Honoring Black History: Alumnus Feature-Hon. Kyra Harris Bolden '14

February 02, 2024

kyra harris bolden-alumni feature bhmJustice Kyra Harris Bolden '14 made history when she was sworn in as a Michigan Supreme Court Justice on January 1, 2023. As the first Black woman to serve on the highest court in Michigan, she recognizes the importance of her leadership on the bench. “Representation is beyond important,” she said. “It is an honor to serve and to be an inspiration to others who look like me.”

Bolden did not originally plan to attend law school. As a psychology major, she knew she wanted to help people. An advisor recommended law school to her. Following this advice, Bolden enrolled at Detroit Mercy Law.

“Being a part of Detroit Mercy Law afforded me many opportunities that enhanced my experience as an attorney and now as a jurist,” she said. Bolden explained that the location, comradery, and diversity of Detroit Mercy Law helped shape her into the well-rounded attorney and jurist she is today.

"I was able to do internships and externships in and around the city of Detroit. It was a great benefit to my career to be able to walk to them and gain experience while a student."

“The comradery of Detroit Mercy Law is unmatched,” Bolden continued. “I have life-long friends that support me and I do the same for them. The diversity of background, experience, and perspectives that Detroit Mercy Law allowed me to encounter facilitated my direction and how I wanted to move through my legal career.”

After graduating with her law degree, Bolden served as a criminal defense attorney, judicial clerk, and civil litigator before deciding to run for public office. She was first elected to serve as a Michigan State Representative in 2018 and was re-elected in 2020. While serving in the Michigan State House, Bolden served on the Judiciary Committee and focused her work on criminal justice reform.

“I knew how the laws would affect people and my community. That perspective was incredibly important, and I wanted to represent that in the legislature.”

During her time in the legislature, she helped pass the “Medically Frail” prison reform package, the revision to the Wrongful Imprisonment Compensation Act, and the “Address Confidentially for Survivors of Domestic Violence” package.

Now as a member of the Michigan Supreme Court, Bolden wants to continue to make a difference in the lives of Michigan residents. She shared some of her vision for that with the Detroit Mercy Law community while delivering the fifth annual Dewitt C. Holbrook Lecture on Social Justice. Her lecture, titled, “Justice for All,” examined the concept of justice for all and how Michigan could achieve that goal.

She spoke of the need for a justice system that provides more than a lawyer for every defendant and emphasized the importance of a justice system that provides a pathway to resolve concerns while treating everyone with dignity and respect. She encouraged a comprehensive approach to justice for all that includes courts engaging with local communities, supporting and nurturing families and children at risk, providing access to treatment for behavioral health disorders, and embracing the problem-solving model that focuses on making participants whole again.

Bolden also contributed to the law school community while a student. She was a part of the International Law Students Association, the Black Law Students Association, and the Constitutional Law Association. “Those experiences helped me become a well-rounded person as well as an attorney,” said Bolden.

As an alumna, she encourages law students to get involved. “Go to everything you can; meet as many people as possible in the legal field. You never know where it may take you.” During law school, Bolden received a mentor through the Wolverine Bar Association who later became the partner she worked for while practicing law. “Make sure you’re reaching out to people asking them to be your mentor because you never know how one person will enhance your experience as a lawyer or change your perspective of where you want to go in your legal career.”

Originally printed in the 2023 edition of The Docket.