Chief Justice

Bridget Mary McCormack

Chief Justice Bridget Mary McCormack, a New York University Law School graduate, joined the Michigan Supreme Court in January 2013 and became Chief Justice in January 2019. Before her election to the Court in November 2012, she was a law professor and dean at the University of Michigan Law School, where she continues to teach.

Chief Justice McCormack’s legal career demonstrates her commitment to Access for All. At Michigan Law, she created a Domestic Violence Clinic, a Pediatric Health Advocacy Clinic, a Low-Income Taxpayer Clinic, and a Juvenile Justice Clinic. She co-founded the Michigan Innocence Clinic.

As the Chief Justice, McCormack has promoted statewide initiatives devoted to improving the courts’ service to the public and, in particular, to delivering on a promise that courts are independent, accessible, engaged with their communities, and efficient.

Beyond words: plain language as a process

Presented by Hon Bridget Mary McCormack, Chief Justice, Michigan Supreme Court, USA

Even the strongest social-justice advocates can overlook shortcomings in their own – our own – communications, especially with vulnerable communities. The best court form still fails if a litigant cannot understand how to use it to benefit her, and a hearing is counterproductive if a litigant can’t understand.  Voter-registration successes are incomplete if a voter misunderstands key sections of the ballot. Fair housing laws fail when tenants unknowingly waive their rights. In this talk, we explore the unexpected places communication can fail, the unintended consequences of those failures, and some of the ways we can ensure our communication succeeds at every step in the process.


Three Key Takeaways 

  • Rights are meaningless unless those in need understand their rights and how to exercise them. Plain language is too often the invisible tool that could make all the difference.

  • With privilege comes responsibility. We must train and mentor our students and colleagues to communicate effectively at every point of contact with those we serve.

  • Plain language is a process that requires clear communication – in print, online, and in person – with every person, every time