Royal farewell: District judge retires after more than four decades serving city

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By Christine L. Mobley
Legal News
 
After serving on Royal Oak’s bench for 32 years, Oakland County 44th District Court Chief Judge Daniel Sawicki is hanging up his robe.
 
The American-born son of Polish immigrants decided to pursue a career in the law after graduating from University of Detroit Mercy with a degree in Accounting.
 
“First job out of college was at Ford Motor Co. as an accountant,” Sawicki said. “I found it was so boring that I had to do something different – so I went to law school.”
 
Sawicki entered the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 1964 and attended evening classes while still working full-time at Ford.  
 
Upon earning his law degree in 1968, Sawicki was admitted to the State Bar of Michigan on January 2, 1969.
 
Shortly thereafter, Sawicki began his legal career with the City of Royal Oak as an assistant city attorney in February 1969. During that time he also worked evenings as an associate with the Royal Oak firm of O’Brien, O’Brien, Bolle, Gase, & Gilleran in the Washington Square Building.
 
Sawicki notes that four members of that firm have served on the bench in Oakland County: John and Frank O’Brien as circuit court judges, and Bill Bolle  (52nd district) and himself as district court judges.
 
In 1973, he left the firm to become the full-time Royal Oak city attorney before his appointment to the bench in November 1980 by the governor.
 
Living and working in Royal Oak for more than four decades, Sawicki has seen many changes over the years. He noted when he first came to the city that Royal Oak was mostly a retail town but over time and with an economic upturn the city became more of an entertainment destination.
 
“I think it’s for the better,” Sawicki said. “For the most part, the city’s got a good reputation I think and I see cities like Ferndale following suit.”
 
The city’s changing landscape has brought different types of cases before the district court, Sawicki noted.
 
“It’s a different kind of case you’re handling,” he explained. “At one time there wasn’t as much as it is now for disorderly conduct, fights, public intox(ication), that sort of thing.”
 
Although there are many, one of the most memorable cases Sawicki has heard was that of Jack Kevorkian when he was charged with dropping bodies off at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak.
 
Also among the plethora of cases he has heard, Sawicki recalls once having to duct tape a defendant’s mouth shut.
 
“That probably wasn’t too pleasant for him, but he didn’t cause any more troubles.”
 
After serving the city of Royal Oak in one capacity or another for more than 40 years, Sawicki plans to enjoy his retirement by  “not doing anything that has to do with being employed for awhile.”
 
“I’ve been working since I was 8-years-old,” he said. “Started with a paper route. I’ve never been without a job.”
 
In fact, the only reason he’s retiring now is due to the age limits for judges.
 
His retirement plans include traveling with his wife of 14 1/2 years, Mary Christine, a retired schoolteacher; along with reading, golf, and visiting his children and their families. Sawicki has eight adult children – two daughters, Kimberly and Nicole; two sons, James and Matthew; two adopted sons Mark and Michael; and his two stepsons John and Christopher.
 
Sawicki  is a member of several professional and civic organizations including the State Bar of Michigan, Oakland County Bar Association, Michigan District Judges Association, Boys and Girls Club, Knights of Columbus, and Royal Oak Elks to name a few.
 
A retirement celebration will be held in Sawicki’s honor on Thursday, Oct. 11, at Red Run Golf Club.
 
Over the years, Sawicki has met many people both personally and professionally.
 
“I’ve met a lot of people,” Sawicki said. “I didn’t want to leave. I’ve really enjoyed this position – I hate to call it a job, because it really isn’t. It’s a position and I enjoy the position and the people I work with.
 
“It’s just been a fabulous career. I don’t know how I could have served any better,” Sawicki added. 
 
“Being a district judge is the best position in the world. You can keep your circuit judges, your Court of Appeals, and your Supremes – being a district judge you get to see people, you get to help people and that’s what it’s all about.”

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