Ingham County 30th Circuit Judge Laura Baird elected Vice President of the Michigan Judges Association


 Ingham County 30th Circuit Judge Laura Baird elected Vice President of the Michigan Judges Association

By Roberta M. Gubbins

Legal News


Hon. Laura Baird, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge, has been elected Vice-President of the Michigan Judges Association (MJA). The Michigan Judges Association, founded in 1927, represents Circuit and Court of Appeals judges in the state. Its stated goal is to serve the public through judicial excellence.

MJA "represents the trial court and court of appeals judges," said Baird. "There are about 250 members. The organization exists for reasons of comradery and networking, but I think the main function is to watch legislation and how it is impacting judges. We have a lobbyist who reports to the MJA legislative committee monthly meeting."

The committee, she explained, reviews all the proposed legislation relating to judges and, if necessary, they appear before the legislature to testify about it.

"They try to mold the legislation to avoid unintended consequences."

Asked if the organization had a legislative agenda, she noted that there is "always the desire to maintain as much judicial autonomy as possible so if there is a legislative agenda it would be to try and not have judicial power eroded. I know it's hard for legislators to understand the importance of the independence of the judiciary. It is hard for people to understand the true neutrality of the court."

There is also a committee that reviews the rules proposed by the Supreme Court, a corrections committee and other committees. "There is a long term effort to keep the pay of judges from eroding further," Judge Baird said. Judges have not had a raise since 2001 and many of the smaller counties don't have health insurance for their judiciary.  

Each year, the MJA awards the Hilda Gage Judicial Excellence Award. The award is named in honor of the late Hilda Gage who served on the Michigan Court of Appeals and Oakland County Circuit Court bench before passing away in 2010. She was renowned for her courage and scholarship. She was the first female president of MJA and the first woman to chair the Judicial Tenure Commission.

Kalamazoo County Circuit Court J. Richardson Johnson received the award in its inaugural year. Other honorees have been retired Judge James L. Ryan formerly of the Third Circuit Court in Wayne County, the Michigan Supreme Court, and the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals; and, in 2012, Calhoun County Circuit Court Judge James C. Kingsley.

The award recognizes current or former Circuit or Court of Appeals judges who have demonstrated exemplary service by excelling in trial and docket management, legal scholarship, and contributions to the profession and the community.

This year's award winner is Hon. Barry L. Howard, formerly of the 6th Circuit Court in Oakland County.

Barry Howard is a graduate of the University of Michigan and the University of Detroit School of Law.  He served as a circuit judge for the Oakland County court from 1989 to 2001, serving as its chief judge from January 2000 to April 2001. During that time, he taught for the Michigan Judicial Institute, and served the Michigan Judges Association as a board member and as its President.

Judge Howard has continued his service to the profession and the judiciary after he left the bench. He was co-chair of the Judicial Crossroads Task Force.  He is currently Of Counsel to the law firm of Lipson, Neilson, Cole, Seltzer & Garin, PC.

Barry Howard is a former recipient of the Champion of Justice Award by the State Bar of Michigan. In 1995, he was named "one of the top five most respected judges" in the state in a survey of lawyers conducted for WDIV-Channel 4. Western Michigan University named its Barry L. Howard Medallion Scholarship after him.

Judge Baird  believes it is an honor to be a judge. She was elected to the bench in 2001 and has been in the Family Division for a number of years. Prior to her judicial position she was State Representative, Ingham County Commissioner and was in practice in the law firm of Baird & Zulakis, P.C., Okemos, Michigan from1980-2000.

She is active in the community, serving on several boards including:

. Ele's Place for Grieving Children, Community Board Chair,

. Ele's Place for Grieving Children, Governing Board Member,

. Partner in Crisis Board of Director's Chairperson,

. Legal Services of South Central MI Advisory Board, and

. Oasis Family Center, Advisory Board.

Judge Baird is a graduate of Thomas M. Cooley Law School, graduating with Distinction.

Her undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Science, Secondary Teacher Certification, is from Western Michigan University.









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