Chief Judge Shalina Kumar from the Oakland County Circuit Court, is President Biden’s first nominee to the Eastern District of Michigan. If confirmed, Kumar would be the first Indian-American on the court.
Shalina Deborah Kumar received a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1993 and her J.D. from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 1996.
After graduation, Kumar joined the office of Sommers, Schwartz, Silver & Schwartz PC as an associate. In 2004, Kumar moved to the firm of Weiner & Cox PLC. In 2007, Kumar was appointed to the Oakland County Sixth Circuit Court by Governor Jennifer Granholm. Kumar has served on the court ever since, including serving as Chief Judge since 2018.
History of the Seat
Kumar has been nominated for a seat on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. This seat opened on February 24, 2021, when Judge Victoria Roberts moved to senior status.
Kumar has held two primary positions in her pre-bench career. From 1997 to 2004, Kumar worked as an associate at Sommers, Schwartz, Silver & Schwartz PC. Then, from 2004 to 2007, Kumar worked at the firm of Weiner & Cox PLC. In both positions, Kumar focused on commercial litigation, working on medical malpractice, and wrongful death, among other matters.
Kumar has occasionally given to political and judicial candidates. She was particularly active in the 2020 cycle, giving to President Biden, as well as Michigan Supreme Court Justices Bridget McCormack and Elizabeth Welch, as well as Indian American Democratic State Representatives Padma Kuppa and Ranjeev Puri.
Kumar has served as a circuit court judge in Oakland County since her appointment in 2007. In this role, she presides over civil claims over $25,000 and all felony criminal cases. Some of Kumar’s more prominent cases are summarized below.
Kid Rock Lawsuit
Early in her time on the bench, Kumar presided over a defamation and harassment lawsuit filed by rocker Kid Rock against Novi native Kelly Ann Kozlowski. See Judge Fed Up with Kid Rock For No-Show in Lawsuit Deposition, A.P. State & Local Wire, Nov. 15, 2007. After Kid Rock failed to show up for a court-ordered deposition, Kumar threw out his lawsuit and entered a default judgment on Kozlowski’s claims against him. See id. A jury later threw out Kozlowski’s suit.
In 2007, Kumar ruled that a recall petition against Rep. Marie Donigan with the Michigan House of Representatives could not go before voters because it was unclear. See Donigan v. Oakland County Comm’n, LC No. 2007-087516-CZ, Shalina Kumar, J. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed Kumar’s decision, finding that she erred “by failing to uphold defendant’s approval of the petition language.” See Donigan v. Oakland County Comm’n, 755 N.W.2d 209, 212 (Mich. App. 2008).
In 2011, Kumar presided over DUI and gun possession charges against Detroit Pistons player Ben Wallace, and sentenced him to a year in probation, fines, and 30 hours of community service. See Corey Williams, Ben Wallace Gets Probation For DUI, Gun Charges, A.P. State & Local Wire, Dec. 13, 2011.
In 2012, Kumar presided over the case of Tucker Cipriano, charged with murdering his father and attacking his family with a baseball bat while under the influence of K2. Kumar sentenced Cipriano to life in prison after a no contest plea, while sentencing co-defendent Mitchell Young, who was convicted at trial, also to life in prison. See Life Sentences Given in Bat Attack on Mich. Family, A.P. State & Local Wire, July 24, 2013.
With a decade in private practice and fifteen years on the bench, Kumar has established a record of legal experience that would serve her well as a federal judge. Additionally, her time on the bench has established a reputation as a judge that’s not afraid to be bold. While senators may question Kumar’s reversal in the Donigan recall case, or her sentence of probation for Ben Wallace, Kumar is ultimately likely to attract the support needed to be confirmed.