New 51st Circuit Court Judge Susan Sniegowski didn’t have to say much in court Monday when she was sworn into office. Several people in the crowd of about 100 who attended to support her spoke out instead, sharing kind words about the first female judge to take office in Mason and Lake counties.
It was a historic moment, retiring Judge Richard I. Cooper said before he opened the full courtroom to ask local attorneys and family members to share thoughts about Sniegowski as she takes the position he has held for more than 30 years.
Her parents, Sam and Doris Kasley, said they were proud parents, and Doris shared that this has been her daughter’s dream since she was 10. She said Susan heard the message from a teacher in elementary school that the law wasn’t a career for women, but her mother said they were proud she overcame that old stereotype.
“We are proud of her, we’re glad to be here and we are so glad we had the opportunity to live in Ludington for the time that we did,” Doris said.
Probate Court Judge Jeff Nellis said he thinks highly of Sniegowski, “having worked with Susan on lots of cases when I was an attorney. Quite frankly, when I became a judge I learned to appreciate her even more, her professionalism, the way she went about her business. On the one hand, I’m going to be a little sad to lose her as an attorney. I think she’s going to make an excellent judge. I think the people of Mason County are really lucky to have her.”
“Lake, too,” someone from the audience yelled out, noting 51st Circuit Court serves Lake County, too, although most Lake cases are handled by Lake County Trial Court Judge Mark Wickens.
79th District Court Judge Peter Wadel told Sniegowski that in following Judge Cooper on the bench, “He has paved quite a way for you and quite a record before you, so you have some big shoes to fill.”
He had talked to Sniegowski years ago when she was interested in working for him, and told him that she was hoping one day to have his job.
“You did one better,” Wadel said, getting a laugh. He noted the legislature has chosen to reduce the number of judges serving the community in the future, and when he retires, his work will be shared by the circuit and probate court judges of the county.
He said he looks forward to working with her through that transition in the coming years.
Retired Probate Court Judge Mark Raven gave her some advice: “Be yourself. Cut your own path. Try not to take it home with you.”
See more here in story, photos and video, and in Tuesday's print and eEditions of the Ludington Daily News.