Shores voters finally get their say in court

By: K. Michelle Moran | Grosse Pointe Times | Published November 18, 2013

GROSSE POINTE SHORES — After years of seeing voters in a neighboring city make the decision for them, Shores voters this year finally had a chance to cast their ballots for the municipal judge who serves them.

Shores voters threw their support behind incumbent Farms/Shores Municipal Court Judge Matthew Rumora, a more than 25-year veteran of the bench, during the election Nov. 5. This was the first time they’ve ever been able to do so.

In 2010, a set of three bills sponsored by then-state Rep. Tim Bledsoe, D-Grosse Pointe City, were approved by the state Legislature and signed into law by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm that gave Shores voters the right to vote for municipal judge and run for the position. The bills also clarified the Shores’ access to a municipal court — something that became a technical problem when the Shores changed from a village to a city in 2009.

In addition, the bills enabled Shores officials to partner on their court with any of the other Grosse Pointes — the last communities in Michigan that still have municipal courts. For years, the Shores had used Grosse Pointe Woods’ municipal court judge as its own, but in 2011, the Shores switched to Grosse Pointe Farms for its judge. The state wouldn’t allow the Shores to create a new — and separate — municipal court, but it did permit the city to team up with any of its neighbors.

Former Shores Mayor James Cooper and former City Manager Brian Vick had both gone to Lansing to testify on behalf of the city in favor of these bills.

“It was a lot of hard work,” recalled Cooper as he exited the Shores polls on Election Day this year. “It was (an) accomplishment with Rep. Bledsoe for Shores residents to finally be able to vote for a judge and to have all of the rights that residents of other communities have.”

A number of Shores voters were pleased to be able to vote for their own judge.

“It’s great to be able to participate in the electoral process for someone who has such a key position in the village,” said Shores voter Patrick McCarroll, an attorney and member of the city’s Planning Commission.

Mary Huebner — who served on the Shores Charter Commission — said this voting right was something her city fought for.

“I think it’s extremely important that you have a voice,” she said. “I really think that’s important. That was important when we were on the Charter Commission.”

Shores voter George Hendrie agreed. When asked what he thought about being able to vote for his city’s municipal court judge for the first time, he responded, “It’s great.”

“Voting for judge means that we have more of a representative of the community that we are in agreement with,” Shores voter John Salvador said.

Shores voter James Fisher said he was impressed with challenger Matthew Peck when the judicial candidate discussed his positions while campaigning door-to-door in the city. The contested judicial race was what prompted him to cast a ballot in this election, he said.

“For me, I came out (to the polls) because of that,” Fisher said. “I’m very excited to be able to (vote for my city’s judge).”

Although he’s well-known in the Farms because of his long tenure there, Rumora has only served the Shores as judge for the last two years, so he knew he might have more of an uphill battle there.

“I was very happy with the results in the Shores,” Rumora said. “We worked very hard to introduce myself to voters in the Shores.”