Richard Wygonik, chief judge of Dearborn's ,is seeking reelection–and has a very different message to send than his two opponents.
Wygonik is one of three candidates for the open seat on the court. The primary election will occur on Aug. 7–which will narrow the pool to two candidates–followed by the general election on Nov. 6.
Judges serve six-year terms.
While candidates and Dearborn lawyers and have attacked the court's reputation and current judges' records, Wygonik said it's just politics.
“I'm not really aware that the court generally speaking has a bad reputation," he said, "only that certain people who are candidates–namely my opposition–are saying that the court has a bad reputation because it's politically expedient."
Both of his opponents have cited as an example of bad leadership. Wygonik said they're just trying to move forward.
“What's done is done and we're trying to rectify the situation,” he said. “In any organization, there are disputes (and) grievances.”
Wygonik, who has been on the bench in Dearborn since 2005, said he is seeking reelection because he enjoys his job and wants to continue the work he has done there.
“I like being judge, I'm doing a good job as judge and now I have a new responsibility as chief judge," Wygonik said.
"You don't leave something undone,” he added. “We have a lot of things to sort out we've begun sorting them out and I want to continue and finish the job and continue to try to do good here as district judge for the town.”
In particular, he said resolving the court's budget is an issue that he has been heavily involved with, especially with .
Wygonik said that the court has taken several specific steps to be more cost-effective given its circumstances.
“Actually, our court operates with fewer personnel–clerks, probation officers–than other courts with similar or less case loads,” he said. “We have one of the highest caseloads in the state.”
Specifically, Wygonik said procedures have been in-sourced, outside programs have been reduced and employees have been let go. He added that the 19th District Court's juvenile and drug court could end their stay in Dearborn if the costs outweigh the benefit, although those are just two of many programs the court will take a look at in the near future.
“As far as juvenile court and drug court, those are very nice programs to have but the question becomes, 'Can we afford them?'” Wygonik said. “At some point you have to look at things (and) say, 'What are our core functions and roles?'”
Wygonik, a lifelong Dearborn resident, was appointed to court in 2005, elected in 2006 and made chief judge at the beginning of 2012. Before that, he worked as an attorney for more than 30 years–founding his own partnership. In addition, he has sat on the executive board of the Michigan Association for Justice (formerly the Michigan Trial Lawyers Association) for over 10 years and is an active member in the Dearborn Pioneers Club.
His major endorsements include former 19th District Court Chief Judge Leo K. Foran, the Police Officers Association of Dearborn and the Greater Detroit Building and Construction Trades Council PAC.