News

Ex-convict quits job at top court after criticism by judge

Richard Justice, Kyra Harris Bolden
Posted at 3:29 PM, Jan 05, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-05 18:39:44-05

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — An ex-convict who was hired by a new justice at the Michigan Supreme Court resigned Thursday after harsh criticism from another member of the court.

"I have accepted Pete Martel's resignation," said Justice Kyra Harris Bolden, who took office this week. "He did not want to be a distraction or in any way divert the court from its important work. I respect his decision and do not intend to comment further."

Bolden had hired Martel to serve as a law clerk, a job that includes researching cases and providing input on opinions.

Martel, 48, served 14 years in prison after robbing a Flint-area store and shooting at police officers, The Detroit News reported.

He was released in 2008, changed his life and obtained a degree from Wayne State University law school.

Justice Richard Bernstein praised Martel's turnaround but said the Supreme Court shouldn't be his next stop.

"I'm all about second chances," Bernstein told the News. "But there are certain jobs you should never be allowed to have after you shoot at a police officer, and one of them is clerking for the highest court in the state."

He added: "I'm completely disgusted by this."

Bolden finished third in the Nov. 8 election for two seats on the Supreme Court but was subsequently picked by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to fill a vacancy. She is Michigan's first Black female justice.

Bolden told radio station WWJ on Thursday that she believes in "restorative justice."

"I don't think you should be held to crimes for the rest of your life, especially crimes that were committed 30 years ago, and you have done everything possible to transform your life," she said.

Bolden and Bernstein were nominees of the Democratic Party and appeared in campaign ads together in the fall. Bernstein easily won reelection.

"I'm no longer talking to her. We don't share the same values," Bernstein said before Martel resigned.

Former Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, who left the court this week, said Martel was one of her best students when she taught at the University of Michigan.

"He's been open about his past and his regrets about it, and how he's eager to be an example for others, to show them that you don't have to be defined by your past," McCormack said.