If you’re unlucky enough to end up in the 86th District Court for an informal hearing or an arraignment, there’s a good chance that you’re going to end up in front of 86th District Court Magistrate Tammi Rodgers.
If you aren’t able to bring an attorney to represent you at your hearing, don’t worry. The 86th District Court can’t be bothered to have an attorney representing them, either. Unless the prosecutor shows up, there won’t be a single bar card in the room.
That’s because 86th District Court Magistrate Tammi Rodgers isn’t an attorney at all. No sweating over the bar exam. No studying up on securities and transactions or late nights pouring over flashcards on contract law. Put her name into the Michigan State Bar directory and nothing comes up.
Non-attorney Magistrate Tammi Rodgers has a lot of power. But she won’t be drawing on her formal legal education to use it. That’s because she doesn’t have a formal legal education. We can’t even put her in the Cooley Law School hall of shame.
According to the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commision, a magistrate is a judge. The 86th District Court magistrate acts as a judge doing the functions of a judge.
Members of the public often assume that judges represent the best and the brightest of the legal profession. People who run for judge often talk about becoming a judge as being their long-held career goal, and that it represents reaching the epitome of their profession. And yet, the 86th District Court judges don’t think a legal education matters two hoots when it comes to being qualified to perform the functions of a judge as defined by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commision.
Safe to say that Tammi Rodgers has been on the job for a while, and not just because her name is Tammi, like the many Tammis, Tonyas, Tinas and Tracys that wandered out of Generation X. Even so, if you had been practicing medicine without a license for a couple of decades, would that make it a good idea? If you were a doctor, would you sign off on a not-doctor doctor being a doctor? Especially when members of the public don’t have a choice but to use that person as their doctor?
A magistrate serves at the will of the District Court Judges that oversee her. That means that the judges could install someone with the proper legal training, but they choose not to.
There are approximately 35,000 attorneys in the State of Michigan. With Michigan law schools churning out hundreds of new lawyers each year, suffice it to say that a few of them need jobs. And not one of them is more qualified to assume the role of a judge than non-attorney magistrate Tammi Rodgers? Or they are more qualified, but we need to have who’s next in line instead of who’s most qualified, even when justice is on the line?
Candidates who are running for 86th District Court Judge in 2018 in Grand Traverse, Leelanau and Antrim Counties, what do you have to say? Should a magistrate be an attorney? With all of the qualified attorneys in the State of Michigan, are you okay with having a non-attorney magistrate on the bench to make decisions that critically impact people’s lives and shape their opinions about the state of the justice system and the integrity of law enforcement in Northern Michigan? What kind of leader are you ready to be? Are you ready to make the hard choices to employ the best possible justice system? Or are you going to go along to get along at the expense of the people who elect you?