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Reinstatement of circuit court judge position is welcome news for area

Local, regional and state leaders gathered together Friday at the Marquette County Courthouse to celebrate the passage of state legislation that will allow the return of a second 25th Circuit Court judge position to Marquette County. This is major news for the area, as Marquette County has been served by only one circuit court judge since the second position was eliminated.

Since then, the need for a second circuit court judge has become apparent, as felony filings in Marquette County more than doubled in less than 10 years, going from an annual average of 224 cases in 2011 to the 471 cases reported in 2020.

We’ve seen firsthand how this increase has stretched the resources of the county’s criminal justice system to its limits, especially in the county’s circuit court, which has only a single judge to handle hundreds — if not thousands — of criminal, civil and family-related matters each year. This has led to delays and backlogs in county’s court system, which can have disastrous consequences for victims, defendants, and the community as a whole.

Due to this, the Marquette County Board of Commissioners in February called for legislation to reinstate a second circuit court judge, citing a substantial increase in felony filings since the county lost one of its two judges at the end of 2016 due to legislation passed in 2011.

Less than a year after this call to action, it’s encouraging to see the passage of House Bill 4656, sponsored by state Rep. Sara Cambensy, D-Marquette.

“We are kind of pioneers in asking for a seat back,” Cambensy told the Journal on Friday, “but we have the case numbers to show why we need it.”

The second 25th Circuit Court judge will be chosen through an election process. The filing deadline for those who would like to fill the position is April with primary elections starting the following August. A general election will be held in November 2022. We encourage all residents to actively participate in their democracy by filing to run if they see fit, and perhaps most importantly, voting. This is a transformational moment for our justice system, and each and every voice will matter in the November 2022 election for the seat.

In the meantime, it’s great to see such forward movement in Lansing and we commend all involved for their efforts, as this is sure to make a difference in the daily lives of many citizens.

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