This midterm election is important for our state and the nation, but it is equally important for our local community. At the polls many people will have the opportunity to ‘vote the ticket,’ casting all votes for a particular political party. Even if that is your modus operandi, do not forget to consider and vote for non-partisan candidates toward the end of the ballot as well. Judges in particular are expected to be impartial, hence party affiliation is impractical. This is an important year for the judiciary in our community. Justices in the Michigan Supreme Court and judges in the Washtenaw Circuit Court are up for election.

At the moment, Washtenaw County has a very strong judiciary. It makes sense with Michigan Law School, a perennial top 10 in the rankings, only blocks away from the Washtenaw County Trial Court on Huron Street. I worked at the courthouse as a judicial intern, and I was impressed with the importance of qualified judges. Most people dread going to court, and it is an intimidating arena for the uninitiated (read: the 99.5 percent of Americans who have not passed the bar exam).

The vacant position on the bench is left by retiring Judge Donald Shelton, an accomplished local figure (Judge Shelton served as mayor of nearby Saline before becoming Circuit Judge). An excellent candidate to replace Judge Shelton would be Pat Conlin. Pat was raised in Washtenaw County and has deep ties to this community. He has been a practicing attorney in Washtenaw County for over 15 years and specializes in family law and dispute resolution — skills that will translate well if he is elected judge.

A recent poll of attorneys in the Washtenaw County Bar Association was taken to measure each Circuit Court candidate’s aptitude. The WCBA is a key poll because these advocates will most likely be representing clients before the future judge. Pat Conlin was the highest-rated candidate as measured in the categories of Interpersonal Skills and Character Traits of a successful judge.

When you head to the voting booths Nov. 4, take care to vote for the non-partisan candidates and keep Washtenaw County’s judiciary strong with a vote for Pat Conlin.

JR Keller is an LSA senior

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