Retired Judge Gary Reed Weighs in on District Court Judge Election
Gary Reed served on the bench in Calhoun County Probate Court for 16 years, retiring in 2011. Reed is joining with most of the sitting judges in Calhoun County to endorse candidate Dan Buscher. He joined Tim Collins on the 95.3 WBCK Morning Show to explain why he feels an obligation to inform the voters on the differences between the candidates.
Judge Reed worked as a corporate attorney in the insurance industry for the first 12 years of his law career, and then opened a private practice in Battle Creek for about six years. He was a juvenile court referee and then served on the bench for 16 years in Probate Court.
The 10th District Court has an opening, since Judge James Norlander has reached the age limit to run again. Calhoun County's chief assistant prosecutor Dan Buscher is running against Attorney Tracie Tomak for the spot on the bench.
Judge Reed says the District Court acts as sort of a "funneling system for the higher Circuit Court." He talked about the types of work done by what he calls a very busy District Court.
- It's primarily a criminal court.
- Preliminary exams for felonies.
- Misdemeanor work.
- Landlord-Tenant disputes
- Lower-level civil disputes.
- Small Claims.
Sitting judges in Calhoun County rarely endorse candidates running for a seat on the bench, but most of them are in the current election. Norlander is endorsing Tomak.
The following are endorsing Buscher:
- Chief Judge Michael L. Jaconette
- Chief Judge Pro Tem John A. Hallacy
- Circuit Court Judge Tina Yost Johnson
- Chief District Court Judge Franklin K. Line, Jr.
- District Court Judge Samuel I. Durham
- District Court Judge Paul K. Beardslee
- Chief Probate Court Judge Gary K. Reed (retired)
- Chief Circuit Court Judge Conrad J. Sindt (retired)
Judges Kirkham and Lincoln have not publicly endorsed either candidate.
Reed says he has been able to observe both candidates in action in court. "A judge gets to see all the attorneys in practice.....and you assess the attorney's skills and attitudes during the course of many years sometimes. And in this particular case, I decided that I needed to endorse Dan Buscher. And the reason was simple. He has the experience that is required of the job. He's been an attorney for over 30 years in this county. He has demonstrated on both the defense side and the prosecutor's side his ability to be fair. And his level of integrity is excellent." Reed agreed that both candidates are very good people, but said "It's just a matter of who can do the job better."
Reed says he thinks the court system in Calhoun County is already excellent. A state customer service survey bears that out. The State Court Administrative Office conducts annual surveys of the courts’ performance In 2015, the most recent survey available on their website, based on a survey of over 25,000 respondents, these were the results of the Customer Satisfaction Survey:
- 93% said they were treated with courtesy and respect;
- 87% said they were able to get their business done in a reasonable time
- 83% said they thought their case was handled fairly.
One of Tomak's ideas to improve the District Court , according to her web site, is in the area of "Misdemeanor Drug Court. We must do better to deal with, and help, people addicted to drugs. The first time!"
Reed and candidate Buscher agree that specialty courts like Drug Court have value, but he points out that we already have four, and they come with costs. And Calhoun County is struggling to find enough treatment service providers to handle what we have now.
Last year, the District Court handled 41,000 cases, or an average of about 40 cases per day for each judge. Many believe that the state could eliminate one district judge position, which would make that load more like 55 cases per day.