (1994-2008) after being convicted of an armed robbery committed when he was 19 years old in which he fired at pursuing police officers. While in prison, Mr. Martell came to understand the impact of his crimes on others, and began studying law and advising other inmates. When he left prison he enrolled as a law student at Wayne State, worked with the State Appellate Defender Office, and is currently a PhD student in UM’s Ford School Program in Public Policy & Sociology.
When Justice Bernstein heard about Mr. Martel’s hiring, he told a reporter he thought it was “disgusting,” said he was “no longer speaking with” Justice Bolden, said they “don’t share the same values,” and said that he was “intensely pro law enforcement.”
Executive Board response. The Executive Board wrote to Justice Bernstein on January 10 condemning his behavior as juvenile, tainted with racism and sexism, and pernicious in positing a false choice between being “pro law enforcement” and supporting redemption. We reminded Justice Bernstein of the MDP platform statement supporting redemption and compassionate re-entry of formerly incarcerated citizens, and reminded him that many law enforcement personnel and agencies are devoted to redemption and re-entry.
In-person meeting 11 days later. On Saturday, January 21, Justice Bernstein traveled to Ann Arbor to meet with WCDP leaders. In attendance were the WCDP Officers, the Co-chairs of Outreach and Community Engagement (Mary Hall-Thiam and Kathy Wyatt), and leaders of the WCDP Black Caucus (Caroline Sanders) and Eastern Washtenaw Dems (Crystal Lyte).
Follow up. We appreciate Justice Bernstein’s repeated expressions of remorse, and expect meaningful action to follow. We have insisted, in writing, that he begin to learn, to demonstrate understanding, and to earn our re-endorsement by meeting with leaders, themselves formerly incarcerated, of two local organizations supporting re-entry; by actively supporting their work; and by vocally and tirelessly supporting the election of Justice Kyra Bolden in 2024. We are staying in close touch with him to make sure he follows through. We hope that, with these and other actions, Justice Bernstein is able eventually to restore the trust he has so deeply damaged.
The MDP’s platform includes this statement: Democrats believe in redemption. We must deepen our commitment to helping those who have served their time re-enter society, earn a good living, and participate in our democracy as the full citizens they are. . . . Continuing to punish a person after they have rejoined the community is both cruel and counterproductive.
March 4th Meeting: Washtenaw County Housing and Homelessness Crisis
Local housing and homelessness service providers and others involved with the crisis will inform us about the impact of the lack of housing on the most vulnerable in our community, and its negative effects for education, business, health care systems, and so many other aspects of life across the county. We’ll learn more about what we can do about it. See this MLive article for additional information.
We’ll also be joined by elected representatives for conversation and Q&A about business in Lansing and in the County Board of Commissioners.
Send Us Your Ideas!
The Program Committee wants to make sure we cover topics of high interest to members in our monthly membership meetings, which are typically held on first Saturdays, 9:30 – noon. Do you have ideas? Please use this form to share them with us! And thank you
ICYMI: February 4 Meeting and Program
Breaking Down Barriers: The Importance of Firsts, the Importance of Representation
We had numerous distinguished speakers on our panel for the WCDP Black History month program, as well as a special appearance by Michigan Speaker of the House, Joe Tate. They each spoke about the issues of Black “Firsts” and Black “Representation” as they relate to breaking down historical and persistent, continuing barriers. Enjoy the whole program on our YouTube Channel.
Save the New Primary Date – 2/7/24!
The Democratic National Committee voted on the new 2024 Presidential Primary lineup on Saturday, February 4, 2023. Michigan is now the 5th Primary state in the US and the 1st Primary State in the Midwest. Michigan’s 2024 Democratic Presidential Primary will be held February 27, 2024. For more information visit the Michigan Democratic Party website.
Michigan Dems Fighting Back Against Hate
Representative Jason Hoskins, the first Black and openly LGBTQ+ member of the Michigan House co-sponsored the expansion of the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act. He and Representative Jeremy Moss just testified at the Michigan Senate’s Civil Rights, Judiciary, and Public Safety meeting. This expansion will include the discrimination of someone based on gender identity, sexual orientation, or gender expression in Michigan.
You may have heard about an agenda targeting anything related to the LGBTQ community in Michigan Public Schools, from the Thomas More Society and Great Schools Initiative. Their extremist agenda includes the creation of an opt-out form meant to spark a legal debate about what constitutes sex ed. These forms are not legally recognized by the State or any school district. Days after the information was leaked and reported on by Popular Info, the Michigan Department of Education released a memo clarifying the state’s constitutional definitions of sex education.
Meet Our New Reps with Indivisible
Sunday March 5, 7 pm, with Senator Jeff Irwin and Representative Jimmie Wilson Jr.
Thanks to our friends at A2D2 (Ann Arbor Indivisible) for these informative and stimulating conversations! Last week’s meeting was with State Senator Sue Shink and Representative Jason Morgan. You can see it here (Passcode 4+Y2$%#E).
To join on March 5, register here. To see the previous meeting with Reps. Carrie Rheingans and Jennifer Conlin, click here (Passcode: uB&Z72&W).
MDP Launches New Podcast
“Party on the Peninsulas” will feature summaries of important developments in Lansing, Washington DC, and across the state. It will also include an update from Party Chair, Lavora Barnes and interviews with Democratic leaders. The first episode is already live and you can subscribe to the weekly podcast here.
Labor Call to Action- GEO
The Week of Grad Labor Visibility kicked off on Sunday with GEO members painting the Rock purple for a living wage. Today, YDSA & GEO members tabled at Shapiro Library and talked to hundreds of undergrads about our contract campaign. Many don’t know how little their instructors are getting paid or how much the University profits off of cheap grad labor.
The Week of Grad Labor Visibility isn’t over yet! Here’s where you’re needed:
Thursday, February 9 from 6-8 PM: Join GEO and YDSA members in a Teach-In on Grad Labor. Learn about what’s at stake in this contract campaign and what undergrads can do to show solidarity. Pizza served, make sure you RSVP! bit.ly/GEOteachin
Friday, February 10 from 9-5 PM: Join GEO at an open bargaining session at Palmer Commons, 4th Floor, and on Zoom. Friends of labor and labor siblings welcome. Attendees must agree to follow GEO’s “Rules of the Room” in order to attend. RSVP: bit.ly/bargsesh_allies
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