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Sterling Heights

March 5, 2013

Gov. makes Viviano newest state Supreme Court justice

By Eric Czarnik
C & G Staff Writer

David Viviano

A judge from Sterling Heights now has a seat on Michigan’s highest court.

In a Feb. 27 announcement, Gov. Rick Snyder announced that his choice to fill the latest vacancy on the Michigan Supreme Court is Judge David Viviano.

Before Snyder’s appointment, Viviano was the 16th Judicial Circuit and Macomb County Probate Courts’ chief judge. He first became a Circuit Court judge in 2006.

Snyder described Viviano, 41, as an outstanding candidate who has had a successful career since its earliest days. Snyder praised the judge as an innovator and advocate of e-filing and jury reform in Michigan.

“He’s truly a rule of law judge, too, which is critically important,” Snyder said. “He knows the role that the judiciary has, which is to look at the law, see how it’s written and make sure it’s fairly and impartially applied.”

Viviano called the appointment a tremendous honor for him and his family, and he confirmed that he believes in the rule of law.

“I do believe in the separation of powers,” he said. “I believe it’s the judge’s role to fairly interpret the law and to defer to the policy choices that were made by the Legislature.”

Viviano’s educational background includes diplomas from Hillsdale College and the University of Michigan Law School. He also did city attorney work for Center Line and worked at law firms in Detroit and Chicago — as well as the one he eventually created.

Viviano will fill the vacancy last held by former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway. Hathaway resigned in January and has pleaded guilty to bank fraud.

Bill Ballenger, editor of the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics, predicted that the Viviano appointment will strengthen the conservative majority on the Michigan Supreme Court, which was 4-3 with Hathaway on it and 4-2 once she stepped down. Now the balance will be 5-2, he said.

“I don’t think that it’s going to represent a sea change in their opinions because Viviano is likely to reinforce what already was a four-member conservative Republican majority,” Ballenger said.

Ballenger predicted that Viviano could participate in rulings on potential upcoming issues, such as the restructuring of public employee pension and health benefits, medical marijuana, insurance issues and the recently passed right to work legislation.

State Rep. Henry Yanez, D-Sterling Heights, commented on the appointment.

“I think it’s great for Macomb County, and I’m very excited to see a jurist from Macomb County,” Yanez said. “I’m very excited and happy for Judge Viviano. I think he’ll do a great job.”

Macomb County Commissioner Bob Smith, a Democrat representing the 12th District, called Viviano fair and thorough on his judgments. He also highlighted the innovations that Viviano, who pushed for a paperless court system, brought to the circuit court.

“I think that it’s wonderful for the state, but a loss for the county,” Smith said.

Learn more about the Michigan Supreme Court at www.michigan.gov.

Staff Writer Robert Guttersohn contributed to this report.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Eric Czarnik at eczarnik@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1058.