Jan. 7 2011 12:00 AM

The state attorney general looks to challenge the length of Judge Hugh Clarke Jr.’s appointment to the 54-A District Court

Friday, Jan. 7 — The state attorney general filed a motion today with the Michigan Court of Appeals that seeks to remove recently appointed Judge Hugh Clarke Jr. from the 54-A District Court.

Clarke was appointed Dec. 20 by former Gov. Jennifer Granholm to fill the vacancy of Judge Amy Krause, who was appointed to the Court of Appeals. However, there were questions when Clarke accepted the appointment over how long he would be able to serve.

Some speculated Clarke could only serve until noon Jan. 1 because that is when Krause’s District Court term was set to expire. Krause was elected in November to a new term, but Granholm appointed her to the Appeals Court after that, which created the vacancy that Clarke is filling.

Attorney General Bill Schuette cited the 1983 Michigan Supreme Court case Kelley v. Riley as precedent. In 1982, Michigan Supreme Court Justice Blair Moody Jr. was re-elected to an eight-year term, but died before the new term began. Then Gov. William Milliken appointed Dorothy Comstock Riley to a term that continued into 1983.

But the Supreme Court ruled in early 1983 that Riley couldn’t serve past Dec. 31, 1982, and removed her from the bench. Newly elected Gov. James Blanchard appointed Patricia Boyle to take her place. She went to be elected in 1986 and again in 1990 to an eight-year term.

However, Clarke told City Pulse political columnist Kyle Melinn shortly after his appointment that he was confident he’d be able to serve past Jan. 1. Clarke said he interpreted the Riley case as one that does not apply to lower court appointments — only to Supreme Court justice appointments.

He cited Section 168.467(i) of Michigan law, which says “the term of office for judge of the district court shall be 6 years, commencing at 12 noon on January 1 next following the judge’s election and shall continue until a successor is elected and qualified.”

Clarke, who resigned from his position on the Lansing School Board and closed his private law practice to take the District Court job, could not be reached for comment.