Even though it doesn’t have the drama of the 86th District Court Judge’s race for Grand Traverse, Antrim and Leelanau counties, there’s another important local judge’s race in the GT Bay area this year. That’s the race for Leelanau County Probate Court Judge. Whoever wins replaces current judge Larry Nelson. Nelson does a pretty good job, and isn’t a Cooley grad, so you decide if there’s a correlation.
So who wants to make $145,557 a year – er, I mean, help the downtrodden when the downtrodden are unlucky enough to end up in a courtroom?
Marian Kromkowski and Michael Long have both thrown their bar cards into the ring.
Marian Kromkowski says that she’s a lover, not a fighter (by that I mean she’s into collaborative divorce). She went to Wayne State and Indiana University. You can read everything she’s ever done ever here.
Both candidates claim to have the requisite experience in this and that.
Kromkowski’s experience as a domestic relations referee should concern anyone who wants to see the courts embrace change and fully recognize the equal standing of fathers in family courts. The 13th Circuit Court family referees make controversial rulings sometimes, and someone who proudly associates with the status quo without acknowledging that there’s room for improvement is not necessarily a good thing. However, Long has experience in the family courts, too, and his quote in the Record Eagle talked about the satisfaction that he gets working in family courts and the local community. It doesn’t talk about moving forward or anything other than maintaining the status quo. I don’t know about you, but I’m certainly not going to make my choice for judge based on the candidate’s personal satisfaction.
The Leelanau Probate Judge does probate judgy things like wills, trusts and conservatorships. But the Leelanau Probate Judge also handles some 86th District Court matters. That might not seem like a big deal, but it’s hard to wear both hats. You have to be kind to individuals in adoption proceedings and patient with them when they don’t understand what they’re doing in regards to a loved one’s will. In District Court, you only have the morning to get through the docket, and you pretty much can’t do the job without a functioning BS detector. A person who’s qualified in one respect might be terrible in the other. Judge Nelson capably managed both, but it takes a special kind, and not everyone can manage it.
Long told the Record Eagle that being a judge is a lifelong dream. Here’s my problem with that — what do you know about being a judge when you’re in law school, or even before law school? You don’t know what being a judge entails until you’ve been a trial lawyer for several years. You can’t possibly know what it takes to be a good judge until you’ve been in front of a dozen of them and you can see the differences. You just can’t possibly know that it’s a calling with any kind of authority until you have more base it on than tv shows and societal stereotypes. So do you want to be the humble servant that a judge should be, or do you really want power, career security and a paycheck?
Maybe the candidates will tell us more in the coming months.