- change ups
Jane Markey blazes judicial trail
Editor’s note: Each issue of the Influential Women enewsletter will feature a profile of one of the Business Journal’s reigning 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan. The profile first appeared in the event program.
The Honorable Jane Markey does not allow status quo and conventional wisdom to determine her future. She blazed trails for women by enrolling in law school in 1978, when women entering legal studies were a distinct minority.
After she was admitted to the bar, Markey eschewed what was considered acceptable legal work for women: divorce, child custody and legal research.
Instead, she threw herself into the male-dominated world of civil litigation, representing individuals, insurance companies, hospitals, doctors, medical professional, legal and other professionals and businesses throughout Michigan.
But she didn’t stop there.
In 1988, Michigan’s second-largest city had only two female judges. That same year, Judge Carol Irons was murdered by her husband. A write-in campaign ensued, and a man was elected to replace her. That election created a second opening at the busy 61st District Court, and then-Gov. James Blanchard appointed another man.
Markey decided to run against the new appointee in the 1990 general election. Few believed she would win.
But Markey did win that election, which paved the way for women throughout the area to seek judicial office.
She has profoundly influenced the direction of Michigan law over the past 17 years, making decisions involving the constitutionality of Michigan’s anti-stalking law, the composition of Kent County juries and pivotal issues pertaining to child custody, property division and a myriad of other family law problems, auto no-fault statutory construction, the complexities of medical malpractice, medical marijuana, insurance, consumer protection, governmental immunity and civil litigation.