Governor appoints openly-gay judge to 36th District Court

By |2001-04-07T09:00:00-04:00April 7th, 2001|Uncategorized|

DETROIT – Gov. Jennifer Granholm announced Monday the appointment of activist attorney and Triangle Foundation board member Rudy Serra as judge of the 36th District Court in Detroit.
“I’m honored to have been selected and am looking forward to joining the 36th District Court,” Serra said. “It’s a great opportunity and it’s also history. I was the first openly-gay person on the Oakland County Commission, the first openly-gay person on the Ferndale School Board and now the first openly gay judge in the 36th District Court.”
Serra said he made his interest in positions with the administration known shortly after Granholm was elected in 2002. The governor first appointed Serra to the Correction Officer’s Training Council, a voluntary board that deals with the training of prison guards, jail personnel and others in the corrections system. Serra at that time became the first openly-gay person appointed to a Michigan council or commission.
But Serra is quick to point out that he wasn’t appointed to either post because he was gay.
“I knew that Gov. Granholm was going to pick the most qualified person, regardless of race, sexual orientation, what have you,” he said. “I know that she didn’t appoint me because I was openly gay. She appointed me because I was the most qualified person.”
For her part, the governor went on to say of Serra in her press release, “Rudy will make an excellent judge. He’s fair, hard-working, balanced, and full of integrity. I know he will make the citizens of Detroit proud.”
It’s a sentiment that Jeffrey Montgomery, the executive director of the Triangle Foundation, shares.
“I think it’s an excellent appointment and I think people have been looking forward to it for a while,” said Montomgery, pointing out that Serra has served on Triangle’s board for over a decade. “I think that the people of Detroit have gained an excellent judge in that court and one who certainly will be very fair to those people who find themselves in the criminal justice system. Our community should be very, very proud that one of our foremost attorneys has been recognized with an appointment to the bench.”
Indeed, Serra has done much to make the community proud over the years. He finished his undergraduate studies with a double major in psychology and speech before earning a master’s degree in communications from Central Michigan University. He then went on to law school at Wayne State, where he completed a post-graduate certificate course in dispute resolution. In addition, he is also a licensed social worker and a certified emergency medical technician.
His appointments and elected posts have been many. In 2000, he was chosen as a Michigan Lawyer of the Year by the Michigan Lawyer’s Weekly newspaper. The following year, Serra was selected as the recipient of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Award from the Michigan Democratic Party. In addition to the time Serra spent on the Oakland County Commission and the Ferndale School Board, he sat on the Royal Oak Township Downtown Development Authority, served as fundraising director for Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly, co-chaired the Michigan Democratic Party Justice Caucus and served as president of the Michigan Democratic Party Lesbian Gay Caucus, helped establish the Stonewall Bar Association and served on the Detroit Human Rights Commission.
Still, for all his accomplishments, Serra has taken his share of hits. He has dedicated a good deal of his law practice to fighting for the civil rights of gays and lesbians. And while many in the community praise his work as groundbreaking, helping to author the landmark “Bag A Fag” report on the Rouge Park stings or defending gay men who’ve been illegally entrapped by police officers in parks and at rest stops has often won Serra the label of controversial.
“Work is controversial when the clients and issues are unpopular,” he said. “And I think that leadership involves doing the right thing whether it’s popular or not.”
Serra’s starting date on the bench will be July 12, but his public swearing in will not take place until Aug. 7, his 49th birthday, when his old boss Justice Marilyn Kelly will do the honors. Serra’s term will end on Jan. 1, 2007, at which time he will have to be reelected by a public vote to retain his post.

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael joined Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. He has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author for his authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," released on his own JAM Books imprint.