Three candidates are vying for the seat of Montcalm County’s 64B District Court judge.
Donald Hemingsen has served on that bench for almost 18 years now. He is being challenged by Greenville attorney Kathleen Dunne and Stanton attorney Ronald Finegood for the nonpartisan position in Tuesday’s primary election.
Hemingsen’s supporters are a who’s who of the local legal community. He is endorsed by every attorney in Montcalm County (save his two challengers, of course), the entire nine-member Montcalm County Board of Commissioners and every judge in Clinton, Gratiot, Ionia and Montcalm counties.
This overwhelming support from Hemingsen’s peers speaks volumes about whether he should be allowed to return to the bench.
In the courtroom, Hemingsen is known as a tough critic. He calls it like he sees it and is quick to interject with attorneys and prosecutors, defendants and witnesses alike when a statement needs clarifying or crucial information is missing. Anyone practicing law knows they best be prepared in Hemingsen’s courtroom.
Hemingsen’s challengers do not come close to his years of experience in the courtroom. Dunne and Finegood have their own ideas about bringing change to District Court, but they fail to make a convincing case.
Dunne wants to create a teen court program in District Court, even though juvenile offenders are already processed in Probate Court. Montcalm County already has its own drug court in 8th Judicial Circuit Court, which is available to District Court. Dunne’s proposal seems to be an expensive duplicate of what is already offered.
Finegood claims favoritism plays a part in the justice Hemingsen hands out and alleges if you “know” someone, you get a “break” that someone else does not get. It’s impossible to give credence to Finegood’s claim when Hemingsen has the support of every attorney in the county.
Having been on the bench for the past 18 years, Hemingsen is well aware of the many and varied challenges of District Court. Staff has been reduced due to budget cuts and Hemingsen’s goal is to continue meeting this challenge by becoming more efficient and joining with neighboring courts to share resources. He’s currently in the process of working with Gratiot County to create a shared recovery court and he has been invited along with other counties to apply for status as a regional mental health court.
Because of his experience, because of his professional and dignified courtroom, because of his efficiency, because of the overwhelming support from his peers, our support goes to Hemingsen for 64B District Court judge.
Editorial opinions are the consensus of The Daily News editorial board.