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Judge Greeley honored with official portrait unveiling Monday

The portrait of retired U.S. Federal Magistrate Judge Timothy P. Greeley that was unveiled at a ceremony honoring his retirement Monday is pictured. (Journal photo by Cecilia Brown)

MARQUETTE — “He always made me feel like I mattered.”

“He always did what he told me he would.”

“He listened to my arguments with an open mind.”

“The perfect example of what a judge should be.”

These were just a few of the phrases speakers used to describe retired U.S. Federal Magistrate Judge Timothy P. Greeley as he was honored Monday with an official portrait unveiling ceremony and retirement celebration held at the Marquette County Courthouse.

Greeley, who was the first resident federal judge in the Upper Peninsula, served the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Michigan’s Northern Division for over 30 years before retiring from the bench in March.

“The 31 years he spent here creates a legacy that he and his family can be proud of,” said the Hon. Joseph G. Scoville, a retired U.S. magistrate judge for the Western District of Michigan.

In the time since he was appointed in 1988, Greeley handled many significant cases as a federal magistrate judge and the sole active duty judicial officer in the court’s northern division. He was also a key part of expanding the court’s presence in the U.P., speakers said.

“He was the face of the federal judiciary here and he fulfilled that responsibility admirably,” said the Hon. R. Allan Edgar, who served as a senior U.S. district judge in the area during the 2000s and worked closely with Greeley for about a decade.

As a federal magistrate judge, Greeley oversaw court proceedings in non-felony matters in addition to taking on a wealth of administrative responsibilities.

He was “pivotal in the difficult task of coordinating full dockets for the Article III judges cycling in and out of the Marquette courthouse,” and was also a “key player in managing district-wide administrative issues,” during his career, a statement from the court reads.

“The federal judicial system has functioned in the Upper Peninsula largely because of Tim Greeley,” Edgar said.

Prior to his appointment to the court, Greeley served as a law clerk to the Hon. Phillip Pratt of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, and then worked at the Lansing-based law firm of Foster, Swift, Collins & Coey.

When Greeley applied for the magistrate judge position, he was only 33 years old, and became the youngest federal judge in the United States at the time. Greeley arrived in the U.P. in 1988 as the first resident federal judge in the region.

His appointment to the position in Marquette “was part of the court’s decision that they were going to have a greater presence in the Upper Peninsula,” Greeley told the Journal previously.

When Greeley was appointed, the federal presence in the U.P. was much different than it is today, speakers said. The criminal docket handled by the federal court was minimal. Furthermore, the U.P. didn’t have a U.S. Attorney’s Office, a federal grand jury, or offices for the Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

“It wasn’t that there wasn’t federal crime going on in the Upper Peninsula before I got up here, it was just that there wasn’t a great enough presence to go after it,” Greeley said previously.

The federal presence in the area has greatly expanded since Greeley’s appointment, as the U.P. now has multiple U.S. marshals and probation officers, as well as full-time staffers from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the DEA, the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Defender’s Office, said Assistant Federal Public Defender Beth LaCosse.

“Although, unfortunately, some of this is a sign of the times, a significant portion of this has been directly related to the leadership and insight of Timothy Greeley,” LaCosse said.

The construction project at the federal courthouse along West Washington Street in Marquette that is currently underway can also be “significantly attributed to the vision of Judge Greeley and many, many hours of talking, planning and negotiation” over the past decades, LaCosse said.

This is an example of the fact that “his contribution to the court seems to be characterized first of all, by vision,” Scoville told attendees.

“The minute Tim got here, he had a vision for the court and everything about it,” Scoville said. “And he worked that vision over 31 years; nothing was left untouched.”

Many spoke about Greeley’s kindness, generosity and ability to bring people together for a common good.

“Truly, thank you for your commitment to the northern division and always having our back,” LaCosse said. “You created a family. And we will continue to strive to fight for justice, to work hard and to make you proud.”

Greeley told attendees he was honored to have had the chance to serve the court and was grateful for the help and support of many people throughout his career.

“I was blessed,” Greeley said. “If I’m going to thank anybody, it’s all of the people who helped me, but in particular, the judges who appointed me; because they gave a 33-year-old kid the chance to have a job of a lifetime in this place. So thank you.”

Overall, it is certain that Greeley will be missed and his legacy of service and justice will live on, speakers said.

“Thank you to Judge Greeley for 31 years of distinguished service. I’m going to miss you,” said Hon. Robert J. Jonker, chief U.S. district judge for the Western District of Michigan, adding the court “will do our best to be worthy custodians” of Greeley’s “living legacy.”

Cecilia Brown can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 248.