In 1939, Kyra Harris Bolden’s great-grandfather was lynched in Tennessee after asking a store owner for a receipt. “And he was beaten and castrated and thrown into the local river,” Bolden told CNN. His murderers walked free. It is this injustice that would inspire Bolden to study law.
“Once I realized that that was something that happened in my own family, I just felt the need to be a part of the justice system and to go to law school and find my way in it,” she said.
Today, Bolden has made history as the first Black woman to serve on the Michigan Supreme Court. She was sworn in as the first Black female justice in the court’s 185-year history on Sunday after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer appointed the former state representative in November to replace retiring Justice Bridget McCormack, a Democratic nominee.
That month, Bridge Michigan reported that Bolden’s appointment will maintain the Democrats’ 4-3 majority on the bench. “She will bring a unique perspective to our high court as a Black woman — and as a new, working mom — that has too long been left out,” Whitmer said of Bolden.
Bolden, 34, D-Southfield, said at the time that she hopes her voice on the court will inspire future generations to pursue their dreams. “I am humbled by this honor, and I am ready to get to work on behalf of all Michiganders,” Bolden said.
She will serve a partial term that ends on January 1, 2025. If she wants to complete the remainder of McCormack’s term, which expires January 1, 2029, she must run again in November 2024.
During the November 8 election last year, Bolden was one of five candidates to compete for two seats on the Supreme Court. She came in third with 21.4 percent of votes, behind Justices Richard Bernstein, a Democratic nominee who was first elected to the bench in 2014, and Brian Zahra, who was first appointed by former GOP Gov. Rick Snyder in 2011, according to Bridge Michigan.
The platform reported that Bolden will also be the only justice on the bench to have served as a state lawmaker. She is serving her second two-year term and serves on the House Judiciary Committee.
Bolden was a criminal defense attorney before getting elected to the Legislature. A graduate of the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, she also worked as a clerk in Wayne County’s Third Circuit Court and was a civil litigation attorney with private law firm Lewis & Munda, P.C. She is known for working on bills that seek to protect sexual violence survivors. Bolden has also advocated for criminal justice reforms.