Michigan Judges Association names 2021 Hilda Gage Award recipient

During its annual conference, the Michigan Judges Association (MJA) recognized past president and retired Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Laura Baird as the recipient of its 2021 Hilda Gage Judicial Excellence Award—the second woman to receive the award. The award is named in honor of the late Judge Hilda Gage who served in the Michigan Court of Appeals and Oakland County Circuit Court before passing away in 2010. The MJA represents jurists who serve (or have served) in Michigan circuit and appellate courts.

“For nearly two decades on the bench, Judge Baird served as the standard bearer for helping vulnerable children in Michigan,” said Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Bridget M. McCormack. “Whether it was protecting child victims of human trafficking or helping parents reunite with their children in foster care, her work has made a difference for countless families.”

Baird served on the Ingham County bench for 19 years, and in 2017 founded the second docket in the state to help victims of human trafficking—most notably children—called the Phoenix Court. Among her other judicial honors are the Michigan Supreme Court 2019 Daniel J. Wright Lifetime Achievement Award for exceptional service to Michigan’s children and the 2020 Ingham County Bar Associations Thomas Brennan Lifetime Achievement Award. Prior to joining the bench, Judge Baird served as a state representative from 1996 to 2000.

Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Michelle Rick, who nominated Baird for the award, noted that being the granddaughter of a Cheboygan County Probate Court judge and the daughter of an Otsego County Probate Court judge provided Baird with a “training ground for learning the value and honor of public service.”

“Always an eloquent and fierce advocate for those who have no voice, Laura Baird spent the entirety of her career serving the families and children of Michigan,” Rick said. “She literally epitomizes the phrase ‘service before self.’” 

Gage, renowned for her courage and scholarship, was the first female president of MJA and the first female chairperson of the Judicial Tenure Commission. In 2010, MJA created the annual Hilda Gage Award to recognize a current or former judge who demonstrates:

  • Competence in docket management and managing trials
  • Contributions to the profession
  • Contributions to legal scholarship
  • Contributions to the community

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