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Judge: Kristina Karamo properly removed as Michigan GOP chair

Kristina Karamo on stage
Kristina Karamo is no longer chair of the Michigan Republican Party, a judge ruled Tuesday (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)
  • Judge issues preliminary injunction against Kristina Karamo, ruling she was properly removed as Michigan GOP chair
  • Election Day ruling comes amid confusion over separate presidential caucus conventions set for Saturday in Detroit and Grand Rapids
  • Former President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee previously recognized Pete Hoekstra as chair

GRAND RAPIDS — Kristina Karamo was properly removed as chair of the Michigan Republican Party last month, a Kent County judge ruled Tuesday, issuing a preliminary injunction requiring her to relinquish control of GOP assets. 

The decision marks a stinging legal defeat for Karamo, who has continued to oversee bank accounts and official party communications amid a leadership fight with former Ambassador Pete Hoekstra, whom critics chose to replace her. 

Plaintiffs who sued Karamo to force her out, including co-chair Malinda Pego, are "likely to prevail at trial" because they removed her in a Jan. 6 meeting "pursuant to party bylaws," Judge J. Joseph Rossi said in a bench ruling.


Critics used "sharp-elbowed tactics" to oust Karamo, and she was ultimately voted out by a "minority of members" on the Michigan GOP state committee, Rossi acknowledged. 

But political actors often achieve their goals using rules or procedural maneuvers, the judge continued, noting presidents have won the White House without winning the popular vote because of the Electoral College. 

"The majority does not always win," he said. 


Rossi's order prohibits Karamo from continuing to claim she is the Michigan GOP chair, accessing party bank accounts, calling state committee meetings, posting on the party's social media feeds or accessing mail boxes.

Karamo watched the judge deliver his ruling from a wooden bench in the courtroom gallery, where she sat in the third row with several supporters. 

Speaking with reporters after the decision, she declined to say whether she would appeal but called the ruling "absolutely ridiculous" and questioned whether the judge was influenced by political contributions. 

But, for now, "I have to comply with the judge’s orders," Karamo said. "I'm not going to jail."

The decision came less than three hours before polls closed in the Michigan presidential primary and days before weekend Michigan GOP presidential caucuses that will determine 39 of the state party’s 55 nominating delegates to the Republican National Convention in July. 

Karamo and Hoekstra have each called their own caucus conventions on opposite sides of the state Saturday, leaving congressional district chairs and delegates to decide which event to attend. Hers is at Huntington Place in Detroit; his is at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids.

Pete Hoekstra
Former President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee recognize Pete Hoekstra as Michigan GOP chair (Bridge photo by Jonathan Oosting)

The leadership dispute "created an environment with things the law hates, uncertainty and confusion," Rossi said. "How is an individual to know which convention to go to?"

Hoekstra celebrated the decision in a statement.

“It is time to unite and move forward with the business delivering the state of Michigan for our Party’s presumptive nominee, Donald J. Trump,” he said, referencing the former president still competing with former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued a preliminary injunction was necessary to avoid disenfranchising delegates who might not be seated if they attended a convention not recognized by the Republican National Committee. 

Citing a draft Michigan GOP “constitution” circulated this week, attorney Jonathan Lauerbach argued plaintiffs could also suffer “irreparable harm” if Karamo used her Detroit meeting to vote on a proposal that would “eviscerate” the primary process for future elections.

The factions have battled for months, starting with rival state committee meetings in early December when Karamo’s critics began publicly calling for a vote on her ouster.

Many of those same critics met again on Jan. 6, where 40 members of the 107-member Michigan GOP state committee voted to remove Karamo as chair. They later elected Hoekstra to replace her. 

Karamo declared the Jan. 6 meeting illegitimate and called a separate gathering on Jan. 13, where 59 state committee members voted to keep her on as state party chair while banning some of her top critics for five years. 

Former President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee had both backed Hoekstra.

Four days of testimony in Kent County Circuit Court largely focused on rules: Whether Karamo critics followed party bylaws and parliamentary procedures when they called the Jan. 6 meeting, used “proxies” to achieve a “quorum” and submitted petition signatures required to force a vote.

The vote to remove Karamo was nothing more than a “poll” and was therefore unenforceable, General Counsel Dan Hartman argued Tuesday in testimony.

Hartman alleged a "shadow party" spent months trying to undermine Karamo through a series of "fake" meetings but suggested the battle began almost immediately when she was elected chair in February 2023. 

"The establishment... did not want to see things change," he said. "So you had a change versus business-as-usual conflict."


Among other things, Karamo’s legal team produced evidence showing that three Republicans who signed a petition to force the removal vote later attempted to withdraw their signatures, saying the meeting was not what they expected. 

But Anne DeLisle, 8th Congressional District chair, testified that she and other Karamo critics took great care to follow all Michigan GOP bylaws on Jan. 6. 

Thomas Balch, a national expert in parliamentary procedures, testified last week that minutes from the meeting indicate that Karamo was properly removed. 

Rossi last week rejected Karamo’s request to dismiss the suit, which is still expected to go to a full trial in June. 

Other plaintiffs include Michigan GOP Administrative Vice Chair Ali Hossein, Coalitions Vice Chair Hassan Nehme, 8th Congressional District Chair Anne DeLisle and other state committee members who voted to remove Karamo.

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