Two candidates are in the running for one open seat on the bench of Dearborn's 19th District Court. Here's what Dearborn lawyer Sam Salamey 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.
Why is serving as a district judge in Dearborn important to you?
It is important to me to serve Dearborn and its residents at a position that I am best suited for and where I can offer a public service I am skilled at. Over the last 27 years, I became uniquely qualified to serve my city and its residents in the capacity of a district court judge. Better than 80 percent of my legal work is concentrated in district court practice. If it falls within the jurisdiction of the district court, I have done it.
I have served as a district court prosecuting attorney for eight years. I have handled hundreds of cases as a criminal defense attorney and practiced before about 90 percent of the district courts in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. For 14 continuous years, I have also served the Dearborn court as a judicial magistrate. A quasi-judicial position which availed me the opportunity to perform all the duties of a district court judge, except presiding over a trial.
In essence, I have served at each of the three positions that comprise the district court. This tri-dimensional experience is invaluable and essential and will assist me to render a decision that is fair, firm and impartial. Because of this unique background and experience, I can best serve my city and its constituents as a judge.
What about your background makes you the most qualified candidate for the job?
I was rated as well qualified by the Metropolitan Detroit Bar Association. My legal career of over 27 years to date, included positions as a prosecuting attorney, criminal defense attorney and judicial magistrate. This well-rounded experience uniquely qualifies me to fairly evaluate each case from all three perspectives to render a fair and just decision.
I have served eight years as a prosecuting attorney. I have handled hundreds of cases as a criminal defense attorney and I served the Dearborn court as a judicial magistrate for 14 years.
I will also bring to the bench a wealth of other related and pertinent experiences, including serving the Dearborn Police Department for two years as a community relations officer and as an instructional technician at Fordson High School for two years. Additionally, I have strong business background which I will relay on to ascertain an efficient administration of the court’s operation and effective allocation of available resources.
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?
I believe that when the topic is revenue and expenses, I have a major advantage over my opponent.
Since Richard Wygonik became a judge of the 19th District Court, the court began to experience a significant dwindling of revenues despite of the fact that the case load has significantly increased—a situation that Dearborn district court never experienced before he took office. It is public knowledge, that my opponent is extremely soft on crime and criminals which caused a sharp decline in the court’s revenues.
I am not suggesting that fines and costs are to be increased, but only to have criminals after conviction pay their way. The punishment must fit the crime. For the first time in its history, the city is forced to tap into the general tax fund to subsidize the court’s operation. This is not the statement of Sam Salamey, this is a true fact that can be easily verified from the court’s records.
Richard Wygonik is dead last among the three Judges in every category of work every single year. He is dead last in number of cases handled, revenues generated, work program days assigned, etc.
Implementation of cost cutting measures, stream lining the court’s operation, transparency and accountability are compelling priorities that must be implemented to effectively reduce operating costs. Making certain that criminals who commit crimes in Dearborn will pay back society for the damage they cause is essential. Improving collection procedures where the Court does not serve as a creditor or lender to criminals will also be utilized to ascertain that criminals pay their way.
I have previously committed and I hereby renew my commitment that I will donate 5 percent of my salary as a judge to help finance the juvenile, traffic and Drug Court programs designed to keep Dearborn juvenile cases in Dearborn.
Should the 19th District Court cut one judge seat from its bench?
Dearborn is the eighth largest city in the State of Michigan and it has a population of approximately 98,000 people. The court case load which continues to steadily increase suggests that Dearborn may continue to need three judges to continue efficient operation of the court and to serve everyone who appears in the court. However, this issue should always be revisited and studied and if at any time, it appears that the court can be efficiently served with two judges then eliminating one of the seats should be considered and implemented.
Where do you see the most room for improvement in the court's programs or services? (i.e. traffic, civil, juvenile, work program, etc.)
Improvements of the entire court operation and performance should be an ongoing project. There is room for improvement at all levels and in all of the programs. The prevailing culture of personal agendas of judges has set the court back and demoralized its staff. The culture of team work must be revived. Effective communications between the judges and the judges’ staff must be encouraged to restore to the court its efficiency, dignity and respect.
It is unfortunate that our court, a symbol of justice and pride of all Dearbornites has become an ill-famed institution within the circles of the judicial tenure commission and state bar because of the never-ending allegations and counter allegations, complaints, grievances and investigations. Instead of having one court with three judges, we seem to have three courts in one building. Uniformity, consistency, transparency, accountability are lacking in the court and must be restored to achieve efficient operation of the court and to refocus the court to its primary function and that is the fair administration of justice.
What is your favorite thing about the city of Dearborn?
The magnificent City of Dearborn has many great attributes and characteristics, the most compelling of which is its unique, diverse yet unified population which makes our city a great place to live, to grow and to work.
Undoubtedly, the economic downturn has caused a departure from the level of services and the level of amenities that we have always enjoyed and got accustomed to and at times took for granted. However, we are blessed to continue to be at a higher level than many of the surrounding communities. This is a tribute to the City of Dearborn and its people.
I shall always strive to improve on what we have and to expand our horizon to make sure that we can do more with less. The collective ingenuity, creativity and hard work of all Dearbornites continue to be the greatest asset that made Dearborn what it is and it must be promoted and preserved as the bedrock that we can build on to help our city march forward yet remains the unique harmonious community that it is.