The Michigan Supreme Court has issued a mandate requiring judges to address attorneys in the courtroom by their preferred pronouns or “other respectful means.” This new rule, set to take effect on January 1st, emphasizes the importance of treating all individuals with civility and respect, regardless of their gender identity or pronoun preferences.
While the rule encourages the use of preferred pronouns like he/him/his, she/her/hers, or they/them/theirs, it also allows attorneys to include honorifics such as Ms., Mr., or Mx. (pronounced “mix”) in court documents, providing a flexible approach to accommodate individuals’ preferences.
Justice Elizabeth Welch, who supports the rule, emphasized the judiciary’s responsibility to serve the entire public and treat everyone with respect, regardless of whether others agree or approve of their gender identity. The option to use generic titles like “attorney” or “plaintiff” along with the individual’s last name is available for those who wish to avoid violating their beliefs.
The rule was adopted by a 5-2 vote, with Justices Brian Zahra and David Viviano in opposition. Justice Zahra argued that the judiciary should not engage in a political debate of this nature and expressed concerns about the court’s involvement in such matters. On the other hand, Justice Kyra Bolden commended Michigan for embracing welcoming and inclusive courts, recognizing the historic nature of this amendment to court rules.
Overall, this rule reflects the ongoing efforts to create more inclusive and respectful environments within the judicial system, acknowledging the importance of individuals’ gender identities and preferences in legal proceedings.