Appeals panel rules against full time judge in Rockford

Next up is consideration for Supreme Court decision

The City of Rockford’s most recent attempt to keep a full-service court in town was turned down by the Michigan Court of Appeals, but City Manager Michael Young hopes the Michigan Supreme Court may see things differently.

“We expected this,” Young said of the decision, reached months after the appeals court heard the case on October 6, 2009. Young is more hopeful the Supreme Court may have a different ruling. He said a 1970s case similar to this saw a split decision on court consolidation. Another town fought to keep a court presence from consolidation was denied because the town, Centerline, did not warrant enough judicial business to keep a full court busy. This is not the case for the Rockford court, which was among the busiest in the state.

“We filed a petition to bypass the court of appeals,” Young said. He stated that the appeals court did not have the authority to overrule a precendent set by the Supreme Court. Although the Supreme Court may not chose to hear the Rockford case, Young hopes it will. The City has 45 days to file an application to go to the state’s highest court. It could hear the case possibly within months.

Two years into the battle to keep the court in Rockford, the City has spent about $40,000 on the case. Young said the cost of going on to the Supreme Court is very minor. He believes the case has been a valid use of taxpayer dollars because so many people consider this is an important issue. “We consulted with our attornies prior to doing this and they said it wouldn’t go over $50,000,” Young stated.

Currently Kent County is remodeling about one-third of the Rockford court building and plans to have a part time magistrate work from the space. The City purchased the building in late 2009 for $10 with free rent for the County for 75 years. Should Rockford win its bid to move a full-time judge back to the location, the property will immediately transfer back to County ownership, according to the transfer agreement.

Staff vacated the building late last year to a consolidated courthouse in Grand Rapids township. “We are not like a boxer standing in a ring taking our hits,” Young said regarding the recent decision by the appeals court. He said the process is going as the City expected as it works toward a final decision in the Supreme Court.

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