Bill to add second Marquette County Circuit Court judge awaits potential signature from Gov. Whitmer
The bill would allow Marquette County to elect a second judge to the 25th Circuit Court.
MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - Marquette County is one step away from potentially getting a second circuit court judge once again.
The change would come thanks to a bill that has passed Michigan’s House and Senate. It is now awaiting a possible signature from Governor Whitmer.
Current Circuit Court Judge Jennifer Mazzuchi says her caseload has significantly increased since she became the sole judge in 2016.
“We’ve got one probate judge and two district judges, so we’re working together in what’s called a concurrent jurisdiction to share some of the load,” Mazzuchi said. “Just the sheer increase in numbers does make it really difficult to handle though. When there are more cases and fewer people to handle them, things take longer.”
County Prosecutor Matt Wiese says since 2016, felony cases have doubled.
“Prior to that, we’d average 350 to around 400 a year,” he said. “In 2020, we set an all-time record; we had 839 new felony cases.”
Wiese points to rising methamphetamine cases and the pandemic as causes for the high case numbers.
“For about 14 months, we didn’t do any jury trials, and our case load didn’t go down,” said Wiese.
Wiese says about 500 felony cases are at the point of a jury trial. In 2021, he says the county is on track to have as many as 863 new felonies.
Judge Mazzuchi says the court has also considered adding specialty operations, like a veterans’ treatment court, that would only be possible with a second judge.
“There’s interest in that and need for it in the community, but it’s difficult to take on other specialty programming with only one judge.”
State Representative Sara Cambensy (D) and Senator Ed McBroom (R) worked together on the bill to add a second Marquette County Circuit Court judge. Cambensy, who has been speaking with local officials about the issue since she was elected, says she’s proud of the bipartisan effort that took the bill to Whitmer’s office.
“To have that volume of cases here, to make sure that we can get people out of jail, get them a hearing, get them the help that they need as quick as possible, that makes a difference in the entire judicial system up here,” said Cambensy.
Cambensy says if Governor Whitmer signs off on the bill, the new circuit court judge would be chosen through an election.
Governor Whitmer’s office has not responded to TV6′s request for comment about the measure at this time.
Copyright 2021 WLUC. All rights reserved.