The run for the 51st Circuit judge seat

July 16, 2014
Top, clockwise, from left: Spaniola, Sniegowski, Cooper, Glancy.

Top, clockwise, from left: Spaniola, Sniegowski, Cooper, Glancy.

MCP first ran this series of candidate interviews last month. To help educate the public, we are re-posting. 

For the first time in 36 years the 51st Circuit Court will have a new judge, beginning January 2015. Since 1979, that court has been ruled over by the Honorable Judge Richard Cooper. Cooper’s term expires at the end of this year and, by law, he must retire based on his age.

The circuit court is defined as the trial court with the broadest powers in Michigan. In general, the circuit court handles all civil cases with claims of more than $25,000 and all felony criminal cases (cases where the accused, if found guilty, could be sent to prison).

The family division of circuit court handles all cases regarding divorce, paternity, adoptions, personal protection actions, emancipation of minors, treatment and testing of infectious disease, safe delivery of newborns, name changes, juvenile offenses and delinquency, juvenile guardianship, and child abuse and neglect. In addition, the circuit court hears cases appealed from the other trial courts or from administrative agencies.  The friend of the court office is part of the family division of the circuit court and handles domestic relations cases where minor children are involved.

Though the 51st Circuit Court covers both Mason and Lake counties, it’s roles in those two counties are different.

During Gov. John Engler’s administration, Lake County’s court system was made into a trial court system, where the probate court judge oversees all cases, including criminal matters at all levels.

The circuit court, for lack of a better term, compliments the trial court in Lake County.

Mason County has three courts: Probate/family (Judge Jeff Nellis), 79th District Court (Judge Pete Wadel) and 51st Circuit Court (Judge Richard Cooper). However, by decree of the legislature, the district court will be eliminated when Judge Wadel retires and then the duties of that court will be divided among the other two Mason County courts.

Four local attorneys are running for the seat of circuit court judge. During the Aug. 5 primary election, voters will narrow that race to two. Those two names will then be placed on the Nov. 4 ballot and the new judge will officially begin on Jan. 1, 2015.

Mason County Press Editor-in-Chief Rob Alway has met with each of the four candidates and has asked them a series of questions. Not all the candidates were asked the same questions and some answers were eliminated because of redundancy. You can find the link here to each of those sessions. We will also be re-posting the interviews before the primary election.

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