New court to be named in honor of longtime judge

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published March 21, 2014

ST. CLAIR SHORES — While the last details are being put into place on a new building for the 40th District Court, one piece of the puzzle has been decided: The new building will be named in honor of the late Judge Craigen J. Oster, who sat on the bench in St. Clair Shores for 26 years.

In suggesting a name for the new building, which is nearing completion, Mayor Kip Walby said March 3 that he wanted to honor an “individual that impacted our community for decades (and) … served as a judge with distinction … for more than a quarter century.”

“We were surprised and greatly honored by Mayor Walby’s decision to move this forward,” said 40th District Court Judge Joseph Oster, one of the six children of Judge Craigen J. Oster. “I do think it’s a wonderful and fitting tribute.”

Born the youngest of 11 children in western Ontario, Craigen Oster attended St. Peter’s Seminary at the University of Western Ontario but, after touring Italy for six months, decided to go back to school. He put himself through law school by selling cars to lawyers and judges.

The Osters moved to St. Clair Shores in 1958, Joseph Oster said, and raised all their children in the city, where they attended Lakeview Public Schools. Oster said his father was “an integral part of every political campaign from that point,” running twice for mayor and serving on the first Board of Supervisors for Macomb County, the predecessor to the Board of Commissioners that serves the county now.

Craigen Oster was appointed in 1970 to the position of associate municipal judge, and then ran and won a contested election for the position of full-time municipal judge. He stayed on when the court became a district court and won his last election, in 1990, by almost 60 percent.

Because of age restrictions, he could not run again, but he remained heavily involved in other candidates’ campaigns after he retired at the end of 1996. Judge Joseph Oster was elected in 1996 and assumed the position previously occupied by his father Jan. 1, 1997.

“For all the years that he was alive, he just really connected with people, and this — it’s not just for him and his legacy, it’s for … that generation, (which) is our greatest generation, the people who kind of forged where we are today,” Oster said.

Judge Craigen Oster died in 2003 at the age of 78. He served as a judge in St. Clair Shores from April of 1970 to December of 1996.

“The Oster family, for decades now, has served this community very well,” agreed Councilman Ron Frederick.

He made a motion, supported by Councilman John Caron, to name the building either “The Craigen J. Oster Memorial District Court Building” or the “Craigen J. Oster District Court Building,” allowing Oster’s family to make the final decision on whether or not the word “memorial” would be inserted in the name.

“I think it’s well to do to put Craigen there,” Walby said. “He did a lot for this community for many decades.”

When he was first appointed as a municipal judge, that position was a part-time position that still allowed him to practice law.

“He loved the practice of law; he wanted to keep practicing law and being a judge,” said Oster.

But in 1978, he had to give up his practice when the judgeship was made a full-time position.

“I thought it would be a fitting tribute for him,” Oster said of the court name. “He had a reputation for fairness and integrity, and he definitely cared about the people that came before him.

“He was more about the cases than the edifice, than the building. He was more about trying to help people better their lives.”

The former 40th District Court building had been named in honor of former City Attorney John Yoe.