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The newest member of the 36th district court bench in Detroit is believed to be the first openly gay person appointed to a judgeship in Michigan. Gov. Jennifer Granholm named Rudy Serra, 49, to the position on June 25. The Detroit resident was sworn in August 9 as one of 31 judges on the district court, one of the busiest in Michigan. Several gay rights organizations' Web sites have identified Serra as the state's first openly gay judge. But Serra told the Detroit Free Press last week, "I think it matters only because it breaks another barrier. There had to be a first woman judge. There had to be a first African-American judge. Those psychological barriers are now broken. Now, if a gay or lesbian individual comes along in the future that's qualified, it sets a precedent and demonstrates that that person can serve and do a good job. That's the significance." Serra has served on the Ferndale school board, the Oakland County Commission, and the Detroit Human Rights Commission. A licensed social worker, Serra most recently was a lawyer in private practice, specializing in civil rights, criminal defense, and consumer litigation. "He's fair, hard-working, balanced, and full of integrity," Granholm said in a statement announcing her appointment of Serra. "I know he will make the citizens of Detroit proud." Serra said he was working in his yard and missed Granholm's call offering him the judgeship. "I knew there was a vacancy on probate court, so I was up all night long thinking about what it could be," he said. "I was actually delighted with the 36th district appointment because it's a much more diverse docket." Serra has spent about 20 years practicing law in 36th district court in downtown Detroit. His training includes shadowing one of the other judges there each day. "I thought I knew most of these judges and how they operate, but everything changes from the other side of the bench, " Serra said.