Clerk of the 61st District Court is retiring, but continuing part-time on projects

by Cynthia Price
Legal News

61st District Clerk of the Court Vickie Morren is leaving, but she is not leaving for good.

And that seems to be cause for rejoicing for everyone concerned.

Morren is eligible for retirement and intends to vacate her clerk position at the end of 2011.

However, she says, “I still love it here — we have some projects we’re working on, and I can see those through.”

At the same time, she says  her part-time return to work will allow her to spend more time with her family, which is the reason she is interested in retiring. “You always hear people say when they retire that it’s because they want to spend time with their families, but in my case, it’s true, I do want to spend more time with them,” she comments. “But coming back part-time is the best of both worlds.”

First on Morren’s new agenda is helping the new clerk, who has already been hired, get acclimated. Julia Norton currently works for the State Court Administrator’s Office and will start with the 61st District in mid-January.

The two-year-old position of Clerk of the Court is busy, often complicated, and stressful. (The 61st District Court is considered to be Michigan’s second largest court at the district level.)
In fact, Morren was sworn in as the very first Clerk of the Court. The position was created when Morren was supervisor of the criminal division. The supervisor of the civil division retired, and the decision was made to combine the two sets of responsibilities.

Prior to that, Morren had followed a career path that started when she interned with the court 32 years ago. She had graduated from Ferris State University with a criminal justice major, but “I fell in love with the court system and decided not to go to the police academy,” she explains. She applied as an entry-level clerk typist and got the job.

A few years later, she became the assignment clerk, and then rose to the criminal supervisory division position.   “Although I was promoted to Clerk of the Court two years ago, I had been doing most of the job duties all along, so expanding it to cover both divisions made sense.”

Those many and varied duties include supervising all of the office personnel,  creating the master calendar for the judges, doing jury administration, overseeing fines and court cost payments, as well as creating new files and performing case administration. Morren handles running “anything to do with the court.” Morren also shares in the supervision of the courtroom staff who work for the particular judges, which entails such details as overseeing the staff’s schedules.

For almost a year she has worked under Court Administrator Gary Secor, and says, “We’ve worked very well together. I really admire what he’s doing for the court and his vision.” She says Secor, who was new to the area (see Grand Rapids Legal News for May 27, 2011), has solicited her opinions on how best to make the court more efficient and  user-friendly. Secor and Morren meet frequently to discuss such issues.

“The court needs to change constantly, to keep up with current laws and always try to improve the court as to customer service, and stay up-to-date with technology,” Morren says.
Morren also reports to all of the judges, whom she admires greatly. “I’ve worked with twenty judges, and they’ve all been a little bit different. I don’t think people realize how difficult a job it is being a judge. Especially in something like arraignments, they just get handed the file with the complaint, and they have to sort it all out and make a decision. I have so much respect for our judges.”

She is especially impressed with all the work the judges do in the sobriety and drug courts. Started by Judge Patrick Bowler, the specialty courts were taken over by Judges Jeanine Laville and Kimberly Schaefer after Bowler retired. “All of that work is over and above their regular case loads,” Morren points out.

As much as she loves the courts and feels valued in terms of making improvements, she is anxious to step back a little. She and her husband live in Comstock Park, but he works in Muskegon so they savor their time together.

She looks most forward to pursuing her passion for running. She meets a group of exercise buddies every morning at the new downtown Grand Rapids YMCA at 5 a.m. Though she will not make it official yet, she is considering her friends’ advice to run a full marathon.

She also would like to volunteer, possibly in some area related to the courts or to her love of animals. However, she is not planning to make any decisions about that until after she determines how much energy will be devoted to working on the part-time special projects the court already has slated for her.

With her experience in court use of computers, Morren is being called on to help the Grand Rapids Police Department with making all citations electronic, which means they would automatically download into the court’s database “That’s huge. It will make us so much more efficient.”

Morren will also explore how to have the court take over warrant entry, but her wider expertise means she may be asked to spearhead a number of other projects. “I’m thrilled to help,” Morren says.