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how to become a judge in michigan

Many of my bar exam students have stated that their goal was to eventually become a judge. People who are morally-minded with a sense of justness and fairness are especially attracted to this position of judge. Being a judge is also a great 9-5 job that pays pretty decently and, in most cases, comes with a nice office :)

Each state chooses their state judges differently and each state has different qualifications. In Michigan, the qualifications, according to Article VI Section 19 of the Michigan Constitution, are listed below. 

Requirements – How to Become a Judge in Michigan:

  • You must be licensed to practice law in Michigan (this means you have to graduate from law school anywhere in the U.S. that is ABA-approved, then pass the Michigan bar exam).
  • You must have been admitted to the practice of law for at least five years.
  • You cannot be appointed after reaching 70 years of age.

Oddly enough, there is no requirement that someone running for judge has any courtroom experience or any familiarity with the law outside of passing the bar exam and being licensed for five years.

After you meet the requirements, then it comes down to campaigning (which means spending a lot of money on getting name recognition!)  A “loophole” to campaigning to become judge is to be appointed by the governor of the state when there is a vacancy. The governor has discretion to appoint someone to a judgeship and fill any vacancies (although when the next election comes around, you will have to campaign  – but if you already a sitting judge, it will be easier to win!).

If you are serious about the prospect of eventually becoming a judge, it is also a good idea to:

  • Clerk for a judge, if possible. Clerkships give you a perspective of what it is like to be behind the bench.
  • Get as much courtroom experience as possible. This is a great way to understand the perspectives of attorneys who will be in front of you when you are a judge.
  • Talk to judges sitting on the bench. See what they think about being a judge and ask for any advice they have about running for judge.

Note that these requirements only apply to Michigan state judges. Federal judges are appointed by the President for life (or impeachment) so they have a different process to become judge. If you are wondering how to become a federal judge, we will have more on that in a later post!