‘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 […]
August 6 2009
‘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.
BridgeWay Community Church is sponsoring a totally free car wash on Saturday, August 15, in the D&W parking lot at Ten Mile Road in Rockford from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. “Everyone is welcome to join us for our free car wash. This is just our way of giving back to the community for all the blessings we receive,” commented Pastor Ron Aulbach. For further information, contact the church at (616) 874-7115.
Angela Dykes lost seven weeks of memory when she was involved in a head-on crash on M-57 near Ramsdell Road on January 22, 2008. She remembers to be thankful for her life, however, and those who came to her aid that day. On Monday, August 3, Dykes took the time to thank paramedics from Rockford Ambulance for the role they played in her survival. Dykes brought a bag of Lifesavers candies for her saviors and gave them “the rest of the story” while trying to answer some questions of her own. “Was I wearing clothes?” she asked. Of her wardrobe, only her red winter jacket and a pink boot seem to be missing. Dykes was on her way back from teaching at Spring Arbor University when a driver in the opposite direction decided to “peek” around the car he was following to see if he could pass. Instead, the SUV struck Dykes’ Volkswagen Passat head on. Among the injuries Dykes suffered were 35 broken bones. She spent the next four weeks in Butterworth Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit, another five weeks in the Continuing Care Center, and was on her back in recovery from January to July 2008. Formerly a runner, Dykes is now an inch shorter in one leg and will soon have her right ankle fused. “I’m not going to stop having fun. I don’t classify myself as disabled. I classify myself as ‘alternately abled.’” The paramedics said they were happy to have her feedback, and hear she survived. “I remember saying to Jeff, ‘There is no way she is alive in there’,” said Jamie Balcom, a paramedic with Rockford Ambulance. Rockford Ambulance was assisted in the crash by Courtland Township Fire Department. Aeromed was called but unable to respond due to weather conditions. “People don’t choose to come in for whatever reason and say thank-you. I’m here to say, ‘You did a good job’,” Dykes said.