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Posted on Tue, Aug 16, 2011 : 2:16 p.m.

Chief judge takes 'likely permanent' leave from Ann Arbor's 15th District Court

By Ryan J. Stanton

Chief Judge Julie Creal has left Ann Arbor's 15th District Court on indefinite medical leave at the recommendation of her doctors and says it's likely a permanent move.

Creal, one of three judges in the 15th District Court, announced her leave from the bench at the start of this week in an e-mail to fellow district court staff members.

"This has been a tough decision, but I believe it is now necessary," Creal wrote, calling it a pleasure to work with "the best group of employees in this state."

Creal, a graduate of Pioneer High School who holds a law degree from the University of Michigan, was appointed to the bench in March 1999.


Julie Creal

Details of her medical condition were not revealed in the e-mail she sent out. She could not be reached for further comment for this story.

Court Administrator Keith Zeisloft said he's not sure what the next steps will be as Creal still technically holds her seat while on medical leave.

But if the judgeship should become vacant, it would be up to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder whether to appoint a new judge.

However, some in the legal community are speculating Snyder could leave the seat vacant to save money as Michigan continues to deal with budget woes, and Zeisloft acknowledges that's a possibility. The state pays 100 percent of the costs of judges' salaries.

The city also could potentially save money in its general fund if Creal's position were to stay vacant, as each district court judge has three staff members assigned to them who are paid by the city. That includes a bailiff, a senior secretary and a court reporter.

Zeisloft said it's too early to say if those positions would go away. He noted they're all cross-trained and perform other functions in the court, such as assisting in case processing.

"I really don't want to give the impression that we have three people sitting around, because we always have something for them to do," Zeisloft said. "That being said, if we were to lose three people, there would be a savings."

Zeisloft said the total compensation for Creal’s bailiff, senior secretary and court recorder, excluding fringes and benefits, is about $114,000.

Zeisloft said he's aware a statewide judicial resource review is under way and he's not sure when it will be released or what it will say. But he said he knows the state Legislature, the Michigan Supreme Court and the governor are all interested in looking at judgeships across the state and eliminating seats where they're not needed.

A spokesperson for Snyder could not be reached for comment.

Zeisloft said overall caseloads in the 15th District Court have been trending downward for a number of years and the court's staffing — paid for out of the city's general fund — has gone from about 44 to 32 full-time employees over the last decade.

In addition to Creal, the other two 15th District Court judges are Elizabeth Hines and Christopher Easthope.

Zeisloft said the court is still busy enough that it brings in visiting judges when needed to assist with the docket. He said it hasn't been determined yet whether more visiting judges will be brought in to assist while Creal is on medical leave.

"It depends on how the dockets go," he said. "We're taking a look at them now."

Though caseloads have been trending down, Zeisloft said the largest decrease is in citations — such as traffic offenses — that typically don't get to the judges. He said the court hasn't seen as heavy a decline in misdemeanors and other cases that do go before the judges.

According to records on file with the State Court Administrative Office, the 15th District Court saw it's total caseload decrease by 6.8 percent in 2010 from the year before — though both felonies and non-traffic misdemeanors were up considerably.

However, the overall trend for most of the past decade is down.

  • In 2003, the total caseload was 50,249, including 639 felonies and 5,987 non-traffic misdemeanors.
  • In 2004, the total caseload dropped to 41,067, including 631 felonies and 5,065 non-traffic misdemeanors.
  • In 2005, the total caseload dropped again to 40,087, including 652 felonies and 4,502 non-traffic misdemeanors.
  • In 2006, the total caseload dropped significantly to 22,696, including 606 felonies and 3,167 non-traffic misdemeanors. Traffic citations were down by about 15,000 that year.
  • In 2007, the total caseload was back up to 40,507, including 14 felonies and 3,804 non-traffic misdemeanors.
  • In 2008, the total caseload ticked down to 36,361, including 17 felonies and 3,664 non-traffic misdemeanors.
  • In 2009, the total caseload was down to 31,313, including 7 felonies and 3,633 non-traffic misdemeanors.
  • In 2010, the total caseload dropped to 29,177, but there were 64 felonies and 4,346 non-traffic misdemeanors.

Of the total cases handled in 2009, in addition to the above mentioned, 4,689 were civil cases, 116 were parking related, 20,846 were misdemeanor and civil traffic cases, 253 were drunk driving related and 1,769 were non-traffic civil infractions.

Of the 29,177 cases in 2010, in addition to the above mentioned, 4,470 were civil cases, 97 were parking related, 18,346 were misdemeanor and civil traffic cases, 233 were drunk driving related, 1,621 were non-traffic civil infractions.

Creal presided over civil cases, which reports show haven't dropped off as much in the last decade. That includes landlord-tenant matters, general civil cases, small claims appeals and domestic violence cases.

However, criminal cases involving drinking and driving, which Creal presided over, are down considerably — about 50 percent, reports show.

Creal was a city planning commissioner from 1990 to 1994 and serves on the board of Dawn Farm, an agency that helps addicts and alcoholics achieve long-term recovery. She is credited for fostering the creation of and presiding over the Sobriety Court, a specialized docket that provides intensive probation supervision and treatment for repeat drunk driving offenders.

"It's just very sad if she does not return," Zeisloft said. "You're talking about someone who's spent a large portion of her life in the court and in the community doing a lot of work. She's going to be missed. It's a blow, no doubt about it, but the court's going to continue."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.



Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 11:43 p.m.

I don't know anything about Judge Creal's politics. I'm not a lawyer either. But I did have the minor misfortune to have a case that went before the 15th District Court, and the good fortune to have Judge Creal hear the case. I thought she was a credit to her office - fair and professional. I wish her a complete recovery and a long future helping the community.


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 6:29 p.m.

Here is a little more on the elimination of Judges. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 1:54 a.m.

Matt Cooper: That is a tasteless comment, particularly given the apparently serious nature of the judge's health. There is a time for levity, but this (and particularly your comment) was not it.

Matt Cooper

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 8:40 p.m.

Now. why would we want to know about judge's elimination? Isn't that a private and very personal matter? The only elimination I worry about is my own, thank you very much!

craig matteson

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 6:25 p.m.

I am very sorry to hear about Judge Creal's health difficulties. She is a thoughtful, kind, human, and fair judge. She is in my thoughts and prayers. I hope she is able to surmount her difficulties and return. If not, I hope she has peace in happiness in the new path she is to follow in life. Best wishes, and God Bless.


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 3:56 p.m.

Something is wrong with these numbers. 7 felonies out of Ann Arbor in 2009? 64 in 2010? 631 felonies in 2004 seems more realistic.


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 5:14 p.m.

You may have missed the third comment, from the reporter: &quot;Also, according to Zeisloft, the State Court Administrative Office statistics do not include about 600-700 felony cases per year that were originally filed as circuit court cases but later are sent to the 15th for adjudication. He said those cases may show up on the circuit court case count, but not on the 15th's. He said cases of that type can consume a lot of judicial time.&quot;


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 12:55 p.m.

Best of luck to you Julie. You are a great judge. Keep in touch. W &amp; D J

Lou Perry

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 12:52 p.m.

I deeply hope Judge Creal's health improves. Appearing before her a number of times, wins and losses, I found her to be extremely fair. Dealing in courts in Oakland County that are highly bias sJudge Creal is an exceptional Judge.


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 5:22 a.m.

I can only imagine what a tough decision Julie had to make. She still holds her seat, and health is always # 1. Sending her best wishes for better health in the near future.

Fat Bill

Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 3:19 a.m.

As a brief aside, the story notes the reduction in traffic cases. Obviously, when you have fewer officers on the street, you will have fewer traffic cases in the courts. I remember when, as a police dispatcher in a small city out west, I had to deal with a situation where a scheduling snafu left us with half our normal compliment of officers on New Year's Eve. We were doing all we could to contain several near riots in local establishments. The headline the next day was &quot;No DUI arrests on New Year's Eve&quot;... yeah, nobody was available for traffic patrol...


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 12:34 a.m.

In the landlord tenant case experiences I've learned about due to her overly generalized, assuming and highly conservative rule justice was indeed blind under her watch. It's now rather ironical that the absence is due to health issues as some of case outcomes I am familiar with were due to her being entirely dismissive of others substantial health issues in favor of supporting her status quo conservative supporters (finance &amp; property owners). On a park bench or any other serves a better &quot;occupation&quot;. Perhaps from a decent family and maybe a kind hearted person her position of power over the years was assuredly most unfortunate for many &quot;lowly&quot; tenants. It isn't slander if it is the truth.


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 5:34 p.m.

I've represented hundreds of indigent tenants before her for more than ten years. Each got a fair shake in front of her under the law.

John A2

Tue, Aug 16, 2011 : 11:49 p.m.

Sad day indeed, my friend, sad day indeed!


Tue, Aug 16, 2011 : 9:43 p.m.

That's a huge bummer. I've known Judge Julie for many many years. She is a shining example of what a judge should be, fair, impartial and a keen ability to interpret the law and enforce it in a manner in which it was intended. I for one, will truly miss her in the judicial community. I also have to add, I believe she is by far the cutest judge I've ever had the pleasure to see also. Good luck and take care and get better.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 12:18 p.m.

gd64, you're funny! Are you sure you're not the reincarnation of Leo Gorcey?


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 2:09 a.m.

@K ..., and all the rest of your accounts, you need to get out more. I mean really. Also, if you want to interface with DBH and the other conspiratoids, remind them their confusion stems from their inability to focus beyond the party salt-lick rather than anything else and they can be more productive watching paint dry then to wait for the public to rationalize giving their OWN answers to the same's question, the time out of day. Have a nice one, though.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 1:23 a.m.

Good point, KJMClark. I don't think I have ever seen 39 and 27 votes for replies to comments before. Votes for comments, yes, but not for replies to comments. And for these comments? Suspicious. And I continue to await a response to my request for clarification from gb64 regarding my confusion regarding the reply submitted 8/16/11 at 7:26 PM.


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 11:55 p.m.

I'm thinking the 64 at the end of Gbs name refers to the number of accounts he/she has made to vote up those comments that are half gibberish.


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 1:50 a.m.

Sorry, call it like I see it breath. You ever been complimented before without throwing the sexist hammer at everyone? If you think that's sexist, wow.....we need to get rid of almost 99% of all magazines and publications. Still think she's cute and how do you know if I'm male or female? Is it still sexist if im female?


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 1:15 a.m.

godsbreath64, &quot;Your's is a great tribute to how eschew Michigan's judicial communism really is.&quot; That sentence makes no sense to me. Among other confusing items is the fact that eschew is a verb meaning to avoid or shun. Please clarify. Thanks.


Tue, Aug 16, 2011 : 11:26 p.m.

Thanks for the sexism. Did you have anything else to offer? Your's is a great tribute to how eschew Michigan's judicial communism really is.


Tue, Aug 16, 2011 : 9:09 p.m.

It is good to Julie away from her authority. She represents the quasi-monarchy which allowed her to ignore gainsaid constitutional law with reliability.


Thu, Aug 18, 2011 : 3:16 a.m.

Sorry K ..., one account, one vote. We'll skip why you arrived at that telling inquiry. You want to proofread my writing, be my guest. I never valued it when the truth is so obvious. The brown-shirts were dispatched to cast aspersion and division as the Germans built their machine in the 30s. Too bad they didn't have your technology, huh? As I correctly indicated, there was likely more to this story in that pure partisan Robert Young Jr, sitting Chief Justice of Michigan's Supreme Count jumped on his soapbox today to have his legislative brethren hatchet away local judgeships ad crumenam. I do hope Julie can get through her alleged health issues, if they are in fact real. I also hope she is not bowing out for secondary consideration of her partisan ambitions. She was never elected, only reelected and facilitating appointment of her replacement by an overly illustrated dangerous governor(as the one who appointed her was as well) is a suspicion as valid, as grave to our community and legal institutions. But again Bobby is back in the saddle with his signature civic engineering by exploiting the turn in economy. So when it rebounds, the incidental policy change by the legislature will further deprive the source of the constituted government of Michigan, also known as the People of Michigan their meaningful day to honestly resolve their disputes as Americans have for centuries. Consider the burdens on the poor, poor judicial community that remain - they will cry . Bobby is only concerned with the boilerplate of the counter-republican platform whether the constitutions and their charge control, or not. Get well Julie.


Wed, Aug 17, 2011 : 11:34 p.m.

I can't decide if I'm more concerned about your fairly incoherent comments, or the fact that a number of people understood them and liked them enough to vote them up.


Tue, Aug 16, 2011 : 11:24 p.m.

Michigan's judiciary abandones their constitutional charge without pause and in doing so invites the contempt of the public at large. Julie had many problems returning that charge as law abiding judges freely accept. In review of the commentary to date, this is just party first with all the gloss. Richard Dale Snyder illustrates he is very dangerous to Michigan and if Julie was worth her salt, she would stay on leave until a law abiding executive may arrive to put Michigan's jurisprudence before party, instead of vice versa. Her choices here will define if she is just a party girl forever chasing secondary ambitions or someone who cares about her community and their legal institutions.


Tue, Aug 16, 2011 : 9:53 p.m.

Uh.. What?

Boscu I. Boscowitz

Tue, Aug 16, 2011 : 7:58 p.m.

Dear Judge Creal - All best wishes for the best of health ahead for you, and success in whatever your next endeavor is. You should leave your current position knowing that you have done good work and made a difference for many. Again, all the best.

Ryan J. Stanton

Tue, Aug 16, 2011 : 7:56 p.m.

Please note I added a sentence to the story about the total compensation for Creal's bailiff, senior secretary and court recorder, excluding fringes and benefits. According to Zeisloft, it's about $114,000. A few caveats Zeisloft adds: The judges' staffs are cross-trained and, in addition to their direct judge-related duties, they also assist in other court departments, most notably in case management. Creal's court recorder, for example, also is the project coordinator for the grant-supported Sobriety Court program. Zeisloft said this is part of the court's effort to make the best use of all staff at all times. Consequently the permanent loss of a judgeship may not necessarily mean a like reduction in total court staff, he said. Also, according to Zeisloft, the State Court Administrative Office statistics do not include about 600-700 felony cases per year that were originally filed as circuit court cases but later are sent to the 15th for adjudication. He said those cases may show up on the circuit court case count, but not on the 15th's. He said cases of that type can consume a lot of judicial time.


Tue, Aug 16, 2011 : 7:51 p.m.

@Ordmad: Agreed. Her father is an excellent attorney and she is also related to Mayor Creal of many years ago. One of her major contibutions was recruiting Chris Easthope to fill Ann Matson's seat. She also played an impotant role in development of the police/court project. A key question is who, if anyone, will replace her. There are number of Ann Arbor attorneys with ties to the Ann Arbor and county GOP that may make excellent candidates for Rick Snyder to choose from. Look possibly for someone with ties to Domino's Pizza or McKInley Associates or even one of the downtown &quot;silk stocking&quot; law firms.


Tue, Aug 16, 2011 : 7:33 p.m.

A sad day for the County's legal community. A great judge and human being by every measure.