Joseph Rossi sworn in as 17th Circuit Court judge before packed courtroom



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

It was standing room only for the investiture of Joseph Rossi as a judge in the 17th Circuit Court last Friday.

Judge Rossi comes from a large, warm family as does his wife Marie, and their nine children and relatives alone could have filled a sizable venue. Members of places where Rossi had worked — including all the founding partners of his current firm, Drew Cooper and Anding — joined friends, Marine Corps personnel, and others from the legal community to make for an overflow crowd.

Many judicial colleagues also attended, including the second-newest 17th Cir-cuit Judge Deborah McNabb, elected to the newly-created family court judgeship.

The ceremony was brief considering that four speakers gave remarks; a reception immediately afterwards, outside the 12th floor courtroom, attracted even more well-wishers.

Patrick Geary of Smith Haughey Rice and Roegge opened up the remarks by calling Rossi a “double-domer.”

“For those of you uncertain about what that means, Joe got both his degrees from the University of Notre Dame,” Geary explained, and added to widespread laughter, “For those of you still uncertain, that’s a smallish college in Northern Indiana...”
Rossi began his career at Smith Haughey and then became an assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District. While at Notre Dame, he was given the officer’s sword for being top Marine graduate, and as a Second Lieutenant he served in Operation Desert Storm as well as in the 1992 Los Angeles riots. His reserve service, starting in 1992, was exemplary, and he was twice called to assume command of the Grand Rapids USMC Reserve Center.

Another of the investiture speakers, Key Volunteer Susan Szymanski of the Grand Rapids Marines, sang his praises for a “high sense of morality” and willingness to help others, particularly in his charge of letting people know when a family member was killed.

He ended up his service by working in the Special Operation and Counter-Terrorism of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon.

After his Assistant Attorney stint for the U.S. Department of Justice, Judge Rossi joined Drew Cooper and Anding, and John Anding spoke about the pleasure of working alongside the future judge and his certainty that Joe Rossi has what it takes for success.

The final speaker of the day was Rossi’s campaign committee chair, Cecilia Cunningham, who highlighted another salient aspect of Rossi’s life: his faith in God. Cunningham felt that the main reason she was called to manage his campaign was her commitment to their Catholic faith.

The well-known Father Robert Scirocco of Sacred Heart Parrish and the Acton Institute gave the invocation and benediction. He joked that with all the lawyers in the room, he should probably “begin with an exorcism.”

And Judge Rossi himself, after his swearing-in by the Hon. George Buth, whose retirement opened up the position Rossi will assume, said, “All the glory goes to God. There’s no way I could’ve done this by myself,” and moved on to recognizing all the hard work of his supporters.

Chief Judge Donald A Johnston closed the session and wished Judge Rossi, whose “decorous conduct” he applauded, success on the bench.

The new judge’s wife Marie deserves credit for organizing the reception and remaining gracious and friendly despite competing claims of attention on her time. The couple’s children, who range in age from five to 25, appear to carry on that tradition. Regina Rossi, 15, and Lucia Rossi, 12, singing the national anthem was a highlight of the investiture.