Margaret Bakker installed as Chief Circuit JudgeJudge Margaret Zuzich Bakker (P31035) was admitted to the Bar in 1979 and has been active in the practice of law and in good standing since that date.[1]  She holds degrees from Michigan State University (1975) and from the Detroit College of Law (1978).[2]

She worked in the Prosecutor’s office for 28 years – from 1 March 1982 through 2010, the last eight years as Chief Assistant Prosecutor.[3]

She was elected 2 November 2010 to a term spanning 2011-2017 and before the start of her term was appointed Chief Judge of the 48th Circuit Court.[4]  She holds the distinction of being the first female judge to serve on any Allegan County bench.[5]

Despite being the “junior judge” in terms of seniority, Judge Bakker was selected over Judge Kevin Cronin as the Michigan Supreme Court’s choice for Chief Judge upon the retirement of Judge George Corsiglia [6], who said of Judge Bakker:

“I’m proud to have her as my successor.”[7]

He added that he has been waiting a long time to perform an investiture ceremony for her.[8]  Her designation as Chief Judge was renewed when the original appointment expired in December 2011.[9]

Judge Bakker is a champion for family justice, standing firmly against the corruption and child-marketing which characterizes Judge Cronin‘s courtroom in the same circuit.  She is also a heroine to Domestic Violence victims throughout the county, boasting a 90% prosecution rate while serving in her previous post as Chief Assistant Prosecutor.  She was chairwoman of the Allegan County Coordinating Council on Domestic Violence for 22 years, and is on the board of directors for Safe Harbor Children’s Advocacy Center.[10]  She told the Holland Sentinel:

“We’ve learned that one of the important things with domestic violence is you can’t let the case sit,”

noting that victims might change their minds or evidence could be lost as the case waits.[11]  She has voiced her grave concern over the inability of domestic violence victims to afford legal assistance in their plight:

“I had seen numerous cases of domestic violence where the victim did not have the financial resources to get help.  We could help them with the criminal side but we could not help them with the separation, divorce, child custody side.”[12]

Judge Bakker is an advocate of alternative sentencing options as a remedy to the jail overcrowding problem in the county, but insists on the punishment being commensurate to the crime.  She said in a campaign interview:

“A judge has to look at the goals of punishment, rehabilitation and protection of society. If you have someone with an alternative sentence and the guidelines haven’t been met … [there must be] immediate consequences for violation.”[13]

Judge Bakker actively encourages aspiring attorneys to engage in the provision pro bono services to help in making quality legal representation equally available to all at a supererogatory level – beyond the expectations and requirements of the state Bar Association.  She has administered a pledge reflecting this to students at Cooley, one of the area’s leading law schools.[14]  Judge Bakker has been an outspoken voice in support of Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly’s initiative to provide Allegan County with a free legal assistance center:

“We are very pleased to have a staffed self-help center in our courthouse.  In recent years, the Allegan County Courts have seen a flood of self-represented litigants in a variety of matters.  For example, we estimate that 60% of domestic relations cases are those where people are representing themselves. By getting legal information and assistance from the Self-Help Center, these individuals will be better equipped to bring their cases before the court, which will improve their experiences as well as make court operations smoother.”[15]

—–

  1. s.v. “Margaret Bakker,” State Bar of Michigan profile; online: http://michbar.org/memberdirectory/detail.cfm?PID=31035
  2. Staff Writer, “Assistant Prosecutor seeks Allegan County Judge’s Seat,” Holland Sentinel (8 Mar 2010).
  3. Lynn Turner, “Prosecutor Margaret Bakker sole practitioner Paul W Klein vie to replace retiring Allegan Judge,” Kalamazoo Gazette (1 Oct 2010).
  4. s.v. “Margaret Bakker,” Judgepedia profile; online: http://judgepedia.org/index.php/Margaret_Bakker
  5. Chuck Parker, “Margaret Bakker is Installed as Allegan County’s First Female Circuit Judge,” Kalamazoo Gazette (21 Dec 2010); Staff Writer, “Margaret Bakker Sworn in as First Female Circuit Court Judge in Allegan,” Holland Sentinel (21 Dec 2010).
  6. Lynn Turner, “Margaret Bakker Named Chief Judge in Allegan County by Michigan Supreme Court,” Kalamazoo Gazette (30 Dec 2010); Order #ADM 2010-01 from Michigan Supreme Court (21 Dec 2010) {PDF}.
  7. George R Corsiglia; in Staff Writer, op. cit. (21 Dec 2010).
  8. Staff Writer, “New Year, New Judges,” Kalamazoo Gazette (11 Jan 2011).
  9. State Bar of Michigan, “Chief Judge Appointments Announced by Michigan Supreme Court include ‘Super Chiefs’,” SBMBlog (17 Nov 2011).
  10. Staff Writer, op. cit. (8 Mar 2010).
  11. Margaret Bakker; in Jim Hayden, “Domestic Violence Cases Rise to 742 in Allegan County,” Holland Sentinel (20 Oct 2009).
  12. Margaret Bakker; in Kayla Deneau, “Legal Assistance at your Fingertips,” Allegan County News (27 Feb 2013).
  13. Margaret Bakker; in Turner, op. cit. (1 Oct 2010).
  14. Tyler Lecceadone, “Cooley Law Students, Faculty, and Staff take Pro Bono Pledge at Grand Rapids Campus,” WZZM-TV13 (3 Aug 2012).
  15. Margaret Bakker; in “Grand Opening for Allegan County Legal Assistance Center: a Michigan Legal Help Program,” Michigan Legal Help (6 Sep 2012).
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  1. Pingback: Allegan County Document Repository | allegancountylegaldocs

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