District Court welcomes incoming clerk at swearing-in, reception



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Between her swearing-in and the  reception held in her honor Monday afternoon, the 61st District Court “family” has extended a rousing welcome to new Clerk of the Court Julia Norton.
Those last to arrive to the courtroom ceremony as Chief Judge David J. Buter swore her in were hard-pressed to find a seat.

Judge Buter set the welcoming tone by helping Norton feel at ease. He asked her husband Rick (Richard) to join her at the front of the courtroom, and joked after  she was sworn in that hugs and kisses were in order. The Nortons complied.

Court Administrator Gary Secor greeted a flow of people who came to meet Norton at the brief welcoming reception a few hours later, though most could not stay long. The chocolate cake, coming right at dessert time, was almost as big a draw as the opportunity to meet the new clerk.

Departing clerk Vickie Morren, the only other person to hold the Clerk of the Court position (it was created during her tenure), is a tough act to follow. However, Norton has excellent qualifications for the job.

After posting the opening statewide, the court received over 75 applications from around the country. Norton passed through an extensive review, with initial interviews conducted by Secor and Morren. The five candidates who came out of that process went on to interview with Chief Judge Buter, Judge Pro Tem Donald H. Passenger and Secor. Before final selection, the candidate met with the remaining members of the bench. Support was unanimous for hiring Norton. 

She is an attorney who is licensed to practice in both Michigan and Illinois. After receiving her Juris Doctor from Michigan State University College of Law, Norton practiced with a civil litigation firm in Chicago, and worked as a staff attorney with an employee assistance program.

Then, in September of 2010, she took a position with the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) here in Michigan. SCAO, the administrative agency of the Michigan Supreme Court pursuant to Article VI, Section 3 of the Michigan Constitution, is charged with exercising the Supreme Court’s administrative oversight of Michigan’s court system.

SCAO helps the trial courts in Michigan operate effectively, and its activities include collecting data; giving technical assistance; providing continuing education for court staff as well as judges; issuing guidelines and policy for court operations; and, most relevant to Julia Norton, “helping courts improve collection of court-imposed fines, fees, and costs, much of which goes into state funds and to local governments.”

Norton was a Management Analyst with the Trial Court Services Division of SCAO, where she focused on court collection. She also had responsibility in limited English proficiency and court interpreter programs.

Norton was on the team that produced the SCAO newsletter, Connections, including the Summer 2011 issue which features an article by Secor, himself a former SCAO employee.

In her new position, Norton will work under the district court judges, especially Chief Judge Buter, who is ultimately in charge of all that goes on at the 61st District for as long as he remains the chief judge— as well as with Secor. Morren, at the time of her retirement, told the Grand Rapids Legal News (Dec. 28 issue) that she was highly impressed with Secor’s “vision for the court,” which Norton will now help shape and implement.

Norton said she and her husband are very happy to be settling in West Michigan. Rick Norton has established a law firm here, a solo practice called Norton Law Firm, PLLC, operating out of the Waters Building. He too received his law degree from Michigan State University College of Law, and practiced law in Illinois after graduation.

Norton Law Firm will specialize in bankruptcy, but can also help with real estate, title insurance and other civil litigation, and for-profit or non-profit business entity formation and matters.
Richard Norton is also an adjunct professor at Grand Valley State University, where he teaches sports law.