Kerene Moore, an Openly Gay Black Woman, Wants to Bring ‘Better Representation’ to Michigan Judicial System

Moore's historic run for Michigan's Third District Appeals Court inspired by lifetime of advocacy

By |2022-01-31T10:21:36-05:00January 28th, 2022|Michigan, News|

Kerene Moore has never had a problem speaking up. Before her current position as judicial attorney in the Washtenaw County Circuit Court and before announcing her 2022 candidacy for Michigan’s Third District Court of Appeals, she advocated for a fair and equal education system at Detroit’s Taft Middle School. 

As a kid, Moore took part in the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP), but the experience was lacking due to overcrowding — an issue that didn’t feel right to her. Instead of a trained professional, Moore and similar students had a substitute teacher teaching their core classes. So, she spoke up against inequitable change. 

“I thought: How is this fair? How can this school not have actual teachers?” explained Moore to Pride Source. “[The substitute teacher] was just assigning. I don’t even think she knew Spanish.”

As a result, Moore did what any future attorney would do. She voiced her opinion. 

“I got into a lot of trouble because I was vocal about it, and she didn’t like me,” she said. “It resulted in me getting kicked out of most of my classes in middle school.”

Moore said eventually her “disturbance” was an issue for the teacher. She and the teacher had to come to an agreement in which she would stay for the first 15 to 20 minutes and then leave and go to the library to study. 

“I didn’t have any real power as a child, so when I grew up I decided that I wanted to be in situations where I’m allowed to challenge, where I’m allowed to elevate people’s voices,” she said. 

Fast forward to 2022, and the little girl who “talked too much” is running for the open seat on Michigan’s Third District Court of Appeals. 

Developing her law career

“I remember, sometime in elementary school, I had to write a speech about who I wanted to be when I grew up,” she explained with a chuckle. “I said an attorney, the president and a journalist. I long ago decided that I did not want to be the president…That’s not for me. But [being] an attorney has always been at the back of my mind.”

Though that was her plan as a kid, she initially went back and forth about her major in college, eventually deciding to follow through with her dream to be an attorney. She attended the University of Michigan for undergraduate and law school, where she was named the first Dean’s Public Service Fellow. When she was not researching, she was found, once again, at the library studying or editing articles for Law Review. 

After graduating, Moore spent a year focusing on voting rights advocacy work throughout the country before working with Legal Services of South Central Michigan, where she handled civil cases for low-income clients in counties such as Ingham, Eaton, Barry, Clinton, Livingston, Shiawassee and Washtenaw. 

In 2009, Moore accepted a position funded by the Department of Justice’s Office on Violence Against Women, where she represented over 1,000 crime victims and other marginalized community members. And in 2019, she accepted another position with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. 

Moore said these positions and her current one make her more than qualified for the Court of Appeals. 

“Throughout my career, I’ve fought for civil rights, stopped countless evictions, stabilized families, advocated to expand human rights protections and challenged unjust legal decisions,” Moore said. “I embrace our justice system and, if elected, my commitment to [the public] is that I won’t just fill a spot — I will stand up for fair access to justice for everyone.”

Moore’s commitment to justice also shows through her community work. Currently, she serves as vice chair of the Ann Arbor District Library Board Trustees and as a supervising attorney for Outreach with Michigan Law’s Outlaws, an LGBTQ+ student law project she founded. In the past, she has served on the Ann Arbor Human Rights Commission and the boards of the Jim Toy Community Center and Equality Michigan

Her public service has afforded her several awards, including the Washtenaw County Bar Association’s MLK “I Have a Dream” award and the University of Michigan Law School’s Kevin E. Kennedy Pro Bono Award.

A working mom against the odds

Moore resides in Ann Arbor with her partner, Kim Borger, and three children. Before she decided to run for the Michigan Court of Appeals, she said she was aware that she would represent change. She said there was some hesitancy because “you can’t be what you can’t see.” 

“There are lots of issues with candidates of color — that is commonly known,” she said. “Also, the barriers for women are a problem. We have kids to take care of. We have a home life. We have all these extra roles we have to play. On top of running a campaign is crazy talk. You need a lot of support.”

The idea of being an openly gay Black woman candidate also caused her some concern. With the Court of Appeals race across 17 counties, she said she wasn’t confident about the conservative counties. 

“I’m in Washtenaw County, which is 70 percent progressive,” she explained. “Other counties like Kent county [are] only 50/50. The others are close to 50, but they all are red. How is that going to play out?”

After looking at all of the data, Moore said she discovered that “progressives are more likely to vote down the ballot, which would help [her].”

Even with the odds against her and as a “relatively young” attorney, Moore, 42, believes that with her experience she can provide “better representation” if she is chosen to be a part of the 25-seat Michigan Court of Appeals. 

“It’s a great opportunity to make sure that the justice system works,” she said. “I really want to be a part of that and to add [my] perspective.

Correction: Jan. 31, 2022
A previous version of this story noted that there were currently no sitting people of color on the Michigan Court of Appeals. But Judge Cynthia Diane Stephens, a Black woman, is on the Michigan Court of Appeals. Her term ends in January 2023.

About the Author:

Jackie Jones
Jackie Jones, a Detroit native, is the News and Features Editor at Pride Source Media Group and focuses on all things media and writing. Her work has appeared throughout Michigan in DBusiness and BLAC Magazine.