How many people do I vote for? – Part 6: Judges

Talk to youth about the voting process and discuss the roles of elected judges.

October 9, 2018 - Author: Darren Bagley, Michigan State University Extension

This is the sixth article in a series about the different people you vote for on Election Day. It includes some basic information, questions for discussion and things to consider. Take time to talk to the young people in your life (and adults too) about who you are voting for, why and their opinions on the issue. Why is our government the way it is? What would happen if we changed things?

In the U.S. federal system of government, the checks and balances of the three branches of government have members of the judiciary appointed by the President, then approved with the advice and consent of the Senate. At the state and local level in Michigan, judges are elected. What are the benefits of each system? Is one “better” than another?

When voting for judges on Election Day, how do you make your selection? Do you look up how the judges ruled on a particular case? Is it based on endorsements from other community members? In Michigan, judges are selected by the political parties, but listed as non-partisan on the ballot. Why are they listed as non-partisan if they are selected by political parties? In Michigan, judges cannot be elected after the age of 70. What are the issues related to this rule? How is this different than term limits?

Let’s take a closer look at Michigan’s judicial offices.

  • Judges of the Michigan State Supreme Court. The Michigan Supreme Court has seven justices elected to eight-year terms without term limits. The Michigan Supreme Court is the highest court in the U.S. State of Michigan.
  • Judges of the Michigan Court of Appeals. The Michigan Court of Appeals has four districts, each of which elect six judges to six-year terms without term limits. Although the judges are elected geographically, they rule on cases statewide. What benefits or disadvantages might this have?
  • Circuit Court. There are 57 Circuit Courts in Michigan. Judicial Circuits cover between one and four counties and have between one and 61 judges based on population. Circuit Court judges are elected to six-year terms without term limits. Circuit Courts handle felonies and claims over $25,000.
  • Probate Court. There are 78 Probate Courts in Michigan. Districts cover between one and four counties and have between one and eight judges based on population. Probate Court judges are elected to six-year terms without term limits. Probate Courts decide on wills, guardianship and treatment for the mentally disabled.
  • District Court. There are 105 Districts Courts in Michigan. Districts cover between one and four counties and have between one and 31 judges based on population. How should the number of judges be determined? How long is too long for the Constitution’s “right to a speedy trial?” District Court judges are elected to six-year terms without term limits. District courts handle misdemeanors and claims under $25,000.

Hopefully these questions get you thinking about our government and generate some interesting ideas as you head to the polls. They might also encourage the young people in your life to make a difference in their community, country and world.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our Impact Report: “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.” Additional impact reports, highlighting even more ways MSU Extension and Michigan 4-H have positively impacted individuals and communities can be downloaded from the MSU Extension website.

Other articles in series

Tags: 4-h, citizenship & service, civic engagement, community, government, leadership, msu extension


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