Posted on 24 July 2014.
63rd District Court Judge Steven Servaas is retiring after 41 years on the bench. He was elected in 1972, and at age 27, was the youngest judge elected in Kent County. There are six candidates who are running in the August 5 primary to fill his spot: Four men and two women, all from the Rockford and Courtland Township area. Here they are:
Andrea Crumback, of Rockford, is currently a partner at Mika Meyers, Beckett & Jones law firm, and also served several years as a prosecutor for the City of Grand Rapids. Over the course of two decades, Crumback has handled over 100 civil and criminal court cases in roughly 25 counties in Michigan—and argued cases on appeal to the Michigan Court of Appeals and Supreme Court. She has also participated in over a dozen jury trials and more than 40 non-jury trials and traffic hearings. “In criminal cases, I have been both the voice of the prosecuting agency and of those being prosecuted,” says Crumback. “In civil cases I have been the voice of the plaintiff and of the defendant.” She points out that this broad and balanced experience in all types of district court matters makes her the most well-rounded candidate for judge. “The experiences you have as an attorney shape your viewpoints—whether subconsciously or consciously,” says Crumback. “My work experience has given me a unique ability to see both the strengths and weaknesses of each side of the argument.”
Crumback is endorsed by Kent County Circuit Court Judge Kathleen Feeney; Catherine Mish, City Attorney, City of Grand Rapids; Josef R. Soper, 61st District Court Administrator (retired); Robert Atkinson, Retired Director of the Grand Rapids City Attorney’s Ordinance Enforcement Division; Dennis Keiser, Supervisor/Assessor, Bear Creek Township; Lori Bluhm, City Attorney for Troy, MI; Charles F. Smith, Supervisor Pentwater Township, Oceana County; and more.
Brent Boncher, of Courtland Township, works for the law firm of Schenk, Boncher & Rypma. He says he has handled hundreds of cases in federal courts and state courts at all levels in a wide spectrum of subject areas from real estate, to personal injury, to contracts, to construction, to landlord/tenant, to business disputes. “Of equal importance, in my law practice I represent plaintiffs and defendants, and individuals and businesses, so I am already used to sizing up cases from all angles,” said Boncher. “In the courtroom, I will strive to conduct my court in a way that all people feel they were respected, that the judge cared about what they had to say, and that he took the time to make the fairest decision possible.” He said that the vehicle to deliver that culture of justice is his professional background guided by a Christian and Pro-Life compass. He currently serves on the Courtland Township Board as a trustee, and also serves on the Zoning board of appeals, the Grand Valley Metro Council, and other boards.
Boncher is endorsed by Right to Life of Michigan, and the Rental Property Owners Association.
Charles Boekeloo, of Rockford, is a Kent County trial attorney that has been practicing for over 30 years in the courtroom and says he is a frequent advocate in the very court he seeks to serve as judge. He has handled matters of civil litigation, neglect and abuse of children, landlord-tenant and insurance, although his primary specialty is criminal litigation. He appears in both state and federal courts, including the Michigan Supreme Court and the United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals. Chuck and his wife Karen have five children. One lives in Cedar Springs with his wife and their only grandchild. Boekeloo is a past president of the Kent County Criminal Defense Bar, and he recently served as Rockford School Board president and trustee. A graduate of Sparta High School, he credits his Northern Kent County upbringing for supplying him with the relaxed and courteous demeanor he believes would be vital in allowing him to continue the tradition maintained by Judge Servaas for the last 42 years.
He is endorsed by both the Kent County Law Enforcement Association (KCLEA) and the Kent County Deputy Sheriff’s Association. Together, these groups comprise almost the entire staff of officers of the Kent County Sheriff, including the court officers providing security for all the county state courts. He is also endorsed by Dr. Mike Shibler.
Jeffery O’Hara, of Rockford, is a skilled criminal defense trial attorney. He has over 25 years jury trial experience in the state and federal courts. He said he has diligently represented his clients by protecting their individual rights and counseling them to change their lives for the better. He is proud of the work he has done and the families he has helped. Now, Jeff wants to put his skills and dedication to work for our community, a community that he has been a part of for over 40 years. He feels he has the experience, the judgement, and the temperament to serve our community justly and fairly.Family is the most important part of O’Hara’s life. He has been married for 32 years to his wife Christie who teaches second grade at Rockford Public Schools. They have three grown children (Kathryn, Daniel, and Colleen) and a son-in-law (Nick Wallis) who all graduated from Rockford High School.
O’Hara is endorsed by Roy H. Johnson, retired agent FBI; Kent County Law Enforcement Association; Michael B. Quinn, Attorney at Law; Joel Oosting, Juvenile Probation Officer – 17th Circuit Court Family Division; Carl R. Paganelli, Retired United States Probation and Parole Officer; Dan Helmer, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney – Kent County; Gene Debbaudt, Retired FBI Agent and small business owner; and more.
Jody Jernigan, of Rockford, a partner in the Golden & Jernigan law firm and member of the bar since 2000, describes herself as a quiet listener, a fair and honest leader, and a woman of integrity. Jernigan prefers working for a small firm, one that cares about people and is able to do pro-bono work when necessary. She realizes that people may struggle or find themselves in situations they could have never foreseen and has been committed to their wellbeing. Working for a small firm has given Jernigan extensive courtroom experience in a variety of cases. She understands the intricacies of the court from a unique vantage point. She helps out at God’s Kitchen North, and is a part of Woman’s Life, a group that provides support to volunteer organizations. She also enjoys participating in Rockford’s Sweetheart Splash.
Jernigan is endorsed by Honorable Graydon W. Dimkoff, Newaygo County Probate Court; Honorable Suzanne Hoseth Kreeger, 8th Circuit Court Ionia and Montcalm; John Kmetz, Circuit Court Referee, 17th Judicial Circuit Court; Rob Kirkbride, Senior Editor of The Monday Morning Quarterback; and others.
Rock Wood, of Courtland Township, has 26 years of hands on courtroom experience. He rose to the rank of senior partner at one of Michigan’s largest law firms, Dickinson Wright PLLC, and now works for the State of Michigan, Department of Attorney General. Wood’s experience is not limited to only a narrow practice area of the law. He says he has handled hundreds of cases, including matters that involved contracts, landlord and tenant, real estate, development, corporate disputes and shareholder issues, insurance policy claims, banking and finance cases, a wide range of construction matters, non-compete and employment cases, civil rights claims, disputes involving various debts, and sales, dramshop, product liability, personal injury and death, corporate and business sales, mergers and many others. His experience includes Michigan District Courts, Circuit Courts, and Court of Appeals; Federal District Court and Court of Appeals; Bankruptcy Court, Tax Court, and many different arbitration forums. This broad experience allowed him to develop the ability to quickly master different sets of rules of legal procedure, evidence, and areas of the law. Wood is a member of the State Bar Judicial Qualifications Committee, which interviews and rates judicial appointee candidates for Michigan’s Governor. Wood’s experience led to the legal community recognizing Rock as one of Michigan’s Super Lawyers, as one who has been rated for over a decade as having the highest possible rating in legal ability and ethical standards, and as one of the “Best Lawyers In America.” He is currently a member of the Courtland Township Planning Commission and several other organizations,
Wood is endorsed by Jon Muth, Attorney and Past President State Bar of Michigan; Rick Davies, Cannon Township Treasurer; Gary Moody, Sparta Village Council; Colleen Brown, Treasurer, Courtland Township; and others.