Budget crisis slowing Probate Court appointment


ARENAC COUNTY — Since former Probate Court Judge Jack Scully stepped down in late May, the seat has been vacant, and due to the state’s budget issues, it doesn’t look like that will change anytime soon as an appointment by Governor Granholm to fill the judgeship doesn’t appear on the immediate horizon.

“We are in the middle of the process of finding a replacement,” said the Governor’s Deputy Press Secretary Megan Brown, adding however, the state’s difficulty in coming up with a fiscal year 2010 budget is taking center stage. “We are focused right now on the state budget.

“There’s been no status change at this time with the state’s budget crisis,” Brown continued.

But the seat has garnered attention from some lawyers in the area. Attorneys Richard Vollbach, Duane Hadley, Patrick Winter and Nichole Polumbo have all applied for the Gubernatorial appointment – and the $139,919 a year paycheck that comes with it – and Vollbach says all four were interviewed by a Judge Qualifications Committee over two months ago.

“We were all actually sitting in the same lobby, waiting,” he said, adding the applicants were told they would hear back soon. “We expected to hear back the following week who it’s going to be.”

June Baker, probate court administrator says the duties for the court’s proceedings have been split up between 23rd Circuit Court Judges William Myles and Ronald Bergeron.

Baker says for her, the shortage of a judge mostly affects the dates and times of court hearings.

“The only thing that we really have had a conflict with is scheduling. … I have to wait until they’re (judges) done in their Circuit Court cases,” Baker said.

The 11-year veteran of the office says she’s never had to deal with a vacant judgeship in the past.

County Clerk Ricky Rockwell said that two other counties in Michigan – Leelanau and Ontonagon – are also without probate judges.

“None of them, in the last few months, have been filled,” Rockwell said.


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