Rockford 63rd District Court

Residents, officers already feeling pinch of closed courtroom

November 25, 2009 // 0 Comments

When state financial conditions deteriorated and plans for a third judge in the immediate future dissolved, Servaas made vocal his disapproval of the move. A public falling out took place between the two existing judges, Chief Judge Sara Smolenski and himself. Servaas believes there is plenty to prove that the county was behind an attempt to have him removed. If he was removed, there would be no contest to the court consolidation. One example of some inappropriate and suspicious behavior was that at the hearing over Servaas’ misconduct—of which he was cleared—was that a Kent County attorney was assisting accuser Paul Fischer. Now that Servaas has been cleared of wrongdoing, the question of the extent and timing of the new court presence is first and foremost. Serving his last term due to age limits, the issue goes beyond Servaas and to of what a court presence will consist. Currently, a judge ruled there must be a court presence in Rockford, but failed to define what that court presence must be. It is the county’s contention that Smolenski has sole discretion in determining the amount of presence that fulfills the ruling, as well as creating a timeline for those services. It is expected that either party—the City of Rockford hoping for a full court presence including a judge; or Kent County, believing a part-time magistrate will suffice—will appeal to the Supreme Court. Rockford City Manager Michael Young, along with Servaas, wonders why the county decided to close the building, move out staff, and begin remodeling before the case is decided. “They act like there is a fire under this,” said Servaas. Young said it puts law enforcement in a confusing situation. “If our police need a warrant signed, they have to go to Grand Rapids,” he said. “We are supposed to have a court presence here, but now the court is closed. How do the police plan for that?” Last year, the union members of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department voted unanimously against moving services from the Rockford location. They believed it was a safety issue to have northern-serving law enforcement out of their territories longer to conduct court business so far away. Kent City, Cedar Springs, and Solon and Oakfield townships all also passed legislation […]