County welcomes new judge

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Carol Kuhnke takes oath as 22nd Circuit Court Judge

By Jo Mathis

Legal News

Washtenaw County's newest Circuit Court Judge was praised at her Feb. 1 investiture as a tireless worker whose calm demeanor and sense of integrity will be an asset to the bench.

More than 200 people filled the Michigan League Ballroom for the ceremony and reception, which also included a lengthy speech by a Shakespeare-quoting professor and a stirring performance by baritone Roger Chard.

"Carol is going to be a marvelous addition to what is already the best bench in the state of Michigan," said Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Douglas Shapiro, who reads transcripts from courts throughout the state.

Shapiro said the county's law community is so talented, there were three other excellent candidates of integrity and intelligence running for the seat won by Kuhnke in November.

Kuhnke filled the spot vacated by Judge Melinda Morris, who retired at the close of 2012.

He said Kuhnke is soft-spoken, but fights hard; smart but never showy; hard-working, but easy to be with; and a critical thinker, but not a critical person.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bridget McCormack told the crowd that she met Kuhnke at a golf outing, as the two non-golfers were asked to drive the cart.

"That was one of about eight things she was doing that day," said McCormack, praising her new friend's ability to calmly multi-task. "She was supervising her kids by text and phone--and seemingly supervising some neighborhood kids, as well."

"I don't think I know a more hardworking, cheerful, intelligent, compassionate, even-handed and humble person than Carol," she said.

McCormack said Washtenaw County residents should feel proud that people going to court feel heard, respected, and confirmed.

"I'm so glad that my family and my neighbors are in such capable hands," she said.

Taking the microphone next, retired Judge Melinda Morris said she's not a golfer, either.

"But I would say that with these two new guardians of justice, the county of Washtenaw and the state of Michigan have hit a hole in one," she said, referring to Kuhnke and McCormack, both of whom were elected in November.

Acclaimed University of Michigan Professor Emeritus Ralph Williams spoke eloquently about the connection between literature and the law. He read from The Merchant of Venice, quoted Dante, and urged Kuhnke to delight in justice, and find joy in it.

After the swearing-in, Kuhnke's mother and two children helped her on with her robe, which Kuhnke said belongs to the office and not the person who wears it.

"This robe represents the job that I am honored to do, a privilege I will enjoy for only as long as the community allows me to do it," Kuhnke said.

Kuhnke thanked her supporters, including her two children and extended family, and Peter Davis, her law partner of 14 years, whom she described as her mentor and best friend. She also thanked her life partner, who died six months ago, and said she hoped she was looking down on them that afternoon.

Pledging to be fair and respectful from the bench, Kuhnke also thanked her fellow judges and the lawyers who will be practicing in front of her, for taking the time to welcome her.

Published: Thu, Feb 7, 2013

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