Plan for Kalamazoo Co. judges draws controversy

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - A new plan in the Kalamazoo County court system to reassign a judge and elect new ones has sparked controversy.

Some members of the legal community say they are still struggling to understand the logic behind it.

"It doesn't make any sense, it just doesn't," says attorney Ross Stancati

The decision passed down by a panel of five Kalamazoo County judges will move current district court judge Julie Phillips to hear family court cases.

The reason it's controversial is that two experienced family court lawyers, Tiffany Ankley and Namita Sharma, had already filed to run for the job.

Instead, the five judge panel ruled whoever wins that race will go to district court and hear criminal cases.

"We have two people here who have all the experience in the world who will instantly be good family law judges and they're not going to be family law judges," says Stancati.

Stancati has been practicing family law for 52 years and founded the Kalamazoo Family Law Bar Association.

He says he can't understand why the court is making the switch, putting a judge with no family law experience in family court, and assigning people with family law experience to hear criminal cases.

The Kalamazoo Family Law Bar Association, which has 65 member lawyers, plans to meet with the judges who made the decision and may appeal to the State Supreme Court.

They say another part of what they're concerned with is that this decision was made after the filing deadline for the fall elections, and no one else can get into the race for the open judge positions.

"How could this happen, how could this be, how could this be good for family law?" asks Stancati.