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Posted on Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 12:30 p.m.

Governor to fill vacant judge seat in Ann Arbor's 15th District Court this month

By Ryan J. Stanton

Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to fill a vacant judgeship in Ann Arbor's 15th District Court sometime this month, his office confirmed.

The vacancy arose after Chief Judge Julie Creal resigned for health reasons in November, three months after going on indefinite medical leave.

Creal is one of three judges in the 15th District Court. The others are Elizabeth Hines and Christopher Easthope.


Rick Snyder

Sara Wurfel, a spokeswoman for the governor's office, confirmed Snyder is planning to fill the seat based on analysis and recommendations from the State Court Administrative Office.

The governor's office, through the State Bar of Michigan, began accepting applications for the judgeship on Nov. 15. The posting closed Dec. 9.

"There's a whole review, screening and interview process now under way," Wurfel wrote in an email. "The governor hopes to fill the judgeship sometime in January."

Among those who have confirmed they applied for the position are local attorney Tom Bourque, Assistant County Prosecutor Eric Gutenberg, Chief Assistant County Prosecutor Joe Burke, 15th District Court Magistrate Colleen Currie and Brad Darling, who is a law clerk to a federal magistrate in Detroit.

When asked for the full list of candidates, Wurfel said the governor's office cannot share the names or other details of the applicants because of confidentiality and privacy requirements.

"I can share that the interest was strong," she said.

Court Administrator Keith Zeisloft said he's looking forward to getting the bench back up to full strength and eager to hear from the governor's office who the new judge will be.

"It's just as likely somebody is going to show up at the front door and say, 'Hi, I'm your new judge,'" he said. "This is just one of those things where you sit back and let the governor do what the governor is going to do. We're just waiting for the process to take its course."

Zeisloft said Creal's resignation is technically effective Jan. 12. He also said he's heard there are going to be interviews before the State Bar Association in Lansing on Jan. 10.

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 felonies and misdemeanors mentioned above, 4,689 were civil cases, 116 were parking related, 20,846 were misdemeanor and civil traffic cases, 253 were drunken driving related and 1,769 were non-traffic civil infractions.

Of the 29,177 cases in 2010, 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's docket has been covered in her absence primarily by Hines and Easthope, and to a lesser degree by retired Judge Ann Mattson and by 14B Judicial District Court Judge Charles Pope. Magistrate Colleen Currie also has helped carry some of the load.

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 email newsletters.


Not a valid excuse for a newspaper

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 3:56 p.m.

A bit of a side-question, but can anyone tell me why felonies were down an average 94% in the 2007-2010 years over 2003-2006? That's a HUGE reduction. Does this reflect an actual decrease in crime, a change in charging policies, or something else? It's worth a news story, or investigation to say the least.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11:49 a.m.

This is a sad statement of our society when one of the busiest sectors of our government is the legal and criminal systems. It seems as we progress more towards socialism, as driven by our current president, wages drop, job availability drops, more citizens need a helping hand and the need for welfare rises. On top of this, it seems that crime rises too.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 1:25 a.m.

Can the author better explain what happened in the handling of cases around 2007? I highly doubt that there were suddenly 500 less felonies charged each year. What felonies go to the 15th District as opposed to the 22nd Circuit court? Why a sudden drop?

Not a valid excuse for a newspaper

Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 4:05 p.m.

Youwhine - my thoughts as well.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 3:59 a.m.

All felony cases are initially filed in the District Court system, which was created by the Michigan Constitution of 1963. At that point the Code of Criminal Procedure grants the defendant the opportunity to submit a plea and sets a preliminary examination hearing where the County Prosecutor or Attorney General must present some proof as to each elements of the crime or crimes charged; the defense attorney is allowed to cross-examine witnesses called by the prosecution at his juncture. If the District Judge finds probable cause to find that a crime was committed and the defendant committed the felony charged he is bound over to the circuit court for a jury trial; insufficient evidence of such warrants a dismissal of charges where the court finds a lack of probable cause. The District Court may set a bond with or without conditions for the release of the accused.

Donald Wilson

Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 10:53 p.m.

I would like to see someone that DOESN'T have a law degree. Strange? Maybe, but I think it'd be nice to start having the non-lawyers return to the benches.


Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

My guess is the only qualification that will matter to Synder is the political party he or she belongs to. I wish a person that was viewed as an independent would be picked.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

What does a political party have to do with being qualified to be a fair and honest judge?


Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 8:33 p.m.

Governor Engler picked a huge number of Democrats to fill judgeships in the 1990s. But you're right in saying GOP attorneys will have an inside track.


Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.

Julie Creal tried to block the prosecution when crimes were committed against me. Others with meritorious cases similarly have wrong things happen. I don't know how much I can write without being censored. Please read the Ann Arbor News article &quot;Excuses, excuses, he's heard them all.&quot; Fight a ticket and you have a less than 9 percent chance of winning. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 7:54 p.m.

I would like to see an honest and competent local attorney like Jim Fink or Carol Kuhnke appointed. Or maybe Patricia Gravel-Henkel, a Harvard Law grad who ran in 2006 for a circuit court seat. I think Eric Gutenberg is a Democrat, so Snyder may not pick him - but a capable and intelligent assistant prosecutor. He is a better choice than Burke - in my opinion. The Governor's office often picks an attorney who previously ran for the seat in that court - and Eric fits the bill in this regard. Colleen Currie is a decent person, but spent most her career as a circuit court research attorney - little trial experience. City attorneys always have an inside track so Steve Postema could be picked - but he works for a Democratic mayor. Governor Snyder needs to be careful so as to avoid another judge creating controversy. We have had our share in Ann Arbor in recent years.


Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 8:28 p.m.

Stephen Postema has &quot;an inside track&quot;. That is not a good thing. We need someone who will take a fresh look at the Situations the City has been in and will take a different road.


Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 6:51 p.m.

There is so little information on judges that the average citizen doesn't know who is good and who isn't. Maybe our online media can do some digging.


Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 6:27 p.m.

Lets hope he appoints someone that believes that corporations are people. The corporations need more judges to put their corporate agendas first.


Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 11:11 p.m.

well, if you don't believe that corporations are people, this also applies when crimes are committed...right?


Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

Governor Rick may agree with you.


Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 6:26 p.m.

Looking at the numbers of such a lowered case load consistently over the years, why are there 2 Court Admnistrators. Does the city really need to pay for a lead Administrator and an assistant Administrator. The former Administrator handled bigger numbers by himself.


Wed, Jan 4, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

Yes, especially when tax payers are paying, why not put in place an assistant for every position. Who would stop this from happening?


Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.

I'm not sure why my comment was deleted. Basically, let's hope for an ethical judge.


Tue, Jan 3, 2012 : 7:56 p.m.

As in innocent until proven guilty ... ethical until proven guilty of unethical acts ?