Hon. Karen Fort Hood, In Memoriam

The Judicial Tenure Commission is very sad to report the passing of our beloved chairperson, Hon. Karen Fort Hood. Judge Hood passed away suddenly the evening of Sunday, August 15.

Judge Fort Hood was the Court of Appeals representative on the Commission for a little more than four years. Two things about her time with the Commission stood out: 1) She always had a kind and generous word for every person on our staff, and her interactions were always warm. She liked and respected everyone. 2) She called the shots as she saw them, without fear or favor. Her sense of justice was well tempered with a strong sense of mercy. She brought those qualities, along with her strong common sense based on her years as a judge and her life experience, to the Commission’s work.

We will miss Judge Fort Hood very much. In the words of Commissioner Jaafar, the sadness brought by the news of her passing has been overwhelming.  Her beautiful soul and spirit, her uplifting character and her loving demeanor, have left us with an emptiness that can never be filled. May her memory be eternal and her optimism remind us to embrace and appreciate our present.

The following biography of Judge Hood highlights some of her accomplishments during her career:

In November 2002, Judge Karen Fort Hood made history as the first African American woman ever to be elected to the Michigan Court of Appeals. A former Detroit Public School teacher and probation officer, Judge Hood was elected to the Recorder’s Court Bench in 1992. In January 1999, she became Presiding Judge of the Wayne County Circuit Court, Criminal Division. As Presiding Judge, she handled administrative duties relative to the court, including the adjournment of cases, disqualification of judges, discipline of attorneys, and resolution of conflicts between the thirty-one judges of the Criminal Division. In addition, Judge Hood presided over the entire domestic violence docket for the Wayne County Circuit Court. Judge Hood also carried a docket of other criminal cases.
Before being elected to the bench, Judge Hood was a Special Assistant Prosecutor in Wayne County Juvenile Court. She served from 1984 through 1988, and prosecuted juvenile offender and abuse and neglect cases. From 1989 through 1992 she transferred to the Appellate Division of the Prosecutor’s Office where she researched, wrote and argued hundreds of briefs and other appellate matters. She was appointed as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, in 1988, and served until 1992, when she took the bench.

Judge Hood was also very active in the community. She was Past President of the Association of Black Judges of Michigan and was a member of the Wolverine Bar Association, State Bar of Michigan and the Michigan Judges Association. Judge Hood was a lifetime member of the Detroit NAACP. She was the first African American female to serve as Chairperson in the history of the Commission.