Governor Granholm Failed to Interview in Barnes Appointment, Jacobs Claims
Judicial Candidates Explore Their Qualifications in Mainly Calm Bay Forum
The recent appointment of one Bay County District Judge was a flawed process, according to Stevens J. Jacobs, one of five candidates.
Mr. Jacobs commented at a Bay Justice Forum sponsored by well known local criminal defense attorney Ed Czuprynski on July 16.
Jacobs called the court ruling on the incumbency designation for Jennifer Barnes "terrible."
Mr. Jacobs said: "Judge Klida -- when Judge Alston retired -- the governor posted the position, took applications, there was a screening process, there were interviews and then that person was appointed. None of that happened. None of that happened," he said, referring to the appointment of Judge Barnes.
District Judge Dawn Klida was named by Gov. Granholm to replace Judge Craig Alston earlier this year and is unopposed in the November election.
The Barnes issue made statewide news last month when Mr. Jacobs, attorney in private practice, and Mark Janer, Director of the Bay County Office of Criminal Defense, took the issue of the Barnes incumbency designation to a local court. They were represented by noted local attorney Kim Higgs, a former Bay County executive. After an adverse ruling by visiting Circuit Judge Fred J. Borchard in Saginaw County, Jacobs and Janer appealed the verdict to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
The state court ordered that Ms. Barnes should in fact receive the incumbency designation on the ballot, considered a key to victory in judicial races in which candidates often are little known by voters.
Judge Barnes did not address Mr. Jacobs' charges regarding the alleged lack of a screening or interview process in her case but commented:
"The constitution says -- the one that we decided on -- says that the governor shall appoint. It also says that the person who is a sitting judge shall be given the incumbency designation. There was never a question with respect to law in this case, which is why I always encouraged the lawsuit because it was very clear and it was never ruled to be very clear with regards to the process. So I think that although there was a fuss made about it in the beginning. I walked through the front door just like everybody else here did -- I am more than happy to further discuss that if anyone would like to discuss it further."
The governor has received a high level of news media criticism for her judicial appointments statewide, with political pundit Bill Ballenger of the newsletter "Inside Michigan Politics" calling it "all bollixed up," not referring directly to the Barnes case but to numerous Granholm appointments statewide.
Mr. Czuprynski, often in the news spotlight, has made a significant contribution to public understanding by hosting the forum and by developing a transcript that is posted on line at bayjustice.wordpress.com
Although he had circulated petitions for both district judge and circuit judge, Mr. Czuprynski declined to run and said in advertising that he preferred the role of "public advocate."
The five District Court candidates on the ballot are Judge Barnes, Mr. Jacobs, Mark Janer, Abel Torres and Eric Zimostrad.
Two candidates for judge of the circuit court, replacing retiring Judge William Caprathe, are Harry Gill and Darrin Nichols. They also participated in the forum.
Judge Barnes summed up: "I can't tell you how much we appreciate the fact that you have such an interest in this heated and fabulous race. And I thank you again for taking part in this forum. And I would like to reiterate there's only one way to truly know how someone is going to be as a judge. You can stand in front of you and tell you anything that we want to tell you -- there is only one way to know for sure and that is to come and watch. So come on down. I am there every day. I am on the bench every day. And I invite you to come take a look at my courtroom. If you want to know how I do the job then you can come down and see how I do it. And I hope that you will."
The ballot for the Aug. 3 primary election lists the four other candidates plus designating Jennifer Cass Barnes as "Judge of the District Court." The position is for a six year term and pays about $120,000 a year plus benefits and accrual of pension.
Columns Article 5109
Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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