The top court in Michigan said this week that judges and court staff must use the names that the parties want to use.
According to The Detroit News, the Michigan Supreme Court has made a new law that judges must follow starting January 1, 2024. This rule says that lawyers and clients can write down their “desired salutations and personal pronouns” on court documents. The court thought about and discussed the new rule for a long time before passing it by a vote of 5-2. Michigan is the very first state that orders judges to use the chosen pronouns of the parties.
Justice Elizabeth Welch, who was nominated by Democrats, said in her concurring comment, “We serve the whole public and have a responsibility to treat the people who appear before us with the utmost civility and respect. It doesn’t matter if other people agree or disagree with a person’s gender identity, since it’s an important part of their own identity.”
The new rule says that “Parties and lawyers can also use Ms., Mr., or Mx. as a chosen form of greeting and one of these personal terms in the name portion of the caption: he/him/his, she/her/hers, or they/them/theirs. It is required by law that courts address, refer to, or identify a party or attorney by name, the salutation or pronouns, or another respectful way that doesn’t conflict with the salutation or pronouns. This must be done verbally or in writing.”
When someone’s chosen pronouns lead to grammatical misunderstanding or mistakes, Welch wrote that it takes “more deliberate actions (and a little bit of practicing) for generations that have grown up acquiring one language rule.”
Justice David Viviano, who was chosen by Republicans, was against the new rule change. He said it put judges in charge of “socially as well as politically contentious topics which have very little bearing with the judicial system.”
In a statement disagreeing with the decision, Justice Brian Zahra, who was also chosen by a Republican, said that he was ” profoundly troubled” by it and that the new legislation would only help split the state.
“This suggested rule change is significantly worse than being an issue that needs a solution. It is an order that will definitely make things worse between people in Michigan,” according to Zahra. He also said that it would be open to “abuse by litigants eager to acquire any measure of power over their fight,” which was reported by The Detroit News.
According to The Daily Wire, more than a dozen judges and lawyers in Michigan were worried about what the rule could entail for religious freedom and free speech while it was being thought over. Judges and lawyers from Michigan wrote to the court to voice their concerns about the change.