Let the record be the “judge”
By: Michael G. Thodoroff
It happens near the end of every high school year. The realization sets in that the graduating senior must determine what field of interest to explore at the college level. Frustrating to some but a sense of eagerness to others. When Genesee County’s Stephanie Witucki was in that predicament after her graduation from Powers Catholic High School, she determined to follow her emerging passion for criminal law and justice with a goal of attending law school. Little did Witucki realize at the time, she was about to embark on a professional track that would lead her on a path to become the Genesee County’s 7th Circuit Court Judge.
Stephanie Witucki entered the University of Michigan/Flint (UMF) Bachelor of Arts curriculum in the fall of 1989. “I always had an interest and wanted to be a criminal law attorney someday,” she recalls. “I can remember being fascinated in criminal justice and law. And the sociology and justice classes I took emerged a passion for that content.” Just prior to formally attending UMF and through a social conversation with the late Judge Bruce Newman of the Genesee County Probate Court, she served as a volunteer clerk in his court. She called his cases in terms of a bailiff and as a result, listened to all his cases. “Nothing formal, just a great experience,” Witucki recollects, “and a great opportunity for me to see what things were like in the court room.
After her graduation from UMF in 1993 with a double major in sociology and criminal justice along with a minor in political science, she took a Law school entrance exam and went immediately to Wayne St. University Law school in Detroit. During her second year at Wayne St., she took advantage the school’s career placement center and landed a clerking position at the law firm of Freedman, Krochmal, and Goldin P.C. (FKG) in Southfield, (MI), a general civil law firm handling cases in Oakland and Wayne County Circuit Courts. After obtaining her Juris Doctor degree in 1996, she continued casework and research with FKG. But in handling cases, she recognized they did not have anybody handling family law situations. Witucki says there was definitely a need for it because many of their clients also had family related matters. “This was a way for me to develop my own practice and I really wanted to offer assistance,” she says. She took on more family related cases and eventually exclusively handled all the firm’s family law cases.
As she continued to cultivate her experience in law, late 2009 saw Stephanie accept a position with the Genesee County Friend of the Court as she admittedly was ready to leave the world of private practice and enter the challenging public sector. This was a contract position on a grant funded special project at the Court. She became a parenting time coordinator on that project and diligently worked with parents in coming up with appropriate parenting time plans. While she was involved with the Friend of the Court, an opportunity was presented in 2010 for her to accept position as a referee at the 3rd Circuit Court in Detroit. “This role as a referee, is a “quasi-judicial” role,” she explains. “I hear family law cases from the Circuit Court docket and make decisions regarding custody, parenting time, child support, etc.” After four successful years and accumulated valuable experience, she became the Chief Referee of Detroit’s 3rd Circuit Court’s Family Domestic Division, where she continues to serve today.
Through all her years involved in law, she has not rested on her laurels. She is a Certified Domestic Relations Mediator earned through Detroit’s 3rd Circuit Court and holds an accreditation of a Licensed Trainer of Restorative Practices through the International Institute for Restorative Practices. This national organization is dedicated to the advanced education of professionals and to the conduct of research that can develop the growing field of restorative practices – an emerging social science where people are starting to gravitate. And for the past six years, she has served on the Character and Fitness Committee for State BAR of Michigan. Not a popular known committee within the public sector, the job of the Character and Fitness Committee is to ensure that all applicants meet the requirements and standards to practice law. It is the resolute of the State Bar of Michigan to do its absolute best to ensure everyone it admits to the practice of law has met its strict standards.
With life-long ties to Genesee County and an extensive family law background embracing ten years in private practice advocating for family law clients along with the past ten years hearing family law cases from a Circuit Court docket, Stephanie Witucki is running for Genesee County’s 7th Circuit Court in the August 4th primary. A person with her steadfastly accrued resume and peer recognized good judicial temperament is a sure formula that will give Genesee County an even better quality of life.