The students' court

By Sam Inglot

Who will fill Judge Jordon's seat in East Lansing?

Some typical issues the judges of the 54B District Court face include: small amounts of pot, drunk and disorderly, minors in possession of alcohol and piles of parking tickets.

Four candidates are running to replace Judge David Jordon, who is retiring after 24 years. The candidates for the six-year post are Thomas Clement, Andrea Larkin, Frank McAlpine and state Rep. Mark Meadows. The race is nonpartisan.

Clement, 35, is a 2002 graduate of the Michigan State University Law School. He is a former Eaton County assistant prosecuting attorney and went into private practice six years ago. He is an adjunct professor at Cooley Law School, where he teaches classes on criminal law and evidence. He said his biggest advantage over the other candidates is his daily courtroom experience and knowledge of court proceedings from both the attorney and prosecutor perspectives.

“I’ve been practicing law my entire career. I know from every angle what it takes to efficiently run a court and treat everyone fairly,” he said.

Larkin would be the first female judge elected to the 54B District Court. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame Law School in 1983, Larkin moved to the west side of the state where she was an assistant city attorney in Grandville, where she said she handled cases very similar to what she’d be tackling in East Lansing. In 1988, she moved back to East Lansing and practiced commercial litigation with Dickinson Wright PLLC for over 10 years, at which time she decided to raise a family while keeping an active law license.

Larkin, a Lansing native, is endorsed by four former East Lansing mayors and has touted the endorsement of the departing Judge Jordon as one of her biggest advantages.

Larkin, 54, and Clement are vying for the spot long term. They both said they would like to serve 20-plus years on the bench if possible.

Of the four candidates, McAlpine, 62, has the longest running legal career with 35 years of general practice experience under his belt. He has a private practice in East Lansing. He received his law degree from John Marshall Law School in Chicago. In 2002, he ran an unsuccessful campaign against Republican Congressman Mike Rogers.

One of the biggest problems for the court, McAlpine said, is the “alcohol culture” of the student population. He said he would work with the community to create alternative activities for students other than drinking.

Meadows is in his third and final term as the representative for the 69th House district, which includes East Lansing, Okemos, Haslett and Williamston. Meadows has a deep history with East Lansing, serving stints as a member of the City Council and mayor before heading into state politics. At the state level, he chaired the House Judiciary Committee and served as an assistant attorney general for 27 years.

Meadows, 65, would be limited to one term on the bench: Judges are not allowed to run for the seat after hitting 70 years old.