Local judges gather to mark 50th year of district court system

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published November 2, 2018

 Current and former judges gathered at the 37th District Court in Warren Oct. 24 for an event commemorating the system’s 50th anniversary.

Current and former judges gathered at the 37th District Court in Warren Oct. 24 for an event commemorating the system’s 50th anniversary.

Photo by Deb Jacques

WARREN — In 1968, the Vietnam War was raging, the civil rights and countercultural movements were in full swing, and Americans wrestled with the day-to-day implications of social change.

In some ways, the judiciary changed with the times, and in Michigan, the state implemented a new system of district courts.

The current and former judges of the 37th District Court, court staff, employees and friends gathered to mark the court’s 50th year Oct. 24 during an afternoon ceremony in the basement of the Edward A. Rea Judicial Building. Chief Judge John Chmura stood among his fellow elected jurists — Judge Michael Chupa, Judge Suzanne Faunce and Judge Matthew Sabaugh — to offer remarks on the court’s history and a toast for what’s to come.

“Welcome to 1968. It looks like 1968 down here a little bit, doesn’t it?” Chmura said. “You see the balloons and the flowers, and you see a building which might as well be that old.”

According to information compiled by the Michigan District Judges Association, the state’s 1963 Constitution required legislation that created the district court system. The system was officially established on June 17, 1968, and what became known as “the people’s court” — because of the constant interaction between the court and the citizens it serves, who often appear without an attorney — went into operation on Jan. 1, 1969.

Judge Don Binkowski was there, and he was back at the 37th District Court for the recent celebration. Binkowski, 89, served on the court bench in Warren from 1969 to 1986.

“We always had four judges. They eliminated justices of the peace, and so they set up a new court,” Binkowski said. “You wanted to be fair, and yet, you had to have order.”

Other current and former judges present included Judge Robert Chrzanowski, Judge Susan Chrzanowski, Judge Jennifer Faunce, Judge Sherman Faunce, Judge Dawnn Gruenburg and Judge Roy Gruenburg, along with Court Administrator and Magistrate Annette Gattari-Ross and Magistrate Roger Trim.

Judge Walter Jakubowski, Judge George Montgomery, Judge Verne Boewe, Judge Thomas Kennedy, Judge Dean Ausilio and Judge Deborah Servitto also served at the court.

Chmura said the court handled 73,086 cases in 2017, including 62,958 new filings. He said the 37th District Court is the third busiest in the state, and offered a toast to its people and future.

“We work very hard here at the district court, especially under difficult circumstances,” Chmura said. “We’ve got a building that’s too hot in the summer, too cold in the winter and floods whenever there’s rain or snow. But yet we persevere on and do what we need to do. For that I am thankful for everyone here, top to bottom, because if it weren’t for you, we wouldn’t have such a unique place to work and do such a good job processing cases.    

“To us, may we continue to serve the public, may we continue to administer justice, may we continue to be fair, and when the forces of the law exert their gravitational force on the 37th District Court, may we rotate around that legal star in our own unique way,” Chmura said.

For more information on the history of the state’s district court system, visit www.courts.mi.gov/MDJA50.