Jackson takes on magistrate duties as Baker retires.

April 9, 2019

Glenn Jackson III

Jackson takes on magistrate duties as Baker retires.

#MasonCountyNews

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief.

LUDINGTON — The Mason County court system will see some major changes over the next two years. While there has been a lot of planning for the past several years, as the county prepares to eliminate the 79th District Court, one of the first major visible changes to the public is taking place this month with the turnover of the magistrate position. Magistrate Paddy Baker will be retiring the end of the month and be replaced by Glenn Jackson III, who had most recently served as chief assistant prosecuting attorney.

Jackson, as an attorney, will take on many duties that were once held by District Court Judge Pete Wadel. Wadel said the elimination of the district court is the result of a review of the state’s court system by the Michigan Supreme Court years ago. Wadel said the review resulting in the re-alignment of courts so that district courts and circuit courts served the same counties, particularly in rural areas.

Retiring Mason County Magistrate Patrica Baker

“This meant that Oceana County realigned with Newago County and Mason County with Lake County in 2003,” Wadel said. “The principle purpose, I believe, was to bring about efficiencies through concurrent jurisdiction plans that enabled district, circuit and probate judges to share responsibilities, i.e. circuit could hear district matters and probate matters, probate judge could cover circuit and district, and district could cover circuit and probate.”

The next step was to “right size” the judiciary by examining the number of cases within these jurisdictions and determine if there were too many or too few judges to handle the caseload, Wadel said.

“Some regions have grown in population and caseload and some have stayed the same or declined,” Wadel said. “The legislature eliminated misdemeanor traffic offenses, among other things, and changed them to civil infractions. Our caseload numbers have dropped since I was first elected in part because of legislative changes and in part because we have not grown in population like other areas. 

“Based upon the numbers of cases across all our courts, the analysis indicated that (Mason County) could get by with one less judge.”

Circuit and probate courts are provided for in the state’s constitution, meaning those courts could not be eliminated. 

Judge Pete Wadel

“The district court is a statutory court that can be created or eliminated by legislation,” Wadel said. “To reduce the number of judges, the legislature eliminated the district court judgeship (in Mason County) effective upon my retirement and assigned the district court duties for Mason and Lake counties to the probate judges in Mason County and Lake County respectively.”

To compensate for the loss of a judge, many of the previous judge duties will now be handled by the attorney magistrate. Baker, who is not an attorney, has handled many of the duties allowed by law. Jackson will take on more.

“Magistrate Baker came to the position with a wealth of experience from working in juvenile court for Mason County Probate Judge Ben Bourriseau and in the prosecuting attorney’s for Prosecutor Cris Van Oosterum,” Judge Wadel said. “She is an exceptionally hard worker, giving the court 24/7 coverage during her entire 15-plus year tenure as magistrate.  She demonstrates great concern and compassion for those going through the court system.

“Wherever possible she has tried to change lives to help people never to return to court, to become free from substance abuse and receive appropriate mental health care.  She has helped shepherd the court through changes in technology and reporting – both of which help us manage the courts responsibilities more efficiently and effectively.  Her retirement leaves us with a significant void to be filled.”

The magistrate is a judicial officer, created by statute, and serving at the pleasure of the chief judge, Wadel said.  “Magistrates assist with district court matters, doing arraignments, arrest warrants, search warrants, pleas and sentencing for simple (90 day) misdemeanors, civil infractions and weddings.

“Non-attorney magistrates cannot perform as many duties as attorney magistrates.  Since I have been on the bench we have used non-attorney magistrates very effectively.  With the elimination of the judgeship we need to expand the magistrate duties to try to avoid overburdening the probate judge (Judge Jeff Nellis) who will assume district court duties in 2021.  Those additional duties will include small claims cases and anything else authorized by the legislature.”

Jackson was appointed to the position recently to work with Baker prior to her retirement.

“Glenn Jackson brings significant experience to the magistrate position, having litigated cases in district court upon his hire in the prosecuting attorney’s office,” Wadel said. “He has knowledge and experience in criminal law matters preparing arrest warrants, search warrant and handling civil infractions. His experience will help him get on top of his responsibilities quickly. He also has significant experience in family court matters involving child and protective service cases that will transfer well when dealing with misdemeanors.  As an attorney, he will be able to assume the additional responsibilities that were not authorized for non-attorney magistrates.”

Lauren R. Kreinbrink replaced Jackson as chief assistant prosecuting attorney.

This story is copyrighted © 2019, all rights reserved by Media Group 31, LLC, PO Box 21, Scottville, MI 49454. No portion of this story or images may be reproduced in any way, including print or broadcast, without expressed written consent.

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