WARREN — As a kid, Michael Chupa would put on a suit normally reserved for Easter at church and proclaim, “Now, take me to court.” As a law school graduate, he spent more than 20 years working at the courthouse as an attorney.
Chupa has been on the other side of the bench since Dec. 30, after Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder named him a judge of the 37th District Court.
“It really does just feel like home,” Chupa said last week, between his morning and afternoon dockets in one of the busiest district courts in the state. “I’m really enjoying every bit of it.”
Chupa spent 23 years as a lawyer working for the city of Warren as a prosecutor and later in private practice. Much of his work as an attorney centered on cases in the 37th District Court.
The court’s chief jurist, Judge John Chmura, applauded the governor’s pick to replace Judge Jennifer Faunce as a “great appointment,” adding that Chupa “knows this court as well as anybody.”
While Chupa said the transition from attorney to judge was happening smoothly, he said last week he’d like to help move the court forward with an electronic document pilot program designed to improve service and efficiency.
“We’ll be the first court in Michigan that will be completely paperless on the entire docket,” Chupa said. He also expressed concerns about the age and layout of the courthouse — something he shares with Chmura and Court Administrator Rob Curtis.
“To deliver the kind of service I want to deliver, we need a new facility,” Chupa said. “We really do need an entirely new court building.”
Chupa said the court has had probationers bolt from custody, and he recalled recently coming face-to-face with a man he just sentenced during a chance encounter in a basement walkway.
“It’s not appropriate,” he said of the court’s layout, where litigants, witnesses and attorneys on opposing sides often move in close proximity to prisoners.
Chupa was appointed to serve the remainder of Faunce’s term that ends this year. He must run for election in 2014 for a full six-year term.
He said he isn’t complaining.
“The opportunity is huge. It is the job of a lifetime,” Chupa said.
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