37th Circuit Court Judge

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    John M. Sims

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    Tina Yost

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Biographical Information

What do you believe to be the root causes for the high numbers of juvenile offenders? What changes can the court system make to reduce these numbers?

Do you believe the composition of juries adequately and fairly reflects society at large? Why or why not? If not, what can we do to change this?

How could the costs of judicial administration be reduced? Can you give us a specific example of how you have reduced costs in your law practice/court?

What have been the most effective methods for improving court procedures and efficiency? What other methods would you suggest?

Under what circumstances can the courts seal court files or close court proceedings?

To what extent have you practiced in the area of criminal law? Family law? Complex civil legislation?

What do you believe are the causes of the high rates of minority incarceration?

As a prospective judge, what do you consider your greatest strengths? Weaknesses?

Hometown Albion, MI
Family Widower with 5 children and 9 grandchildren.
Education Albion High School Graduate; University of Michigan; Wayne State University Law School
Professional Experience JOHN M. SIMS 13464 Preston Drive, Suite 200, P.O. Box 819 Marshall, MI 49068 (269-789-9535) Admitted to Bar: Michigan Bar - October, 1977, including all Trial and Appellate Courts in Michigan. Also admitted to practice law before the Sixth, Seventh, and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal, all Federal Trial Courts in Michigan, the Central District Court of Illinois, Florida, Western District of Texas, Northern District of Indiana, and the Middle District of Georgia. Member: State Bar of Michigan (Member, Criminal Jurisprudence Committee 1978-1987); Member Calhoun County Bar Association, past member of National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers; Workers' Compensation Section (Member 2001-2011; Chairman 2011-2012). Education: Graduate of Albion High School, Albion, Michigan (June, 1970) Graduate of University of Michigan (B.A., 1974) Graduate of Wayne State University Law School (J.D., May, 1977) Employment History: 2/05 to present Joined with Janice Livesay Stern in Sims & Stern, P.C., Marshall 4/1/00 to 2/05 Opened Private Practice - John M. Sims, P.C., Marshall 5/76 to 4/1/00 Clerk, Law Firm of Wilcox & Robison; attorney at Wilcox & Robison, then Robison & Sims, P.C. 1975-1976 Wayne State University Law School, Teaching Assistant, Property Law for Professor Geoffrey A. Lanning. 1964 to 1976 Tomac Woods Gold Course, Albion, Michigan. Work Experience: Administrative Law: I have worked for 37 years in the field of Workers' Compensation law, representing both plaintiffs and defense. I have appeared in all tribunals, from the Magistrate level to the Michigan Supreme Court. I have handled unemployment proceedings throughout the state, from administrative hearings to circuit court appeals. Civil Practice: I have practiced in the areas of Domestic Relations, Family Law, Guardianship/Conservatorship Proceedings, and Civil Rights. I have practiced in every level of court in the State of Michigan in the field of civil rights litigation and wrongful discharge, personal injury, and contract law. Criminal Law: I have been involved in litigation in criminal law since 1976. I spent several years prosecuting misdemeanors for the City of Albion. I originally began while at Wayne State University at the Misdemeanor Court in Recorders' Court, Detroit (G1). I have practiced in all courts of the State of Michigan in criminal matters, and Federal District Courts in Texas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan. I have argued in the Seventh and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeal in criminal matters. I was lead trial counsel for Bradford King in the matter of People of the State of Michigan v Bradford King, a case nationally televised on Court TV. I also successfully represented Battle Creek Police Lieutenant Rob Drewry in the matter of People of the State of Michigan v Drewry. Corporate Law: I have been corporate counsel for several small corporations in the Albion, Michigan, area. I have involved myself in all aspects of corporate work, from negotiating labor contracts, to representing my clients before the EPA and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (1983-2008). Municipal Law: My previous partnership was the City Attorney for the City of Albion for many years. Hobbies: Theater, fishing, reading, running, Grandchildren.
Political Experience First time running for office
This is a social and economic issue, not a legal issue. The court cannot effectively deal with the cause, only the results as those delinquents get brought into the legal system. I believe the causes are multiple: poverty, divided homes, lack of parental influence, emotional and mental difficulties, educational issues (ADHD etc). Those ills can only be changed with massive influx of money and hours of work by counselors, social workers, educators, physicians and parents. The court can be responsive to means of treatment other than incarceration and encourage parents to work harder with their children.
No. Too often juries do not reflect the peers of the people involved in the court system. Large portions of the populace are under-represented on juries. The remedy is to expand the universe of prospective jurors and although that has been done to some degree, the efforts need to go further to be inclusive rather than exclusive when it comes to jury eligibility and jury selection.
Computerization and reducing paper is one means to reduce costs and improve efficiency. My own office has been doing this. We need to reduce the redundancy of the courts and their respective activities to further increase efficiency. The "One Court of Law " movement is one big step in that direction. Under that concept, every judge would have to be able to handle every kind of case in the court system.

The use of repeated hearings needs to be discouraged. An administrative means of dealing with these issues would free up valuable court resources.

In working toward efficiency, you cannot lose sight of the most important role of the courts, giving the litigants a full and fair hearing.
The most effective method for improving court procedures has been the cross-training/multi-tasking required by the concurrent jurisdiction programs arising from the implementation of the "One Court of Law" theory. See above.
The sealing of a court file is meant to protect the innocent from disclosure of embarrassing information. I would not normally seal any file so long as disclosure of such information was not occurring. But, there will always be exceptions to any rule. Every request to seal a file would require a close scrutiny of the circumstances as they may exist at the time. It is impossible to envision every circumstance and every danger in the hypothetical.
I have tried everything from murder to speeding tickets. I have defended individuals charged in numerous types of conspiracies in federal and state courts.

I have handled family law cases in many counties during my career. I know how the system works; I am comfortable in the system working as part of a team to obtain a result that will best help litigants obtain a fair resolution.

I was Counsel in the National Infant Formula Price Fixing Class Action. I represented homeowners over contamination of their wells with TCE in Albion. I have handled Civil Rights cases alleging racial and sex discrimination and retaliation.

My experience in all areas is well known.

The high rate of minority incarcerations is more of a social and economic issue as opposed to a legal issue. Reasons for that situation include that many minority defendants receive court appointed counsel who are underpaid and overworked and cannot provide the services of paid counsel. Statistically, it is argued that more minorities are arrested and more often arrested than others. Also, racial prejudices still clearly affect the outcome of criminal litigation. Judges must be aware of the dangers and do their best to avoid the non-legal issues entering into the criminal law process.
My greatest strength in this judicial race is my vast and varied experience that allows me to bring flexibility and versatility to the court. In a time when the concept of "One Court of Law" has become a reality, this experience will help provide the citizens of this county with the type of service they have a right to expect from their Circuit Court.

Family Husband- United States Marine Corp Veteran, SSgt Gerald R. Johnson Two Daughters at home: Arianna Johnson, 5 Elayna Johnson, 2
Education Wayne State University Law School, Detroit, Michigan 48202 Juris Doctor Moot Court: Number One Brief Writer and Oral Argument Finalist, Student Trial Advocacy Program: Argument Finalist, Delta Theta Phi Fraternity, Ernest and Freeda Goodman Scholarship Albion College, Albion, Michigan 49224 Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, double major Political Science and Environmental Studies with a pre-law concentration
Professional Experience CALHOUN COUNTY PROSECUTOR'S OFFICE, Managing Attorney, Family Division Battle Creek, Michigan January 2015 to Present -Manage civil/family division - Supervise paralegal and administrative staff -Advise on delinquency and abuse and neglect cases. -Appear in Circuit Court on felony non-support cases. - Litigate cases to establish support, custody, and parenting time orders. - Responsible for administration of a budget that increased contract from 2.5 million dollars to 3.7 million dollars -Ensure State and Federal compliance requirements are met. -Increased performance and ranking to 7th in the state from 17th. -Develop new policies and procedures to make the process more user friendly for litigants and maximize the use of judicial resources. 37th CIRCUIT COURT, Judicial Attorney Referee Battle Creek, Michigan June 2003-Present -Preside over evidentiary hearings, motions, and trials -Qualify expert witnesses, make rulings on testimony and evidence offered, give authorization to prosecutors to file petitions, and review agency decisions to ensure compliance with federal and state law -Authorize orders to take respondents into custody and make emergency removal determinations -Conduct preliminary hearings and inquiries; authorize petitions based on probable cause findings -Draft opinions and orders, conduct extensive research, and provide legal guidance -Conduct mediation and serve as a facilitator for communication between -Provide community outreach and education as requested, including public presentations -Ensure compliance with state and federal regulations -Develop and conduct training for court staff, the local bar, prosecutor’s office, and law enforcement -Instrumental in implementing cost savings method in technology -Consistent in exceeding goals; developed a system of collecting lump sum payments from respondents owing money that allowed four times as much to be collected LEGAL SERVICES OF SOUTH CENTRAL MICHIGAN January 2002-June 2003 Battle Creek, Michigan -Litigation attorney; represented clients in all phases of the litigation process, including negotiation, discovery, and appearances in court - Provided legal advice and guidance to clients and met with clients to determine merits and acceptance of cases -Drafted pleadings, complaints, settlement agreements, discovery requests, briefs, and orders -Provided community outreach and education -Researched complex legal issues VANDERVOORT, CHRIST & FISHER, P.C. July 2000-November 2001 Battle Creek, Michigan -Performed general practice concentrating in all phases of litigation in the practice areas of corporate, employment/labor law, family law, probate, criminal litigation, civil rights real property, and construction law matters. Other areas of practice include immigration, corporate transactions, and estate planning -Conducted all phases of litigation, including depositions -Researched law, analyzed law, and drafted legal memorandums -Conducted jury trials -Drafted contracts and estate planning documents -Helped clients in the formation of companies and drafting of corporate documents, employee handbooks, and corporate agreements. -Practiced in both State and Federal Court McNEIL GRAFTON Grand Haven, Michigan May 1998- July 2000 As a Law Clerk: -Assisted in research, filing court cases, and assisting in litigation in various areas of the law, including creditors’ rights and banking, bankruptcy, real estate, construction liens, employment, corporate, criminal, family, and torts -Conducted research and analysis of law -Drafted various legal memorandums and documents, including contracts, corporate documents, employee handbooks, complaints, jury instructions, and answers As an Attorney: -Performed general practice concentrating in litigation, real estate development, creditors’ rights and banking, bankruptcy, family law, corporate law, employment law, civil rights, municipal law, probate, and estate planning; other areas of practice included construction law and environmental law -Appeared in both State and Federal Court -Analyzed complex legal issues, conducted research, and wrote memorandums in support of client’s position STATE OF MICHIGAN DEPT. OF CIVIL RIGHTS LEGAL AFFAIRS, Law Clerk/Mediation Coordinator September 1996- April 1998 Detroit, Michigan -Advised the Michigan Civil Rights Commission of current developments in the law -Provided support and counsel to the director and commissioners -Reviewed case files for probable cause and determine action to take regarding complaints, interview witnesses, write charges; assist in hearings -Analyzed appropriateness of proceeding under State or Federal Law -Performed research; prepared summaries and memorandums based on my analysis -Reviewed administrative files; prepared analytical extracts, footnotes, and summaries -Developed integral parts of the mediation program and developed and implemented best practices used by the Department of Civil Rights today - Facilitated seminars and lectured on mediation services offered -Worked in conjunction with the EEOC to resolve cases and implement alternative dispute resolution procedures U.S. DISTRICT COURT EASTERN DISTRICT, CHIEF JUDGE ANNA DIGGS TAYLOR, Judicial Intern Detroit, Michigan June 1997- September 1997 -Researched and analyzed; maintained library and internal files -Reviewed briefs, wrote bench memos, and assisted in writing opinions FREE LEGAL AID CLINIC, Student Attorney Wayne State Law School May 1996- October 1996 Detroit, Michigan -Advocated for clients in court -Prepared motions, complaints, orders, and other legal documents PROFESSIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS AND CONTINUING EDUCATION: Passed July 1998 Bar Exam with Multi-State score; Admitted to practice in the State of Michigan and the U.S. District Court, Western District of Michigan; Calhoun County Bar Association Executive Board and Past President; Women Lawyers Association Public Relations Chair- 2001; Completed Hillman Trial Advocacy Program for Federal Court Litigation 2001; Judicial Training 2003; Title IV-E and Title IV-D training 2006; ICWA Training 2008 and 2013; Extensive Mediation Training 1997 and 2003; Supreme Court of Michigan training yearly since 2003; State Bar of Michigan Family Law Council Member since 2013; Family Law Section of State Bar of Michigan Legislative and Court Rules Committees since 2012; Founding Member of Mary S. Coleman Women's Law League 2013, Executive Board Member of American Indian Law Section since 2015
Political Experience No prior
Social media has changed the way children interact. There is 24 hour access to sexuality, violence, illegal substances, and bullying. Families often lack good support systems; parents are trying to accomplish more with less resources. Some people are having children when they are not ready for the responsibility of parenthood and are unable to guide their children. Preventive education and early intervention is the key to reduction. Programs for truancy reduction, bullying, drugs, and improper use of social media need to be used and increased. Court dockets need to be managed to allow immediate responses for violations to assist children and get services in the home quickly.
No, in my experience, juries often do not reflect the societal, racial, cultural, socioeconomic, age, educational level or morals of the community. I know people that have been selected for service multiple times and people that have never been selected. We should expand the method by which we select jurors. Jurors are currently selected by ID and Driver's license registration. Enforcement of notices to appear have not always been enforced. One suggestion would be to require every citizen to register for potential jury selection at age 18 and to allow sign up in advance for dates needed. This would allow planning, increase participation, and would expand the pool of potential jurors.
Consolidation of matters so that there can be one hearing addressing several issues, including motion hearings when only limited testimony is needed, would be a huge improvement. Ensuring that the court follows MCL 600.1023 so that family matters are properly assigned and heard by one judge and one referee, which decreases preparation time and lessens time in the courtroom. To the extent possible, I did precisely these things when I was a referee. As a prosecutor, I have developed a process for excluding legal fathers and establishing paternity of biological fathers in the same case, which eliminates the need for filing two separate cases and saves costs for filing fees and courtroom time.
The creation of the family division of the Circuit Court twenty years ago was a huge move forward to see that children and families were not relegated to the back end of the docket, having to get court time only after criminal and other civil matters were resolved. It took family law cases way too long to be heard before implementation of the family division. There are now many specialty courts in Calhoun County, including drug court, business court, and veterans' court, all of which are designed for the express purpose of providing special services to groups with unique needs. I would suggest retaining all of these, and further strengthen the family division.
Our courts have long recognized the right of the public to have access to our courts. There are specific cases that are allowed to be sealed or closed by statue or court rule; some examples would include hearings with child witnesses, child victims, mediations and adoptions. For those cases not covered by statute or court rule, a court may not enter an order sealing court records, unless a party to the case has filed a written motion identifying the specific interest to be protected; the court makes a finding of good cause and specifies the grounds for the order; and there is no less restrictive means to adequately and effectively protect the specific interest asserted by public.
I have practiced in both state and federal courts. I have tried and presided over both misdemeanors and felonies, handling everything from simple assault and battery, to drug charges, to criminal sexual conduct. I have handled thousands of family law cases covering every aspect of family law. I have conducted trials, presided over hearings, made rulings on evidence and the court rules, and issued findings. In the complex civil law arena, I have participated in and tried cases in federal and state courts involving real property, prisoner's rights, civil rights, riparian rights, construction law, creditor's rights, corporate law, and contracts.
Causes that lead to the high rates of minority incarceration include but are not limited to, disparate treatment of minorities and mandatory minimums in sentencing, mistrust of police and other government agencies, socioeconomic factors, a high rate of parents having children at an early age, a higher percentages of single parent homes that don't have good support systems, and lack of promotion of positive role models.
By far my greatest strength is the depth and breadth of my experience. I have 20 years of litigation experience in both state and federal courts. I have practiced criminal law, corporate law, civil rights, real property, estate planning, contracts, mergers and acquisitions, construction law, and bankruptcy. I have specialized experience in family law and American Indian law. I have presided over thousands of cases making rulings on the admissibility of evidence, court rules, and applying the law to the facts. I am prepared to assume a full docket and on day one of whatever type of case may be assigned. My greatest weakness is that I am verbose. It is something that I am working on.