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‘JTC put the cart before the horse’ by BETH ALTENA “This court has no duty to accept, even in part, any Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) “decision” because the JTC does not have the power to decide how and whether to discipline a judge…”< Those words summed up much of the majority opinion from the Michigan Supreme Court over whether Rockford Judge Steve Servaas has vacated or been removed from his office. Nineteen months after Servaas was told he must resign or face public humiliation, the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled he will keep his position of 35 years. The 91-page ruling was released after the judges made public their decision at 11 p.m. Friday, July 31, the last day they had to come to a decision. It said the JTC had “put the cart before the horse,” in acting as if it had the authority to oust a sitting judge. It is the end of over a year-and-a-half of publicity, accusations and the possibility that all Servaas rulings in recent years could be invalid. It also cost the Rockford judge $56,000 personally in legal costs—that on top of $100,000 in costs covered by county insurance.< Servaas still believes the fiasco all came from his disagreement over moving from the Rockford court location to a new building. The ruling overturned an earlier decision that said Servaas had vacated his office by moving outside his district, and also accused him of misconduct. “It looks like the Supreme Court came down over political lines,” he said. “Maybe I’m naive about politics, but I didn’t expect that.” Four of the seven judges—three supported by democrats and one moderate Republican—agreed that Servaas could not and should not be removed from office. The other three, and one of the four, submitted separate opinions. Almost all commented unfavorably on the actions of Paul Fischer, chair of the Judicial Tenure Commission. “For me this is the end of it,” said Servaas. “For Fischer, it’s the beginning. It’s his chance to go through this and see what happens.” Fischer has a grievance against him filed by Grand Rapids Bar Association members. In addition, one of the Supreme Court judges who ruled for Servaas also wrote specifically regarding Fischer and the JTC. Justice Elizabeth Weaver […]
‘This is truly a last resort’ Not fighting the state on this could cost Plainfield Township as much as $8 million, advised attorney Douglas Van Essen of Silver & Van Essen Litigation and Counseling. The Plainfield Township Board voted unanimously to enter into a lawsuit with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) during its Monday, August 3 meeting. According to Van Essen, the state has changed its mind on whether a lagoon in the township is a state body of water. He said that on June 30 the head of the DEQ’s water management division told the township the lake had been reclassified as a state body of water, in part because of its size, in part because of the thriving fish and wildlife population it hosts. Under the new designation, the township will no longer be able to discharge lime slurry used in treating water into the lake. The reclassification could include removal of the sediment so far deposited, and require the creation of a new lagoon. This would land lock the township’s water plant and limit the ability to provide water to residents in the future. It could cost the township millions, Van Essen said. Van Essen stressed that the lime is not a pollutant, and is not dangerous. It is the same product used in treating the water that township residents drink. The township has been using the lagoon since 1988 for discharge. At that time, Van Essen said, the DEQ said the lake was not a state body of water and could be used for such a purpose. He stated that the law has not changed, only the opinion of the DEQ officials. Coit Gravel Company owns the lagoon, located behind Family Fare on Northland Drive. Finished with mining from the location, the gravel company agreed to sell the lagoon to the township for $880,000. The sale would be financed by the gravel company for ten years and would allow the continued deposit of slurry. “This will have to be settled in the courts,” Van Essen said. Building another lagoon is possible. The Plainfield Township water treatment property on Plainfield Avenue has room for a smaller lagoon. However, that land was taken through eminent domain because the township projects it […]
Event has ‘best music lineup ever’ Started in 1996, Celtic Festival in downtown Rockford continues to draw thousands, and this year—with what organizer Chris Murphy calls ‘the best music lineup ever’—is sure to be a crowd pleaser. On Saturday, August 8, Celtic festivities run from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. It is the only free Celtic festival in the state and last year drew an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 visitors to downtown Rockford. There will be 20 acts, either music or dance, on two stages in the 12-hour festival. Enjoy food, Celtic-related item vendors and live action by knights and assorted characters provided by the Society of Creative Anachronism (SCA). Typically the SCA members move through the crowd in dress costume, as knights, fairies, and other interesting personas. This year Murphy said a kilt maker will likely be on hand and in past years there have been displays of wool spinning, metal work and other skills of bygone eras. The staple beer tent will offer Budweiser and Guinness. Murphy is tickled to have the band The Kreellers playing during the event. The world-class band just completed music for Fuji batteries. Another top entertainment is the band The Waxies, which just won the Celtic Battle of the Bands. The Grand Rapids District Pipe Band will return for two shows.
by MITCH HARVATIN The Kent County Sheriff’s Department (KCSD), Rockford Police/Ambulance, Cannon Township Fire Department and Greater Grand Rapids Safe Kids along with Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital participated in the Free Child ID program held at Rockford Christian School, 6060 Belding Rd., on Thursday, July 30, sponsored by the Rockford Masonic Lodge #246. One hundred twenty children received a free dental impression and a CD containing a photo, video, sound-bite and digital fingerprints. Deputy Mandy Trevino from the Kent County Police Department said, “If something ever would have happened to the child, all that parent would have to do is give the officer that disc and we’d be able to download it right into our vehicles and get that information out.” “It makes me feel safer,” said Sherry Morrison, whose son and niece attended the event. Joseph Morrison, 11, thought that the teeth impression bite didn’t taste good. Other activities were included for that day, including children who got their heads sized for bike helmets. Those whose helmets didn’t fit received a new helmet courtesy of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. After fingerprints were scanned and teeth impressions made, the kids could go visit the police officers on their horses, boats, quad runners and the Mobile Crisis Command Unit that is owned by the KCSD, but used by other counties as well. “Just so the community knows what tools we have,” said Trevino. According to the Klaas Kids Foundation website, “85 percent to 90 percent of the 876,213 persons reported missing to America’s law enforcement agencies in 2000 were juveniles [persons under 18 years of age].”