Two Southgate lawyers – John Graziani and Elisabeth Mullins – are competing in the November 3rd election to successfully retire retired 28th District Judge James Kandrevas, who has held the position for nearly three decades.
Kandrevas was last brought back to court in 2014 for a term ending December 31. He ends his last term because government regulations prohibit candidates over the age of 70.
District judges are elected for a six-year term and receive an annual salary of $ 138,000. District court proceedings include:
• Small claims where the amount in dispute is $ 5,000 or less
• Civil actions where the dispute does not exceed $ 25,000
• Cases of adult offenses and ordinances where the maximum sentence is less than one year
• Traffic and parking violations
• Preliminary investigations into criminal offenses
• Cases of land tenants
Graziani is a longtime Southgate resident and a graduate of Schafer High School. He is currently President of Southgate City Council and has served on the City Council for 18 years. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a law degree from the University of Detroit, he has practiced law in Southgate for 30 years. He has served as a research attorney for Wayne County Recorder's Court, assistant district attorney in River Rouge, and court clerk for Wayne County Circuit Judges Robert Colombo Jr. and Louis Simmons.
Mullins, a graduate of Boston College with a law degree from Suffolk University Law School, is the Detroit City District Attorney and Assistant District Attorney for Wayne County. She previously worked at a private practice in Southgate managing a case burden that included criminal defense, tenant affairs, civil litigation and debt collection matters. Her volunteer activities include the Southgate Rotary Club, Southgate Education Foundation, and Downriver for Veterans.
The News Herald asked Graziani and Mullins to answer two election questions.
Why are you the best choice for this position?
Graziani: I have the most relevant experience as a lawyer, have been a long-time resident and have a proven track record in public service in the city. My reputation, unwavering commitment to improving the quality of life for Southgate residents, and 18 years of community budgeting experience will enable me to get started with no study from day one. I firmly believe that I am the best candidate for the Southgate District Court Judge, and I point to my 30 years as a successful attorney and 18 years of undamaged service as an elected Southgate Councilor as evidence.
Mullins: My experience and qualifications make me the best choice. I am an accomplished prosecutor and a team member on the Veterans / Drug Treatment Court in Detroit, where I handle a large number of cases in one of the busiest courts in the country. My previous work in private practice gives me a unique understanding of the roles, challenges, and issues that both law enforcement and defense face in any particular case. I have ample experience of the types of cases the next judge will handle, and I understand the challenges of running a program like the Southgate Veterans Treatment Court in courtroom management and case loading.
Why should residents care about who is elected to be their district judge?
Graziani: The District Court is known as the “People's Court” because it primarily deals with legal issues arising from behavior and transactions in the city. District judges should have a long standing reputation for serving in the district they wish to serve. The next Southgate judge needs the background, experience and proven track record that residents can rely on. I have almost 20 years more relevant experience than my opponent than my opponent. I am also the only candidate with experience managing a local budget that is an integral part of the job as a district judge.
Mullins: That choice will determine the role that judgment plays in our church. For years, residents have only largely interacted with the court when they have received a traffic ticket, had a jury session, or were in legal trouble. Instead of continuing with the status quo, I want to make the court a positive and active part of the Southgate community. I want to improve the Veterans Treatment Court in Southgate by working with local businesses and nonprofits to provide employment opportunities and skills for veterans. I also want to provide educational opportunities for our students by bringing back the Court to School program.