New 44th District Court judge excited to take seat on bench

By: Mike Koury | C&G Newspapers | Published April 3, 2023

 Andrew Kowalkowski recently was appointed as a judge in the 44th District Court, serving Berkley and Royal Oak. His term will begin April 24 and end on Jan. 1, 2025. He plans to run for election.

Andrew Kowalkowski recently was appointed as a judge in the 44th District Court, serving Berkley and Royal Oak. His term will begin April 24 and end on Jan. 1, 2025. He plans to run for election.

Photo provided by Andrew Kowalkowski


BERKLEY/ROYAL OAK — The 44th District Court will have a new judge taking on the robe and gavel later this month.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced March 28 that she was appointing Andrew Kowalkowski to the open seat in the court. Kowalkowski will be taking the seat formerly held by Judge Jamie Wittenberg, who died last November from brain cancer.

Kowalkowski, 40, comes to the district court from the Michigan Department of State, where he was an administrative law examiner. He also worked at a private practice for 12 years in criminal defense, a job that brought him before both Wittenberg and fellow 44th District Court Judge Derek Meinecke many times.

A longtime resident of Royal Oak, Kowalkowski said he’s always wanted to become a judge, but he never thought it would happen in the 44th District Court because it already had “two great judges” in place, in Wittenberg and Meinecke.

“It’s something that I thought about for a long time, even going back to law school,” he said. “It was just always something that appealed to me. The opportunity to affect people’s lives and hopefully in a positive way is something that I think judges have a day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute opportunity to do. So it’s something that I’ve thought about for a long, long time.”

Since Wittenberg’s death, Meinecke said, the court not only has been in mourning, but it also has been shorthanded.

“Our staff has been magnificent. Everybody here had to take on extra workloads, extra responsibilities,” he said. “We’ve received some great support from retired judges who served as visiting judges. We even had some other local district court judges who volunteered to come over here and help cover some dockets. And so that has really been something that has helped us still provide the service that Royal Oak and Berkley deserve.”

That being said, having a more permanent fix to the court is the best course of action, and Meinecke is excited to have Kowalkowski join the bench.

Meinecke said Wittenberg set a standard that would be impossible for anyone to try to meet, but he also left a playbook on what it takes to be an excellent judge and the traits that one needs to have for the role, such as humility, decency and the desire to serve.

“Jamie showed the way, and everything that I can gather about Judge Kowalkowski is that he has those necessary traits that will allow him to continue that great legacy,” Meinecke said. “From what I understand, he’s community involved, he’s involved with the schools, he’s a family person, he’s got a great connection to our town and has that desire to serve. I know our staff’s excited to get him up to speed and get him incorporated into the courthouse.”

Kowalkowski said Wittenberg’s approach to the bench and position is an aspiration for him as he steps into this role. He also feels fortunate to be able to share the courthouse with Meinecke.

Kowalkowski hopes to be able to continue their work in the 44th District Court as well as their work in the district court’s specialty courts.

“I’m really excited to take part in those specialty courts and look for opportunities to enhance them with my own background and thoughts as we move forward,” he said. “The sobriety court program and teen court and things like that. It’s a wonderful court and has a great reputation. I’m so fortunate to be a part of this going forward, and I can’t wait to help out in the ways I can.”

Kowalkowski’s term will begin on April 24 and will run until Jan. 1, 2025. He will have to run for reelection in November 2024, which he said he plans to do.

“I want to be a part of this courthouse, this community, for the rest of my career,” he said. “I’m very excited to get this position and to move forward in that way for the rest of my career.”

Call Staff Writer Mike Kou at (586) 498-1077.