LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — In a Lansing hotel conference room, dozens of new judges, recently elected or appointed to the bench, are being schooled on the finer points of being a jurist.
Among them, Grand Rapid’s 61st District Court Judge Christina Elmore, appointed to fill a vacancy last year, and elected to the seat in the fall.
“I’ve been on the bench since February. So I’m learning to be able to hone my knowledge that I’ve already acquired since being on the bench,” said Elmore.
Kent County Probate Judge T.J. Ackert is another appointee who won the judgeship in November.
“This program helps us get the big picture and bring all those pieces together and then implement them,” Ackert said.
Attorney Joe Rossi and longtime Kent County Court referee Debra McNabb were both elected this fall to the Kent County Circuit Court.
“The advice of the experienced judges we’ve heard from this week are some really practical pointers for taking a different perspective, where I’m not advocating for either side,” said Rossi.
“I think that people really don’t understand, including even lawyers, then rules that we have to live by. And the fact that we have to give up some of our freedoms in order to be judges,” McNabb said.
They are all taking part in the Michigan Judicial Institute, put on by the State Supreme Court.
The so called “Judge School” is one the many educational resources the high court offers to judges, both new and veterans. The institute also provides a reminder of the high standards set for them.
“They get a good understanding of what’s expected of them,” said Michigan Supreme Court Public Information Officer John Nevin. “They know some of that already. But they’re going to keep high standards.”
And while they’re all lawyers, lawyers don’t do everything.
“They need to learn about the practice areas that may not have been their specialty,” said Nevin.
“So they could learn about divorce, or some of the other cases they might be involved in Family Court or they may be from the civil side, they learn about the criminal side. So there’s a lot of aspects to the judicial system that they have got to learn about.”
The classes also helps the new judges find answers not in the law books and apply them to the decision they make.
“Opioid addictions now. Trafficking. Mental health issues. We need to understand all of the causes, treatments, the effect of trauma on individuals,”Ackert said.