Focus, Government, and Law

Snyder appoints Viviano to court

Warner attorney expects ‘collegial’ atmosphere will continue.

March 1, 2013
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Gov. Rick Snyder announced his appointment of Macomb County Circuit Court Judge David Viviano to the Michigan Supreme Court last week.

“Judge Viviano has a distinguished record of judicial integrity and innovation,” Snyder said in a statement. “His deep respect for the judicial branch of government and his commitment to the rule of law will serve Michigan well. I have every confidence that he will be a compassionate, principled justice. He is an outstanding addition to the Michigan Supreme Court.”

He fills the seat vacated by ex-Justice Diane Hathaway, who resigned at the beginning of 2013 following a scandal over the short sale of her home in Grosse Pointe.

“I have not had the privilege of appearing before him myself,” said Matt Nelson, an attorney with Warner Norcross. “I know him by reputation, and my colleagues who do practice in front of him regularly from our Macomb County office are very complimentary of him.

“I expect that he will be a justice very similar to sitting Justice Brian Zahra. He is intelligent, thoughtful and very down to earth. Everything I’ve heard about him, both before and after this announcement, has suggested that, and I think that is in keeping with Gov. Snyder’s philosophy.”

Nelson said that he expects the addition of Viviano, a Republican, will continue a collegial atmosphere within the Michigan Supreme Court.

“Back in 2008 when Justice Hathaway was elected, there was a lot of acrimony on the Michigan Supreme Court — I don’t think that is news to anyone. Since then, four of the seven seats have turned over, and I believe Judge Viviano’s appointment is only going to continue the trend of things becoming more collegial among the justices.”

In 2008, a University of Chicago Law school study ranked the Michigan Supreme Court the worst in the nation.

“I thank Gov. Snyder for his confidence in my abilities and for the privilege of serving the people of Michigan on our state's highest court," Viviano said in the statement. "It is a tremendous responsibility and one that I cherish. I look forward to working with my esteemed Supreme Court colleagues to provide the thoughtful, impartial justice that citizens deserve.”

Viviano, 41, was elected to the 16th Circuit Court in 2006. Prior to serving on the bench, he worked as an attorney at Dickinson Wright PLLC in Detroit and Jenner & Block LLC in Chicago before starting his own firm in Mount Clemens. He also served as a city attorney for Center Line.

He was selected by the Michigan Supreme Court in 2008 to participate in a pilot project to reform the jury system. Several enhancements from the program were adopted by the Supreme Court and are being used by judges statewide. Additionally, Viviano led the 16th Circuit Court’s e-filing pilot project.

Viviano must seek election in 2014 to serve the remaining two years of the term that Hathaway began in 2009. He then will have to run for re-election in 2016 in order to serve a full eight-year term.

The appointment will not change the majority of the Michigan Supreme Court, which is now 5-2 in favor of Republicans, so it is unlikely it will have a dramatic affect on any upcoming decisions.

One of the biggest issues likely to be heard in the next one to two years will be challenges to the Right to Work legislation.

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