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Horn, O’Neal and Chief Judge Jackson restore Saginaw County judgeship

LANSING, Mich. — A collaborative effort between some of Saginaw County’s top officials paid off as legislation was signed to maintain the current circuit court judgeship in Saginaw County that was previously scheduled to be eliminated.

At the request of Chief Judge Darnell Jackson, Sen. Ken Horn and Rep. Amos O’Neal supported legislation to keep the needed judgeship position in the county. The bill was finalized Wednesday afternoon when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed it into law as Public Act 8 of 2022.

“One of the most important jobs of the judiciary is ensuring swift and impartial justice,” said Horn, R-Frankenmuth. “This is a win for the people of Saginaw and a way to better serve and protect our community. This will guarantee access to an effective and efficient court system for all.”

Every two years, the State Court Administrative Office releases the Judicial Resource Recommendations report based on its review of the needs of the Michigan judiciary. The review of trial court judgeships begins with a statistical analysis. Case filings are weighted to reflect the amount of judicial time necessary to handle each case type.

Senate Bill 694, now PA 8 of 2022, is a judicial reorganization that addresses the most recent findings of the State Court Administrative Office and would maintain the circuit court judgeships in Saginaw County. The bill would also add circuit court judge positions in Muskegon and Wayne counties, reorganize the 89th Judicial District in northern Michigan and allow Kent County to add a fifth probate judge.

O’Neal, who joined Horn in supporting the legislation while it was before the Legislature, said this bill will help ensure area courts are able to operate efficiently.

“Losing a circuit court judgeship in a county as populous as Saginaw would have slowed proceedings and decreased our residents’ access to justice,” said O’Neal, D-Saginaw. “I’m very proud of the work that we did on behalf of our constituents today. Those in our court system have the right to have their cases heard within a reasonable timeframe.”

Saginaw County Judge Darnell Jackson, who personally testified in Lansing to make the case for Saginaw County, said the county suffers from many of the same administrative issues courts have across the state and that he was pleased to see the bill make it across the finish line and signed into law.

“I first want to thank state Sen. Ken Horn and State Rep. Amos O’Neal for their efforts in making this all happen,” Jackson said. “When I approached them with my concerns about losing a judgeship in Saginaw County, they both pledged their support to save it. Had it not been for the two of them, this would not have occurred. They have served the citizens of Saginaw County well.”