Judges in our political system serve until they a) die or b) retire.  That’s because if a judge isn’t in the news, voters assume he or she is doing at least an adequate job. Re-election is an automatic. So when a judgeship opens up, the mad scramble is on to fill it.

This year is no exception. Ingham County Circuit Judge Paula Manderfield and East Lansing District Judge David Jordon are hanging up their robes for good, and a combined eight attorneys filed by the Tuesday deadline to seek their seats. The top two finishers for each race in the nonpartisan August primary will face off in the November primary.

Here’s a quick rundown on who we’ll get to choose among for the Ingham County Circuit Court:

Lansing School Board member Charles Ford changed course and filed for this seat after the 68th state representative race got a little too crowded. He finished third (1,474 votes, 15 percent of the vote) for mayor three years ago and third in a 1993 mayoral run. He served on the Lansing City Council back in in ’90s.  A former prep sports star at Sexton, Ford worked for the state Department of Transportation and as an adjunct Cooley law professor. 

Lansing attorney Jim Jamo finished third (9,781 votes, 25 percent) in the four-way 2010 primary for circuit judge. An attorney of 27 years, Jamo has practiced before the state and federal courts in Michigan and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. He serves as a hearing panel member for the Attorney Discipline Board and is a trained mediator, charged with settling pending cases. He also volunteers with Resolution Services. 

Ingham County Assistant Prosecutor Ayanna Jones has worked with the county for the last eight years. She did civil work before she was hired there. Jones graduated from Cooley Law School in 2001. Her bachelor’s in political science came from the University of Michigan. The lifetime Lansing resident and Sexton graduate served with Ingham County’s Equal Opportunity Committee.

Ken Ross was the state Insurance commissioner during the last half of Democratic Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s tenure. He’s now the assistant general counsel and director of government relations at Citizens Republic Bancorp. Before going to the state Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation, the first-time political candidate was a vice president for regulatory and legal affairs at the Michigan Credit Union League. 

Wanda Stokes of Okemos is a division chief within the Attorney General’s Office. She served as chief of staff for former Attorney General Mike Cox, a promotion she received after leading a Child Support Division that collected $25 million in overdue child support payments over a three-year period. Before starting with the AG’s office in 1999, she was an attorney and director of personnel at Auto-Owners Insurance. She worked in General Motors’ general counsel office for 10 years before that.

Only East Lansing voters will pick Jordon´s successor on the 54B District Court. Your choices are … 

Thomas Clement is a partner at Mertens and Clement and an adjunct faculty member at Cooley. He’s also an appointed member of the Federal Criminal Justice Act Panel, which provides defense for the poor accused of federal crimes. A former assistant Eaton County prosecutor, he has the backing of five Ingham County Circuit Court judges and Eaton County Judge Harvey Hoffman.

Attorney Andrea Larkin is looking to become the first female judge on the East Lansing District Court. Most recently a partner at Dickinson Wright, she has practiced civil and commercial cases in the state Supreme Court, among every other level court in the state. The Notre Dame graduate practiced law at the Varnum Firm in Grand Rapids, where she was the acting assistant city attorney for Grandville.

State Rep. Mark Meadows is finishing his third and final term in the House, where he chaired the Judiciary Committee. The former East Lansing mayor and city councilman was an assistant attorney general for 27 years. He also was a shareholder in the East Lansing law firm of Willingham & Cote.

Frank McAlpine, 61, is best known for his unsuccessful challenge of U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers in 2002, but he also ran for Congress as an independent against then U.S. Rep. Bob Carr in 1992.  The Fairgrove native practiced law in San Diego before moving back to Michigan in 1987. He’s been in general practice since. He has experience as a hearing officer for special education students at the Department of Education.