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Justice 'disgusted' by new colleague's hiring of ex-convict

Richard Justice, Kyra Harris Bolden
Posted at 1:53 PM, Jan 05, 2023

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A new justice on the Michigan Supreme Court has picked an ex-convict as a key aide, stirring a passionate dissent from a fellow member of the court who said he's "disgusted."

Peter Martel has been hired to serve as a law clerk to Justice Kyra Harris Bolden, who took office Sunday after being appointed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Martel served 14 years in prison after robbing a Flint-area store and shooting at police officers, The Detroit News reported.

He was released in 2008 and apparently turned his life around and obtained a degree from Wayne State University law school. The job of a law clerk is to research cases and provide input on opinions.

Justice Richard Bernstein praised Martel's turnaround but said the Supreme Court shouldn't be his next stop.

"I'm all about second chances," Bernstein told the News. "But there are certain jobs you should never be allowed to have after you shoot at a police officer, and one of them is clerking for the highest court in the state."

He added: "I'm completely disgusted by this."

There was no comment from Bolden or Martel. Court spokesman John Nevin said the court doesn't comment on personnel matters.

Former Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, who left the court this week, said Martel was one of her best students when she taught at the University of Michigan.

"He's been open about his past and his regrets about it, and how he's eager to be an example for others, to show them that you don't have to be defined by your past," she said.

Bolden finished third in an election for two seats on the court but was subsequently picked by the governor to fill the vacancy caused by McCormack's departure. She is Michigan's first Black female justice.

Bolden and Bernstein were nominees of the Democratic Party and appeared in campaign ads together in the fall. Bernstein easily won reelection to the court.

"I'm no longer talking to her. We don't share the same values," Bernstein said.

On Thursday, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Kyra Harris Bolden issued a statement saying Martel has resigned from his position amid public fallout.

In the statement, Harris Bolden said, “I have accepted Pete Martel’s resignation. He did not want to be a distraction or in any way divert the Court from its important work. I respect his decision and do not intend to comment further.”

Following the statement, 7 Action News reached out to Justice Bolden Harris and Pete Martel for comment and we are awaiting a response.