The Michigan Supreme Court, through the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO), released the 2019 Judicial Resources Recommendations for the State of Michigan. The report concluded that an additional circuit judgeship be added to the 20th Circuit Court in Ottawa County. These recommendations were based on SCAO’s most recent biennial review of the judicial needs of Michigan courts, and have been forwarded to the legislature. New judgeships must be created by legislation and then approved by the County Board of Commissioners before a new judge can be elected.
The review of trial court judgeships begins with a statistical analysis by SCAO. Case filings are weighted to reflect the amount of judicial time necessary to handle each case type. For each jurisdiction where the statistical analysis indicated a significant judicial need, the SCAO conducted a secondary analysis focusing on the specific needs of the court, and other factors not accounted for in the weighted caseload formula.
The results of this extensive analysis demonstrated an overall need of 10.0-10.3 judgeships in Ottawa County. Since 2005, when the last judgeship was created, Ottawa County has covered the judicial workload with nine judges (four Circuit Court, four District Court, one Probate Court). The 20th Circuit Court handles serious criminal cases, business court cases, civil cases where more than $25,000 is in dispute, appeals from District Court and state agencies, juvenile delinquency cases, child welfare cases, and domestic relations cases (including divorce, child custody and parenting time disputes). During the past 15 years, the population of Ottawa County has significantly increased and the courts’ caseload has also increased in size and complexity.
20th Circuit Court Chief Judge Jon A. Van Allsburg expressed his thanks to the Michigan Supreme Court and SCAO Administrator Milton L. Mack, Jr. for this recommendation, and noted that it is supported by the 20th Circuit Court. Based on caseload increases, especially within the Family Division of the Circuit Court, it is likely the 5th Circuit Judge will be assigned to the Family Division to help provide timely services to the children and families of Ottawa County.