Judge Steven Servaas

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 man faces charges on alleged abduction

October 8, 2009 // 0 Comments

by RANDY R. COTTON A preliminary hearing in the case of People vs. Andrew Chezlek took place Wednesday, Sept. 30 in the 63rd District Court of Rockford before Judge Steven Servaas. The 22-year-old Rockford resident was initially charged and arraigned on charges of kidnapping, unlawful imprisonment, criminal sexual conduct in the second degree and felony arms charges after he allegedly tied up and assaulted his “on again, off again” girlfriend at the home of his parents in Rockford. Assistant Kent County Prosecutor Monica Jeneske informed the court during the hearing that she was planning to drop the charges of kidnapping and transfer the case to the circuit court in Grand Rapids on several charges including possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony and criminal sexual conduct. She also argued that she would add to the list possession of methadone and cocaine and unlawful imprisonment. During the initial phase of the hearing, there was debate over the issue of sequestration when Jeneske argued that she would like to ask some of the potential witnesses who were seated in the courtroom. Both sides finally approached the bench and agreed to have witnesses leave. The 23-year-old Grand Rapids woman who was the victim in this crime was called to the witness stand and was subject to four hours of testimony by both the prosecution and defense. She initially stated, “I am a 23-year-old student and I met him at Grand Rapids Community College when Andrew and I had a class together.” She also testified that Chezlek and she “were in a sexual and romantic relationship since 2007.” Continuing her testimony, she said they both “used drugs together, including methadone and heroin” and that they “broke up in May of 2008.” Following their separation, she said that they continued to have occasional contact by phone and text message while Chezlek was out of the country. The victim testified, “[On Thursday, Sept. 3] I was planning to get together with the defendant and was going to hang out and watch a movie at his house.” She said she had been out drinking that night and showed up at the defendant’s home after midnight. According to her testimony, when she arrived at the Chezlek home, the defendant’s mother […]