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6 Questions With 19th District Judge Candidate Richard Wygonik

Wygonik, currently serving Dearborn's district court, is vying for reelection Nov. 6.

Two candidates are in the running for one open seat on the bench of Dearborn's 19th District Court. Here's what sitting Judge Richard Wygonik had to say about several local issues affecting the court, in his own words.

The same questions were submitted to both candidates via email and were answered in writing.

More: Ready to vote Nov. 6? Check out the full election guide on Patch

Why is serving as a district judge in Dearborn important to you?

I was a practicing attorney for over 30 years, before becoming a district judge in 2005. The law is my life and my life is in the law. I have always had a passion for justice and I believe in keeping Dearborn a strong and safe city. I am fair and impartial. I treat all who come to the court with dignity and respect. I believe that the court, as a separate and independent branch of government, functions to fairly resolve civil disputes and administer criminal cases with a dispassionate firmness in achieving accountability and compliance with the law.

What about your background makes you the most qualified candidate for the job? 

In 2005, I was appointed district judge by the governor. I was elected to the bench by Dearborn voters in 2006. I have nearly eight years of active judicial experience. I have the support of many attorneys and am respected for my fairness and integrity. I have been endorsed by the Dearborn Police Officers Association and the Dearborn Firefighters. I have endorsements from multiple entities and unions. I am known to be independent of city hall pressures and mandates. 

As a general background, I was raised in Dearborn and attended Dearborn Public Schools, graduating from Fordson High School. I attended Henry Ford Community College and went on to finish my baccalaureate from Western Michigan University. I obtained my Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University.

After graduating in 1972, I practiced law as a trial attorney in all phases of law. During my legal career, I served as a Wayne County Circuit Court Mediator, and executive Board Member of the Mich. Trial Lawyers Association, Vice President of Polish American Citizens for Equity, and as a hearing panel member of the State Attorney Discipline Board.

In the community, I am a member of the Dearborn Pioneers, the original Good Fellows, Bishop Foley Knights of Columbus, and the Dearborn ARC, working to help developmentally disabled children in our community. I am also serving my second year as president of the Polish American Legal Society.

Revenue and expenses for the court have been major topics of discussion this year within the city. How would you cut expenses and/or raise more revenue for the court?

The court is an independent third branch of government. However, state statute says that the local funding unit, the City of Dearborn, MUST provide funding for the "maintenance, operation, and financing of the district court." The district court collects money from filing fees in civil cases and assessments of fines and costs in criminal cases. Some of the fees, fines, and costs must be given to the state and the county. All the rest is given to the city. The court keeps zero dollars. Nevertheless, the district court tries to fulfill its fiscal responsibility by operating as economically as possible, exercising prudence in cost containment measures and working to improve revenue.

In the past year, we have implemented a number of reforms. In these difficult economic times, we have streamlined administrative functions, combining a court clerk and administrator, eliminating an executive assistant position, instituting a deputy administrator responsible for probation, security, maintenance, and as assistant administrator.

We have also implemented in-house drug/alcohol assessments, increasing revenue by shifting fee payments from an outside vendor to the court. Civil infraction fines have been adjusted to reflect those in the surrounding communities. Our Law Day program is also now less costly and I believe, more effective for students because they come into the court. It also is safer for the community because we no longer transfer prisoners and defendants into our schools. Furthermore, all other operations are under review and discussion with the other two judges of the court.

Finally, we have settled three of the four legal claims that were pending against the court before I became chief judge and of which I had no part!

Should the 19th District Court cut one judge seat from its bench?

No. Last year (2011), the Dearborn district court handled over 80,000 cases. We are one of the busiest courts in the State of Michigan. The Supreme Court Administrative Court Review said that the under current standards, Dearborn is trending in the direction of needing more, not fewer, judges. 

Where do you see the most room for improvement in the court's programs or services? (i.e. traffic, civil, juvenile, work program, etc.)

We are currently reviewing all court operations, including, traffic, civil, juvenile, and work program. Necessity comes before luxury in time of budget constraints. However, we have growing awareness of the problems and needs of our veterans with service-related substance abuse and mental illness. Therefore, we have begun the process of creating a Veteran Treatment Court for those veterans charged with non-violent crimes.

What is your favorite thing about the city of Dearborn?

It's why I became judge, I love the people and the neighborhoods, they deserve the best treatment and service the court can provide. That's my job!

Read Dearborn attorney Sam Salamey's responses on Patch.

Pam October 17, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Judge Wygonik is a decent, hard working, and well rounded individual for this job. His prior law practice gave him the experience necessary to handle the cases in this court. Please vote for him because he is the best candidate for the position.
Ruth B October 18, 2012 at 12:56 AM
I think it is very wrong for the mayor to be bad mouthing our current chief judge and sending out letters and making phone recordings in support of another candidate. I think he should be impartial. I believe Judge Wygonick has done a good job and should be re-elected.
Doug October 18, 2012 at 11:14 AM
The mayor is classless! He should focus on running the city government instead of the entire city. This is all a ploy for his reelection next year. This city is in ruins and his administration is inept. Stick to raising taxes, buying buildings, closing pools and libraries, increasing litigation, protecting bad employees and fumbling over your failed CSO project. We will miss you next year, NOT!
DearbornMatters October 19, 2012 at 03:20 PM
Wygonik is misleading his own supporters, while he is endorsed by some unions, his conduct with the court employees union is in contradiction with his public statements. Most cops I know don't even like Wygonik because he is a loose cannon and doesnt have any composure or respect for the police. If Wygonik would do do a better job punishing criminals the Mayor could have to stop using tax payers hard earned money to bail out the court and could keep pools open for our families. OBTW stop making numerous email accounts in an attempt to make it seem like Wygonik has a lot of support. I voted for the Abbatt in the primary and Im not shy about voting for Sam now.
Adrenne October 21, 2012 at 03:03 PM
so why was he endorsed by the Dbn. police assoc.? The facts do not support your critique. Enuendo sells but your ethics are apparent. Seems to me that you might have a vested interest as a court employee who "wants to have" but "doesn't want to compromise" when the job get's tough and decisions for the good of all need to be made. Your self interest is apparent to all.
Madison Grant October 21, 2012 at 03:43 PM
Judge Richard Wygonik is an honorable man who serves us well. Our police support him, which says a lot. I'm proud to have him as my judge and will vote for his reelection.
DearbornMatters October 21, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Adrenne I'm sure Judge Wygonik would have loved the mayor's endorsement. Your self interest is pretty clear too, considering you are his wife. Judge Wygonik is a good man, doesn't mean he's doing the right things or an adequate job.
Madison Grant October 22, 2012 at 02:51 PM
On one side, you have the police standing with Judge Wygonik; on the other side, you have city hall politicians standing with Sam Salamey. I'll go with the cops.
DearbornMatters October 22, 2012 at 06:11 PM
Madison Grant, I doubt the endorsement made the difference either way for you. Good luck to both candidates.
Sam Dungeon October 22, 2012 at 06:54 PM
Adrenne we know you are Richard Wygoniks wife, and your loyalty is commending, but the people feel we need a change, and Richard Wygonik is who we will change, by the way Somers is next.
DearbornMatters October 24, 2012 at 07:10 PM
So we receive a mailer from Wygonik today claiming he is tough on crime, if he's so tough on crime why would he give the person charged with armed robbery WITH A WEAPON at the Chase Bank in Dearborn with a $200 bond? I have young children, we cant have these hooligans off the hook so easily.

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