Stories indexed with the term ‘Michael Woodyard’

Judicial Races Winnow Choices for Fall

Julia Owdziej and Tracy Van den Bergh will advance to the Nov. 4 election for Washtenaw County probate judge, following the outcome of a five-way race in the nonpartisan Aug. 5 primary.


Charts showing the outcome of the Aug. 5 nonpartisan primary for Washtenaw County probate judge and 22nd circuit court judge. The top two vote-getters in each race will advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

And in the 22nd circuit court race, Patrick Conlin and Veronique Liem prevailed over Michael Woodyard to advance to the Nov. 4 election.

Countywide, Conlin received 16,043 votes (44.85%) and Liem garnered 14,779 votes (41.32%). Coming in third was Woodyard with 4,856 votes (13.58%). Overall, 44,823 ballots were cast throughout Washtenaw County in this race, which translated to a 16.28% turnout, according to unofficial results on the Washtenaw County elections website.

The winner of the Nov. 4 contest between Conlin and Liem will fill the open seat left by judge Donald Shelton, who turned 70 in June. According to Michigan state law, only a person under the age of 70 can be appointed or run for the position of judge.

Conlin and Liem are local attorneys, while Woodyard works in the Wayne County prosecutor’s office. A second seat on the 22nd circuit court is also up for election, as judge David Swartz is at the end of a six-year term. He is uncontested in his effort to retain the 22nd circuit court incumbent seat.

In the probate judicial race, five candidates competed in the Aug. 5 primary: Jane Bassett, Tamara Garwood, Constance Jones, Tracy Van den Bergh and recently appointed judge Julia Owdziej.

Owdziej received 11,314 votes (31.21%) with Van den Bergh getting 10,172 votes (28.06%). They will advance to the Nov. 4 general election. Bassett received 5,207 votes (14.36%), with 4,925 votes for Garwood (13.59%), and 4,560 votes for Constance Jones (12.58%). In this race, 44,890 ballots were cast countywide, for a voter turnout of 16.3%, according to unofficial results posted by the Washtenaw County elections division.

Owdziej had been appointed to the seat by Gov. Rick Snyder on June 2, 2014, to fill the vacancy on the court left by Nancy Wheeler’s retirement. The announcement of that retirement came on May 1, after candidates had filed to run. Wheeler was expected to retire at the end of the year, but it came earlier than expected due to health reasons. Bassett, Garwood and Jones currently work in private practice while Van den Bergh is a staff attorney for a legal services nonprofit.

Both judicial races showed a similar pattern, comparing the countywide vote to the city of Ann Arbor. The two candidates who were strongest across the county – Conlin for the circuit judgeship and Owdziej for the probate judgeship – were not the strongest candidates in the city of Ann Arbor. Strongest in the city of Ann Arbor for probate and circuit court were Liem and Van den Bergh, respectively.

Below are charts showing outcomes for both the probate and 22nd circuit court judicial races, with a ward-by-ward breakdown for the city of Ann Arbor. [Full Story]

Washtenaw Dems Host Judicial Forum

The Washtenaw County Democratic Party is hosting a forum for candidates in county judicial races this morning (July 19, 2014) at 10 a.m. at the Pittsfield Township Hall on Michigan Avenue near Platt Road.

The Chronicle plans to provide a live audio broadcast from the event. The embedded live-stream player below will be replaced with an audio recording after the event is over.

Two contested races will appear on the ballot for the Aug. 5, 2014 primary – one for the circuit court and the other for the probate court.

The circuit court tries felonies and criminal matters, family law, and civil disputes where claims are greater than $25,000. However, the docket for this particular seat on the circuit court is heavily weighted … [Full Story]

22nd Circuit Judicial Race: Connors, Woodyard

Earlier this month in the cafeteria of Bach Elementary School, four candidates for two spots on the 22nd Circuit Court fielded questions as part of a forum sponsored by the Washtenaw County Bar Association and the Old West Side Association. The nonpartisan judicial elections are for six-year terms.

Timothy Connors, Mike Woodyard

Candidates for one of two races for judge of the 22nd Circuit Court in Washtenaw County: Tim Connors (left) and Mike Woodyard (right).

This write-up includes some of the responses of candidates in just one of those races, described on the ballot at the “incumbent position.” The ballot itself also labels the incumbent, Tim Connors, as “Judge of Circuit Court.” Voters on Nov. 6 will have a choice between Connors and Ann Arbor resident Mike Woodyard, who has worked for the last 10 years as an attorney in the Wayne County prosecutor’s office. Before attending law school, Woodyard worked for a time as a newspaper reporter.

Connors was initially appointed to the 22nd Circuit Court in 1997 by then-Gov. John Engler, a Republican, to replace judge Karl Fink – the older brother of Jim Fink, who is running in the other race along with Carol Kuhnke for the non-incumbent 22nd Circuit Court judgeship. Before making the circuit court appointment, Engler had previously appointed Connors in 1991 to a seat on the 15th District Court in Ann Arbor.

Vacancies created by resignations, like that of Karl Fink, are filled through gubernatorial appointments – but judges must stand for election at the first opportunity to serve out the remainder of the partial term. After being appointed in 1997, Connors stood for election in 1998, and then again in 2000 and 2006 for successive six-year terms. On each of those three occasions, Connors was unopposed, which is fairly typical for incumbent judges.

At the forum, that’s one reason Woodyard indicated he’s running for judge – not to run against Connors, but rather to provide voters with the kind of contested judicial elections described by Michigan law. It emerged during the forum that in law school Woodyard had taken a trial advocacy course taught by Connors, and had received an A in the class. Woodyard mentioned the class as helpful in one of his first trials, which resulted in getting a “live nude girls” establishment shut down.

The WCBA had prepared questions for the candidates covering standard topics like judicial temperament, experience and what led the candidates to consider a career in law. During the second part of the forum, questions from the audience were entertained as well. The requirement that all questions be suitable for all four candidates led to some grumbling – based in part on the fact that not all four candidates were running against each other.

Local attorney Peter Davis, who indicated he had a question just for Woodyard, responded to moderator Steve Borgsdorf’s enforcement of the rule by saying ”So you want softball questions?” Borgsdorf responded with, “No, they can be fastballs, but everyone’s got to get a chance to bat.” The analogy was apt, as at the time of the Oct. 16 forum, the Detroit Tigers baseball team was handing the New York Yankees a 2-1 defeat in the American League Championship Series.

Woodyard and Connors had previously participated in a candidate forum in June, prior to the Aug. 7 primary and hosted by the Washtenaw County Democratic Party. They also responded to five questions for inclusion on the website. Responses from candidates in the other race – Carol Kuhnke and Jim Fink – will be reported in a separate Chronicle write-up.

The campaign finance filing deadline was Oct. 26. According to documents filed with the state, Connors has raised $95,090 in contributions and spent $84,765. Woodyard’s campaign finance report shows contributions of $7,266 and expenditures of $6,830.

These candidates will be on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election. To see a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website. Additional information about local candidates and other voter information is available on the Washtenaw county clerk’s elections division website. [Full Story]