Current Mason County Probate Judge Mark Raven endorsed candidate Jeff Nellis over candidate Nick Krieger for being the next Probate Court judge.  The reasons are explained in the article by the City of Ludington Daily News (COLDNews) on Wednesday August 15.

A sitting judge, retiring his job, firmly endorses an attorney that appears before him 'every week' over a judicial staff attorney for an appeal's judge who reviews (and has reviewed) the sitting judge's cases.  Even though that may not come as a surprise, is it ethical?

Does everyone who goes before Judge Raven in the next 4 months who is on the opposite party of Jeff Nellis seeking impartial relief from the Probate Court think so?  A judge's conduct is, by law, governed by a strict code of ethics called judicial canons.  They vary slightly from state to state but here are two that apply to such behavior in Michigan (from Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct)

CANON 2: A Judge Should Avoid Impropriety and the Appearance of Impropriety in All Activities

C. A judge should not allow family, social, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment.  A judge should not use the prestige of office to advance personal business interests or those of others.

CANON 7: A. Political Conduct in General.

(1) A judge or a candidate for judicial office should not:

(b) make speeches on behalf of a political party or non-judicial candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for non-judicial office.

The first likely condemns such activity, the second does seem to make an exception for judicial candidates.  But there is a thin line here, and it almost has to be weighed on a case by case basis.  Such as this case from Alabama, which has slightly different Canons than Michigan:

Alabama JIC: ISSUE:  May a probate judge who is not running for reelection publicly endorse a candidate for the position in an upcoming election? Answer: Yes. However, a judge should be careful that the substance of the endorsement complies with the provisions in Canons 1 and 2.

Canon 1 is the standard:  "A judge should participate in establishing, maintaining, and enforcing, and should personally observe, high standards of conduct so that the integrity and independence of the judiciary may be preserved."   Which is vague enough to go either way.

Other states I researched similar to Mi in other laws are unequivocal in such behavior by judges:

FLA Judge rules:  The code of ethics for Florida judges forbids them from publicly endorsing candidates and from soliciting political contributions  (Canon 7A(1)(b) states: "[A] judge or a candidate for election or appointment to judicial office shall not publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office.")

TX Judge Rules:  In 1974, the Texas Supreme Court enacted the initial Code of Judicial Conduct, which contained an “endorsement” prohibition:

A judge or candidate for election to judicial office should not:  ․ (b) make political speeches for a political organization or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office.

Tex.Code Jud. Conduct, Canon 7A(1)(b), 37 Tex. B.J. 853 (1974)

NV Judicial Canon:  a judge or a candidate* for election or appointment to judicial office shall not:

(b) publicly endorse or publicly oppose another candidate for public office."

The Commentary to Canon 5 further states:

"Section 5A(1)(b) does not prohibit a judge or judicial candidate from privately expressing his or her views on judicial candidates or other candidates for public office."

MA JudicCond: (1) A judge shall not:  (b) make speeches for a political organization* or candidate or publicly endorse a candidate for public office;

Etcetera.  A judge at the end of his career should not have to make such a questionable call on ethics as endorsing a candidate he sees each week and can vouch for, over a appeal's court staff attorney who has likely had his hand in reversing some of Judge Raven's rulings. 

I believe Judge Raven erred in his endorsement and should have stayed the heck out of the fray. Feel free to vote for Nellis, but take this endorsement by Judge Raven for what it is, a bad judgment call by him.  But what do you think?  For equal time, here's the other candidate:

Views: 1170

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

While Krieger may be from MC, he hasn't practiced here of late, or ever, like 12 years I think, he's been living and working in Detroit, and for me, he's disconnected from this area now for some time. Whereas, Nellis has and continues to work here in MC for the betterment of it's citizens that need probate court assistance, for over 17 years now. Looking back, Judge Carney also endorsed an Oceana County prosecutor over Pete Wadel, and it didn't pan out anyhow, so go figure. While Jeff isn't perfect, I'd trust him over an outsider, that of Krieger imo.

Nellis and Krieger have both spent about 20 years in Mason County, so if this is important to you in your choice you have to consider:

1)  Nellis grew up elsewhere, studied at Michigan, got his law degree from Wayne State in 1988, moved to Ludington 5 years later and has been working here ever since.

2)  Krieger grew up here, his family has roots here since the 1880's, studied at MSU, got his law degree from Wayne State, moved away from Ludington about ten years ago, and now wants to get back here.


It's either inside-out or outside-in, and I would probably favor Krieger in that regard using my own metrics, but I don't fault yours, Aquaman. 

Nellis is to me too old meaning been around long enough to be part of the good ol boys club. I say kreiger, I think he's about my age and has been out long enough to not be part of the nepotism that is ludington and even our mason county court system.

You will have to excuse me but everyone talks about the-good ol' boy club what exactly is it? And why is it "bad"?

Fin, you'll have to ask people like Shay, LFD Chief Funk, Hendersonski, Venzke, Tykoski, Holman, Castonia, Petersen, Cooper, and a few others of like. You got some energy and enthusiams to try? Good luck! It's only bad if you consider "corrupt and unethical" bad, get it? Or just bury your head some more, that's usually the answer if you are "lazy"

I expected some advocacy by people devoted to either Nellis or Krieger in the response to this thread, but what about the acting judge here (not to say that he's determining the best thespian), Judge Raven?  Does the endorsement of his successor seem fair and within boundaries of the canons of judicial conduct?

What bothers me is that even tho the endorsement by Judge Raven was permitted by law, it was in my opinion unethical. It also shows poor judgement by a sitting judge. If he shows such blatant positive bias towards a candidate running for office then I would contend that his rulings should be open to scrutiny especially cases involving Nellis. Impartiality is of utmost importance when it comes to judicial matters and his decision to openly support an attorney while he is still sitting on the bench is most suspicious. What other questionable decisions has he made? And because we have a kiss as_ local press we may never know. That's why it is so important that local news be impartial and penetrating in their treatment of local politics. But that's not what we have.

If we do the math and go by Nellis' revelation of being in front of Raven once per week, then before the election Raven will have Nellis in front of him eleven more times, and about eight times after the election is decided.  If I was the other party, or the attorney of the other party if applicable, I would be looking for a disqualification.


If you read Canon 2 of judicial conduct:

A. Public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct by judges. A judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. A judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny. A judge must therefore accept restrictions on conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen and should do so freely and willingly.

C. A judge should not allow family, social, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment. A judge should not use the prestige of office to advance personal business interests or those of others.

Both could apply in this situation, however, both may not apply in this situation.  A judge should avoid such situations where it could be taken as a violation of judicial conduct.  Willy often condenses common sense into a paragraph of two, better than Reader's Digest condenses novels.

This endorsement should not of been made. What if Nellis does get voted in. What effect will it have when he has to excuse himself do to conflict of interest since he was an attorney to many custody cases? Will this cost Mason county tax payers extra to have a fill in judge?

It will definitely cost some time, especially during the first year, and time is money when you're talking court-employee salaries.  It is a valid way to look at his local experience in the local probate system.  Some may see this as a bonus, in that he has experience with the system for over 18 years.  But I think the local probate system is a bit broken, and I think a new face coming in is good.  Krieger is a local boy coming back, so I think he can bring some much needed reform. 

Go away for 15+ years to Detroit, practice there, then expect to come back and win a local election? Well, nobody said the voters around here are "smart and informed" anyhow, so expect this and Hendersonski to keep office too for another 12 years, or maybe for life...........who knows?

Its to bad people can't think for themselves. Just because you heard a name around alot doesn't make them the best person fo the job. I wont vote for Nellis. I don't like the way he handles cases. I don't feel  his way of 50/50 joint custody is always best for the chld. A child needs a permanent home. Jeff also likes to overlook issues with parents because its only fair if both parents have equal time. I think we need a judge thats going to do whats best for the children. Will Krieger do this? I don't know, but he can't be worse than Nellis. We need new people in this town.


© 2024   Created by XLFD.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service