63rd District

Court battle ends with Supreme Court denial

July 30, 2010 // 0 Comments

A long fight to keep a full service courthouse in Rockford has ended with a denial to hear the case by the Michigan Supreme Court. With one justice, Elizabeth Weaver dissenting, the seven member court denied considering the case, citing “We are not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed by this Court.” The denial was issued July 16. “This has taught me one thing for sure, and maybe I’m naive, but justice isn’t blind, it’s political,” said City Manager Michael Young. Rockford initiated a lawsuit against Judge Sara Smolenski which was joined by Kent County. Many northern communities passed resolutions against removing the northern office of the 63rd District from Rockford to a consolidated location on Knapp Street off the East Beltline. A court presence, as required by law, remains in the former court building but is now limited to only four hours a month of service. Rockford, and Judge Steven Servaas, the judge who served his whole career from the Rockford court, believe legally Kent County is required to offer more service, if not a complete court, to the northern communities from the Rockford court location. They hoped an appeal to the Supreme Court could bring the complete court—judge and all—back to Rockford. “We fought it, we litigated it and we did not prevail,” Young said. “This is a huge loss of services for not just Rockford, but all of the northern communities.” Young said the end of the fight means that all the judges of the district, now just Servaas and Smolenski, are located in a facility that is in the southern half of the district. As cases are divided up, Smolenski is presiding over cases from the northern communities and Servaas is presiding over cases originating in the southern half of the district. “You can’t even vote to remove a judge if you don’t like what they are doing,” Young explains of the significance of this situation. “I find it incredibly ironic that they can say that Servaas has to live in the northern half of the district, but he can’t work here,” Young noted. “Tell me how that makes any sense at all.” Kent County Commissioner Roger Morgan said there are no hard feelings over the court issue and […]

Rockford court case argued in Appeals

October 8, 2009 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL This past Tuesday, October 6, found Rockford officials in Lansing in a Michigan Court of Appeals courtroom. Rockford was there to appeal a Circuit Court decision that allowed the current two courts of the 63rd District to be combined into one courthouse in Grand Rapids Township. Your reporters were witness to the morning’s proceedings. Readers should take note of the fact that we don’t pretend to be courtroom reporters. What follows are our interpretations and observations of what occurred that morning. At promptly 10 a.m. the three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals entered the courtroom. The presiding judge, Michael J. Talbot, said, “Good morning.” Hearing no response he said, “We are in for a long day.” In our opinion, that response set the tone for the rest of the proceeding. Judge Kurtis T. Wilder and Judge Michael J. Kelly comprised the rest of the panel. Talbot began by saying that Circuit Courts of Appeal are courts where oral arguments are heard both pro and con. The justices are already well informed on the substance of the cases that come before them. For the most part they are looking for any new information that may assist them in their decision process. Questions may or may not be asked of the attorneys representing each side. There are no witnesses called and, hence, no cross-examinations in an Appeals courtroom. First up was Steven Stapleton, an attorney representing the City of Rockford. Stapleton had barely gotten his first words out when Talbot admonished him to, “Speak up and look up.” Stapleton was somewhat taken aback but quickly recovered and advanced a plea to disqualify Talbot from ruling on whether Rockford should keep a full-time court. Last year, Talbot was one of nine members of the Judicial Tenure Commission that decided that Rockford Judge Steven Servaas should be removed from office. The Commission was of the opinion that Servaas had vacated his bench by residing outside his electoral district and that he also had engaged in inappropriate doodling and improper humor with female staff. The final arbiter in the matter, the State Supreme Court, was later to find in favor of Servaas, allowing him to stay on the bench. Stapleton, in advancing the motion […]