In a move some say evidences the death of common sense, Michigan’s Supreme Court has ruled judges and attorneys must use the “preferred salutations and personal pronouns” of all involved in the cases they litigate.
The Daily Wire reported the new ruling will go into effect on January 1, 2024, and that according to the Detroit News, the issue was “debated at length” and approved by a 5-2 vote.
Notably, Michigan is the first state to require judges and attorneys to use a defendant’s preferred pronouns.
In her concurring statement, Democratic Justice Elizabeth Welch wrote: “We serve the entire public and are required to treat those who come before us with civility and respect.”
Welch added: “The gender identity of a member of the public is a part of their individual identity, regardless of whether others agree or approve.”
An excerpt of the new ruling reads:
“Parties and attorneys may also include Ms., Mr., or Mx. as a preferred form of address and one of the following personal pronouns in the name section of the caption: he/him/his, she/her/hers, or they/them/theirs.
“Courts must use the individual’s name, the designated salutation or personal pronouns, or other respectful means that is not inconsistent with the individual’s designated salutation or personal pronouns when addressing, referring to, or identifying the party or attorney, either orally or in writing.”
While acknowledging that using preferred pronouns can create confusion or errors in court records, Welch wrote that these concerns can be overcome with “more intentionality (and a bit of practice) for generations that grew up learning one language rule.”
Justice David Viviano, a Republican, opposed the ruling and argued that it forced judges and attorneys to condone and participate in “socially and politically fraught topics that have little to do with the judicial system.”
Justice Brian Zahra, also a Republican, also opposed the ruling, stating that he was “deeply troubled” by the decision.
According to Detroit News Zahra wrote in his dissent: “This proposed rule change is much worse than a solution in search of a problem; it is a directive that will undoubtedly inflame conflict and exacerbate the social division of the people of Michigan.”
Zahra added that the ruling would invite “abuse by litigants eager to gain any measure of control over their fight.”
The Daily Wire reported that over a dozen Michigan judges and attorneys expressed concern over the ruling, noting it could infringe on free speech and religious liberty.
Timothy Denney, a religious liberty attorney in Michigan told The Daily Wire that the rule “would violate the compelled speech principle.”
“The Michigan Supreme Court’s proposed rule to force judges to use attorney’s preferred pronouns violates the First Amendment,” Denney said. “The First Amendment prohibits government from compelling public officials to make statements contrary to their beliefs.”
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