MCP seeking questions from public for judge candidates.

September 9, 2020

MCP seeking questions from public for judge candidates.

Please read the following prior to submitting comments. 

LUDINGTON — On Tuesday, Nov. 3, Mason County voters will elect a new judge to serve the 79th District Court. The candidates running for the position, to replace retiring judge Pete Wadel, are Glenn Jackson III and John Middlebrook. 

Jackson is currently the 79th District Court magistrate and former chief assistant prosecutor for Mason County. Middlebrook is an assistant prosecutor with the Mason County Prosector’s Office.

Mason County Press will hold an online forum between the two candidates. We are currently accepting questions for those two candidates. Before you submit a question, please take a moment to understand the duties of the district court (which is provided below). Questions may be submitted no later than Sept. 15 to or via Facebook messenger.

District court background

The district court judge is elected for a six year term. 

In Michigan, the district court handles most traffic violations, civil disputes seeking money damages up to $25,000, landlord-tenant disputes and criminal cases in which the defendant is charged with a misdemeanor that is punishable by not more than one-year imprisonment. 

The district court judge may appoint magistrates, who set bail and accept bonds in criminal matters, accept guilty pleas, impose sentences for dog, game, traffic, motor carrier, snowmobile and boat law violations. The magistrate may also issue arrest and search warrants. Attorney magistrates may also hear small claims cases or perform other duties described in the statute, as directed by the chief judge. Mason County has an attorney magistrate.

A person 17-years-old or older, who is charged with a crime will begin his or her case with an appearance before a district court judge. In an appearance, the district court will explain the charges to the defendant along with his or her rights, and the possible consequences if convicted of the charge. The court also determines the amount and conditions of bail and collects it if the defendant is able to post a bond.

If a defendant is charged with a misdemeanor that is punishable by not more than one year in jail, the district court will conduct a trial and sentence the defendant if he or she is found guilty.

In felony cases (generally, cases that are punishable by more than one year in prison), the district court will set the bail amount and hold a preliminary examination to determine if a crime was committed and if there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed the crime. If so, the case is transferred to the circuit court for trial. Mason County is covered by the 51st Circuit Court under the judgeship of Susan Sniegowski.

District courts also contain a small claims division which handles civil cases up to $5,500. For these cases, the parties must agree to waive their right to a jury, representation by a lawyer, rules of evidence and to appeal the decision of the district judge. If the parties do not agree to these terms, the case is heard in the district court’s general civil division.

In Michigan, there are 105 district courts. The courts were established under Act 236 of 1961, which consolidated several courts of limited jurisdictions, such as traffic courts and municipal courts. 

The 79th District Court was set to be terminated at the end of this year, coinciding with Judge Wadel’s retirement. Public Act 82 of 2020, which originated as Senate Bill 754, sponsored by Sen. Curt VanderWall (R-Ludington), restored the court. 

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This story is copyrighted © 2020, 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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