Probate Court and 14th Circuit Court judicial responsibilites will change in the new year

CORRECTION: In last week's Muskegon County Legal News, misinformation was given about the reorganization of duties in Muskegon County courts. The article below reflects the correction information, and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience the error may have caused.

In a message from 14th Circuit Court Chief Judge William Mariette dated October 26, 2016, to the candidates running for the probate court judgeship this coming Tuesday, Judge Marietti stated that the 14th Circuit and Muskegon County Probate courts had recently received approval from the State Court Administrator’s Office for the reorganization that involved Judge Hicks’s reassignment to the business court. Muskegon County was unable to implement the original plan of reorganization that would have moved Judge Kathy Hoosgstra to the probate docket. Therefore, the judge in the position to be vacated by Judge Neil Mullally’s retirement will handle the probate docket as well as family court and Person Protection Order (PPO)?cases.
Judge Marietti said the changes are adjustments meant to accommodate trends in the amounts of different types of lawsuits.

Circuit courts oversees business, family and civil matters in addition to criminal cases bound over from district court. Probate courts deal with wills, estates, guardianships, conservatorships, committing individuals to mental health care, and other issues.

Judge Mullally now shares the probate caseload with Judge Gregory Pittman, as well as handling assignments in business and civil matters.

Effective Jan. 1, 2017, the newly-elected judge will handle all probate cases, a quarter of the county’s family court docket, and one-third of the PPO cases.

After the August primary narrowed down a field of five, Joe Bush and Brenda Sprader are the two candidates running for Judge Mullally’s seat.

In addition, Judge Hicks will  start handling more business cases, while retaining some of the criminal and civil cases; Judge Annette Smedley will take over the remaining criminal and civil docket that Judge Hicks will therefore be unable to work in with the business docket.

Judge Smedley’s family court caseload in turn will be split between Judge Hoogstra, Judge Pittman and the new judge.

The content of Judge Marietti’s caseload, consisting of civil-criminal, will not change.

The Michigan Supreme Court has reappointed Marietti as Chief Judge for 2017, and Judge Pittman will still preside over the Family Court Division of the 14th Circuit Court.