State agency wants to eliminate two U.P. Judgeships

State agency wants to eliminate two U.P. Judgeships

LANSING — The future of two judgeships in the Upper Peninsula are in doubt after a recent evaluation by a state agency.

A report by from the State Court Administrative Office says five district court judgeships are slated to be eliminated, including the court servicing Houghton, Baraga and Keweenaw Counties. The plan would be to have other judges from circuit and probate court sit in on cases as needed.

97th District Court Judge Mark Wisti says judges are not interchangeable.

The Honorable Judge Mark Wisti said, “It would be as if you had three teachers at the school—one of them taught math, one of them taught community arts or shop, and another one taught science and all of a sudden you said ‘We only need to have two teachers here because of the numbers. Well, the math teacher can go teach arts.’ Things just don’t work that way.”

The state says their recommendations are based on workloads but that is looking at the total number of cases handled by all three courts, but state constitution prohibits the elimination of circuit and probate court judges.

Judge Wisti said, “If you look at the numbers, this court is actually busier—and not to say that circuit and probate aren’t, but they’re looking at us just because this is the only one they can cut.”

A District Court Judgeship in Delta County would also be eliminated according to the report. The state legislature would still have to approve the proposed changes. The report said judgeships would only be eliminated through attrition when the current judge vacates the office.