Judge George A Greig is perhaps most remembered in Allegan for his physical resemblance to President Lincoln. Judge Greig earned both of his degrees (B.A. & LL.B.) from Michigan State University and was admitted to the Bar in 1964. He was the Allegan County Prosecuting Attorney in 1869 and made an unsuccessful run for the newly established 48th Circuit Court in 1974. He served as a Probate Court Judge in Allegan County from 1977 to 2000.
A controversial 1983 case marks a lasting legacy on Judge Greig’s judicial tenure, as the case made national news. The case involved the corporal discipline policies of the “House of Judah” cult which resulted in the beating death of a young boy in that organization, 12-year-old John Yarbough. The controversy comes from Judge Greig’s refusal to recuse himself from the case, given that he had previously met with the cult’s leader, William Lewis, to discuss the legal perspective on marriage and annulment protocols within the cult. Lewis’s attorney alleged that Judge Greig had prior knowledge of the corporal punishment policy, a charge which Judge Greig vehemently denied, stating that Attorney Frederick Milton was “attempting to make the court look like it is in a position of impropriety.” The boys mother was charged with manslaughter in Circuit Court (Judge George Corsiglia), and Lewis and 4 other cult leaders were charged with child cruelty. Judge Greig ordered the removal of 66 children from the cult encampment in the wake of Yarbough’s death.
Another controversial case on Judge Greig’s docket was the 1993 Michael Martin “right to die” case. Michael was severely injured in a car-train collision in 1987, and 6 years later, his condition not restored to “normalcy,” his wife Mary sought the right to remove his feeding tube. Judge Greig refused the request, stating that if Mr. Martin were terminally-ill or unconscious, he would have granted the request, but because he was simply “impaired,” he would not. Judge Greig stopped short of removing Mary as legal guardian, however, as Michael’s mother and sister had requested. The Michigan Court of Appeals censured Judge Greig for dismissing the latter request without a hearing concerning the “possible bias, prejudice, conflict of interest, or improper motive” on the part of Mary Martin. Judge Greig then reversed his original ruling, this time allowing Mary to terminate her husband’s life (and losing the support of Right to Life of Michigan). This “right to die” decision was ultimately overturned by the Michigan Supreme Court on appeal.
The Michigan Supreme Court declared:
“Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeals determination because [Mary Martin’s] testimony and affidavit do not constitute clear and convincing evidence of Mr. Martin’s preinjury decision to decline life-sustaining medical treatment in the form of a gastrostomy tube that provides hydration and nutritive support.”
The Patients’ Rights Council reported in 1994:
“Michael, who is alert, plays card games, watches TV, loves country-western music, and appears content in his current nursing home, recently spelled out “Afraid” on his alphabet board. When the speech therapist asked him, “Are you afraid of somebody?” Michael shook his head no. “Are you afraid for somebody?” asked the therapist. Michael nodded yes. The therapist queried whether Michael was afraid for the nurses, aides, or his roommate. Michael indicated no. Was he afraid that someone would remove him from the nursing home? Yes.”
- AP, “In House of Judah Case, Judge Refuses to Disqualify Himself,” Toledo Blade (2 Sep 1983), 28.
- In re Martin, 538 N.W. 2d 399 (Mich. 1995).
- Mary Martin v. Leeta M. Martin and Patricia major, No. 99699, 99700, MI S. Ct., Slip Op., p. 24.
- Ibid., 29.