Judge Donald Shelton enjoys a fun retirement celebration


 By Sheila Purslove

Legal News
Comedy, music, song and dance were on tap for the Retirement Celebration of Washtenaw County 22nd Circuit Court Judge Donald E. Shelton, held Nov. 7 at the Michigan Union.
Friends, family and colleagues gathered to honor Shelton, who was fondly characterized in the event program as “a judge doing everyday docket prep, as a sometimes exasperated trial judge, and as the judge with a vision who moved the trial court into the 21st century with state of the art technology both in and out of the courtroom.”
The celebration planning committee of Mark Hopper, Kelly Roberts, Heidi Salter-Ferris, Kyeena Slater, Joe Spiegel, Ellie Serras and Christine Tait laid on a fun evening resonant with laughter and tears. 
The evening included a comedy routine by Jerry Lax, Ed Stein and Judge Shelton reprising the “Shelnak” character they used to do at the Bar Revues; Story Time by Mark Hopper; A Monkey Musical by Joe Labuta, Sr. and Joe Labuta, Jr.; a commendation by Chief Judge David S. Swartz; a tribute by former Justice Marilyn Kelly; and an appreciation by Ellie Serras, chair of the Board of Trustees at Dawn Farm. Shelton’s granddaughters sang, “So Long, Farewell,” from “The Sound of Music”; and Heidi Salter-Ferris sang, “Here’s to Life,” the signature song of jazz legend Shirley Horn and later sung by Barbra Streisand.
“When the organizers first said they wanted to have such an event, I said I would not participate if it was going to be a typical retirement party where people just boringly told lies about you,” Shelton said afterward. “They promised me it would not be that but rather an evening of fun and song and they certainly kept their promise. They refused to tell me what was planned so it was almost all a surprise – except the Shelnak skit. I was deeply moved by the evening and especially the participation of my personal family as well as my ‘family’ from the legal community.”
Shelton, who has served as a judge since 1990, stepped down Sept. 1 when he reached 70, Michigan’s age limit for judges. He served as the court’s chief judge from 2010 to 2013 and also served as the chief judge for the Washtenaw County Probate Court and as the presiding judge for the juvenile court.
The Jackson native and long-time Saline resident, who previously taught courses at Cooley Law School and Eastern Michigan University, where he served on the board of regents for three years, is now an associate professor and director of the Criminal Justice Program at the University of Michigan-Dearborn.