In preparation for the 2022 midterm election on Nov. 8, The Michigan Daily sat down with candidates in the Judge of Circuit Court race to discuss their background, experience and goals for office.

Marla Linderman Richelew:

The Michigan Daily: Why are you interested in running for the position of Circuit Court Judge?

Marla Linderman Richelew: After the last election — and seeing the results and how people handled the results — I could either get frustrated or I could try to get involved to make a change. It really hit me because, as a civil rights attorney, I get some of the worst calls you can think of from people. No one who’s been sexually harassed, racially discriminated against or had any of the rights violated should ever have to apologize for standing up for their rights. The court is there for them. People who stand up for their rights are heroes. I really want our court system to be open and accessible to everyone so that they feel intentional and purposeful and proud for standing up for their rights. I want to be a part of making that happen.

TMD: How have your previous experiences prepared you for this position?

MLR: For over 20 years, Washtenaw’s attorneys have asked me to step up and take leadership roles. Since 1999, I’ve served as Washtenaw County Bar Association’s new lawyer president, Women Lawyers Association of Michigan president, Boston Association of Justices president and on the Assembly, where I’m elected by Washington attorneys to represent our most pressing issues because they trust my voice and my expertise.

In those roles, I’ve worked to bridge our various legal communities together to increase access to justice and to increase diversity, equity and inclusion. I’m proud that when I’ve been in these roles, I’ve always left these organizations stronger. For 15 years, I’ve been representing about 1,500 attorneys on every issue of importance in those areas of law at the Michigan Association for Justice. When you do the areas of law that I do — we’re talking education, we’re talking Title IX, we’re talking employment discrimination, sexual harassment, race discrimination, I represent incarcerated individuals — when you do all those areas of law, you really walk in so many people’s shoes. You have to really understand what is going on with them to be able to represent them.

TMD: Tell me about your platform. What are the most important points? 

MLR: Accessibility and transparency for sure. I can do this from day one. Our Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Peter McCormick has this great system we’re trying to put in place, but it’s going to take years. We don’t need to wait. We can start getting that information out right away. We need more problem-solving courts. We need a mental health court at the Circuit Court level for both adults and juveniles. We have to address mental health issues. We can’t just punish, we need to help people. Justice shouldn’t be a synonym for punishment. We used to be called “justices of the peace,” and we’ve forgotten about that peace. Bringing in restorative and rehabilitative processes at every level and getting as many problem-solving courts (as possible) is a priority for me.

TMD: Is there anything you want to say to college students? 

MLR: Believe your voice matters. Believe you can make a difference. Learn about the process. Do your research. While I hope you are never before me, I hope that when you decide who to vote for, you’re going to think about who you’d want (for) your loved ones, if they needed to (see a judge), and what you would want in that judge. I’d hope you’d want fairness and impartiality and compassion. Voting is just so important. It seems like your voice doesn’t matter, but it really does.

TMD: Why should students vote for you? 

MLR: I think it’s important that, when you go to vote, you think about the issues that matter most to you. If you’re worried about your rights to a fair education, I have a background in educational law and in Title XI. If you’re worried about your future with employment, I do that area of law too. It’s important that you have someone who understands your rights and who’s going to hear your voice. I have a breadth of experience that I bring from 25 years in so many different areas of law. I’m experienced in every area that the Circuit Court deals with, from civil cases to juvenile cases to probate to criminal to business and family. We need someone who has that kind of experience. But you also need someone who’s just willing to get involved in the community, who really cares about the community. I think if you want someone who’s fair, impartial, compassionate and understands your issues, understands and wants to hear your voice, then I hope you’ll consider voting for me.

Arianne Slay

The Michigan Daily: Why are you interested in running for the position of Circuit Court Judge? 

Arianne Slay: I am a justice reformer and criminal justice reform, especially, is near and dear to me. It’s very personal for me. I have worked my way up through the criminal justice system throughout my career. I’ve seen the effects of mass incarceration. I’ve seen the effects of rubber stamping situations, I’ve seen the effects that rubber stamping has predominantly on the BIPOC community and, as an African American woman trying to make her way in the same community, it’s just so sad. It’s so sad that we have been doing this for so long and we haven’t tried anything else that will actually help dismantle some of the vestiges that remain from this very racially insensitive system that we’ve created. I have made it my work to do better when we know better, to call things like they are and to put in as many safeguards as I can for the system that we do have. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we have. 

TMD: How have your previous experiences prepared you for this position? 

AS: I feel like my experience is kind of perfectly tailored for this particular seat at this time. I have 17 years of experience as a public servant right here in Washington County. I know how our court system works. I have tried over 200 cases, thousands of hearings and pretrial conferences and I actually was assigned to this very courtroom when I was an assistant prosecutor for a period of time. I understand what the workload is like. I understand what docketing is like. Most importantly, I understand where we can do better. I’m not talking about groundbreaking stuff, I’m talking about the day in and day out, mundane stuff that people kind of forget that it is really important. 

TMD: Tell me about your platform. What are the most important points? 

AS: There are three really big concepts that I tried to impart every time I had the opportunity to speak. Access, criminal transparency with restorative practices and transparency. For access, the pandemic really changed things in the courts, we have been doing the same thing in the same way forever. Then when we weren’t able to be together, court still had to happen, so we switched to Zoom platforms and things of that nature. It’s convenient, it’s nice and some people really appreciate it. But then there’s also people in our community that don’t have access to technology or don’t understand technology. There is still a huge chunk of our county that doesn’t have broadband. So, access, and making sure that people have access in that capacity, is super important. 

Criminal justice reform is probably my most passionate pillar, and it also involves using some restorative practices when it’s appropriate. Transparency is kind of something we are on the cusp of in Washtenaw County. I want to promote soon-to-be-retired Chief Justice Bridget McCormack’s plan to fund a one-court system where all of the courts in Michigan use this same internal database and there’s a public facing aspect to it. So, you can see how people are being sentenced, see how long it was taking for judges to have hearings, see how long it’s taking for judges to issue an opinion, or what the outcomes of cases are. Right now the courts kind of operate behind this curtain, so it’s hard for people to really see if the judges are doing the right thing. I feel as a public servant, we should be held accountable to the community, and they should know what we’re doing within reason.

TMD: Is there anything you want to say to college students? 

AS: Just be brave. I think about my time as a college student and I knew I wanted to make changes. I knew I wanted to be a prosecutor. But I was afraid because I didn’t have a lot of experience and afraid that my voice wouldn’t be heard or tolerated or wanted in any space. I also feel, especially if you are going into a field where maybe you haven’t traditionally been, and for me being a Black woman working in the criminal justice system, especially as a prosecutor, it wasn’t a place that I was welcomed.

TMD: Why should students vote for you? 

AS: Students, specifically, should vote for me because I try to find out places and spaces for everyone’s perspective. And students, while you guys are only usually here for a brief season, this is your community. I care about your community because it’s mine too. You guys are here sometimes just for a season – I don’t mean like a fall but like a season in life, you’re here for four, six, seven years – but I live here and I stay here and I want you to have the best experience here. I want you to feel safe here. I want you to feel respected here, and part of doing that is building trust in the court system that services your community.

Daily Staff Reporter Rachel Mintz can be reached at mintzrac@umich.edu.