U.P. Judgeships Saved

The Michigan House this week approved legislation eliminating 36 trial court judgeships in Michigan. The cuts are expected to save millions in taxpayer dollars and will happen by attrition.

The House passed the original legislation in December, which first proposed to eliminate 44 trial court judgeships but was amended to 41, retaining judgeships in Delta and Midland counties. As the legislation moved through the Senate, state Sen. Tom Casperson worked with state Reps. Matt Huuki and Ed McBroom to preserve even more Upper Peninsula judgeships.

The Senate amended the restructuring plan to eliminate 36 judgeships, sparing proposed cuts to Houghton and Delta counties, both of which were in addition to the positions which the legislators were able to spare in the House in December to Marquette and Dickinson/Menominee/Iron counties. On Tuesday, Feb. 14, the House concurred with the Senate plan. Huuki said the final restructuring saves taxpayer dollars while preserving service where it is most needed.

“Our colleagues in both chambers were receptive to the arguments made by members of the U.P. delegation and local judges who came down to testify,” said Huuki, R-Atlantic Mine. “This took a lot of fine-tuning and in the end, we were able to maintain high standards for justice in our counties.”

McBroom, R-Vulcan, said a great deal of credit should go to local officials who gathered together to promote justice for all the communities.

“The outcome is a tremendous tribute to our local officials being proactive and coordinated,” McBroom said. “Ultimately it was that evidence presented at the hearing in the U.P. which convinced enough other Representatives and Senators that the proposed cuts were unfair.”

The bipartisan legislation makes changes statewide and is the result of the 2011 Judicial Resources Recommendation report, compiled by the State Court Administrative Offices (SCAO).

“The hard fought compromise that was reached to save one half of the seats that were targeted for elimination in the U.P. struck a reasonable balance between our need to continue to reform government while also ensuring that our courts locally can continue to administer justice effectively and efficiently for residents,” Casperson said. “Thanks to the hard work, helpful input and selfless contribution of local judges throughout the U.P., we’ve been able to achieve a result that strategically balances the state’s need to reform with the local need for justice.”

Local judges were grateful for the work done by their legislators.

“I would like to thank Sen. Tom Casperson and Rep. Ed McBroom for their help,” said the Hon. Robert E. Goebel, Jr. of the Delta County Probate Court. “It will be good for the people to get proper access to the courts.”

Dickinson County District Court Judge Christopher S. Ninomiya thanked the involved legislators for maintaining a viable level of judicial resources in the Upper Peninsula.

“Without their dedication and work on this issue, the results could have been devastating for our citizenry and the justice system in the Upper Peninsula,” Ninomiya said. “To their credit, they took the time to listen to our concerns, and developed a reasonable and comprehensive solution to address this situation.

“We are all willing to roll up our sleeves, work hard and share in the sacrifice that must be made, but our mutual and primary goal was to insure the integrity of our system of justice for our citizens. And even though we are losing a judge in the 41st Circuit with these reductions, the judiciary remains absolutely committed to providing our citizens with the fair and efficient justice system that they deserve.”

The package — House Bills 5071-77, 5093-95 and 5101-08 — now goes to the governor for his signature.