Owdziej named to probate court

By Jo Mathis

Legal News



Julia Owdziej was warmly received into the Washtenaw County judicial family last week after Gov. Rick Snyder appointed her to the Washtenaw County Probate Court.

“Her reputation precedes her in terms of excellence,” said Washtenaw County Trial Court Chief Judge David Swartz, before swearing her into office.

The position is one Owdziej and four others had already been hoping to fill come election season. The seat was suddenly left vacant when Judge Nancy Wheeler officially retired on May 1 because of health issues. That was several months earlier than her expected and mandatory retirement date of Dec. 31.

It was then up to the governor to fill the position, which Owdziej will keep only if she wins the November election.

Prior to her appointment, Owdziej served as deputy register at the Washtenaw County Probate Court and as a referee at the Washtenaw County Juvenile Court.

At Thursday’s investiture, Washtenaw County Public Defender Lloyd Powell said her work as a Probate Juvenile Referee has been outstanding.

“We in the Public Defender’s office love her,” he said. “She’s always conducted herself with the utmost competency, integrity and professionalism.”

Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie also praised Owdziej, and predicted that when people leave her courtroom—win or lose—they will know they were treated fairly and that justice was done.

Linda Edwards-Brown, juvenile and probate court administrator at the Washtenaw County Trial Court, said that when she and a few others from juvenile court were cross-assigned to also perform probate duties three years ago, they didn’t know what they were doing. Nor could they have done it without Owdziej leading the way, she said.

“She was always walking around with the Michigan Court Rules,” Edwards-Brown  recalled. “Her copy was tattered and torn.

“I take my hat off to her,” she said. “Even when she was working part-time, she worked until the job was done. Judge Shelton called her smart. She is brilliant.”

In a brief and—when acknowledging her mother—tearful speech, Owdziej thanked members of the legal community for hiring her and entrusting her. She said the hard part is leaving the kids and staff from juvenile court.

Her husband, attorney John Owdziej, said he couldn’t be more proud.

“I knew in law school she was something special,” he said, noting that his wife attended the Detroit College of Law on a full academic scholarship because “they wanted to attract stars like her.”

Owdziej said she got “The Call” from Snyder earlier in the week.

 “How are you?” he asked.

“I’m hoping I’m pretty good,” she responded, fairly confident she knew why he was calling.

When Snyder asked if she was still interested in the position for which she had applied and interviewed, she knew she was more than pretty good.

Her daughter, Mary Clare, 17, said her mom texted her at school with the news.

Mary Clare wasn’t a bit surprised.

“I knew she’d get it,” she said, smiling.

Owdziej will face Jane Bassett, Tamara Garwood, Constance Jones and Tracy Van den Bergh in the August primary. The top two will then compete in the November election.


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