Judge candidate profile: Susan Kasley Sniegowski

July 16, 2014
Susan Sniegowski

Susan Sniegowski

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief. 

Susan Kasley Sniegowski was Mason County’s first female prosecutor, serving in that position for 4 years. She has been practicing law locally since 1999. She owns a private practice and also is contracted with the City of Ludington as its Freedom of Information Coordinator. 

Sniegowski, 46, grew up in Ludington and attended Ludington Area Schools through her junior year in high school. Her family then moved away and she graduated from Dow Midland High School in 1986. 

She received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University where she majored in journalism. She earned her law degree from University of Denver.

She currently serves as the chairperson of the Mason County Bar Association, volunteer attorney for the COVE Legal Clinic, annual support committee for Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital, Franklin Elementary PTC, and is on the board of directors of West Shore Youth for Christ.  She lives in Ludington with her husband Tom and their son.

MCP: What do you believe to be the root causes for the high numbers of repeat offenders? 

SS: In the local court system you do have a tendency to see the same people. I would think the root cause of repeat offenders is a disregard for the law in general. I think to many the consequences do not necessarily matter when making decisions. They are going to do what they want and do what they want without looking at the consequences. It’s a lifestyle for some people.

MCP: Do you believe the composition of juries adequately and fairly reflects society at large? Why or why not? If not, what can we do to change this? 

SS: Overall, yes. I have done over 20 jury trials and in paneling the juries in each of those cases, we have had a pretty good cross section of society. It always surprises me that you think you know everybody around here and you really don’t.

MCP: Do you have a plan regarding improving court procedures and efficiency?

SS: I have a lot of ideas to improve our local court system but the court systems don’t have a lot of money. I personally believe there are lot of ways we could dramatically improve our court system. I want to look at the changes that have a lot of impact. I think right now the biggest impact is the use of video testimony. When you have an expert who is coming from 3 hours away or more and have the ability to cut down on those expenses, that could make the courts far more efficient. We have that technology in the courtroom right now but the use is limited.

MCP: What do you perceive as the greatest obstacles to justice, if any? 

SS: Time and money. When I am talking about justice I am talking about the court system overall, civil and criminal. I think the ability to present everything in court is limited by your ability to use whatever resources you have to get into court.

MCP: Do you believe there is such a thing as a “victimless crime?” If so, what offenses would you place in this category?

SS: No, I don’t think there is such a thing as a victimless crime.

MCP: As a prospective judge, what do you consider your greatest strengths?

SS: My greatest strengths are my level of experience, my ability to listen and comprehend what I am hearing and to make decisions quickly.

MCP: Describe your most difficult case. 

SS: It is difficult to pick a hardest case because I have handled cases that are very difficult, but difficult for different reasons. Some technically difficult, some procedurally difficult and some emotionally difficult. I have had cases that that included all three. Specifically I recently handled a family law case that was procedurally difficult because aspects of the case were being handled in the Circuit Court in three different counties and the cases had to be coordinated with each other. The local decision was appealed to the Court of Appeals and then came back to the local Circuit Court for further proceedings. The case was technically difficult because it involved expert witnesses with very specialized knowledge regarding the subject matter. It was emotionally difficult because the case originated because of the death of young child and during the case another child was killed in a car accident. I would say that with everything that was going on within this one case and the almost three years it was ongoing, this was the most difficult case I have handled.

MCP: What are the pros and cons of going to the bench as compared to practicing law? 

SS: The pros of going to the bench is that you get to really look at all sides. You get to focus on how to apply the law and how to proceed in a particular case. I think that is really a positive side of the job. The cons of the job are that your interaction with the litigants has to be limited to the courtroom and official proceedings. You don’t get the opportunity to develop those relationships with parties that you do in private practice.

MCP: What is your general judicial philosophy? 

SS: The judge’s job is to follow the law and to apply the facts of the law in a way that is fair and impartial and to treat people with dignity and respect in doing so.

MCP: Why should voters support you rather than your opponents? 

SS: I have the most comprehensive range of experience. I currently handle criminal law and family law. I practice personal protective cases. My experience is consistent with what the circuit court judge does. I’m not just limited to one area of practice and I have significant experience across the board. I am also familiar with the people of Mason and Lake counties.

MCP: Why do you want the job? 

SS: I have wanted to be a judge for a long time. It’s a goal I have worked towards. I really enjoy the law and learning about it. When it is your job to know and understand the law you get the chance to continually learn new things. You have to keep up to date with many new procedures in the law. I like the challenge of that. It’s a type of work that I want to do. I believe the position suits my skill level and experience level.

MCP: You were Mason County’s first female prosecutor. If elected, you would become the county’s first female judge in its 159 years. How do you feel about this? 

SS: I grew up in Ludington and I think I had excellent female role models growing up here. I have never had experiences that limited to strive for my goals. I would be honored to be the first female judge in Mason and Lake counties, and to be the next circuit judge.

 

 

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