2018-02-08 / Front Page

Lawyers to run for Probate Judge

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

NELSON NELSON Leelanau County’s Probate and Family Court Judge since 2010, Judge Larry Nelson said there’s nothing he’d like more than to run for reelection this year — but state law will prevent him from doing so.

A lineup is already forming to replace him. The judgeship now pays $145,557, and may be adjusted when the next state fiscal year begins Oct. 1.

Judge Nelson will turn 70 years-old in May – too old to run for re-election to a judgeship in Michigan, according to a state law. Judges must be under 70 when they are sworn in.

“There’s been some legislation proposed in Lansing that would raise the age limit from 70 to 75 years-old,” Judge Nelson told the Enterprise this week. “But it looks like that measure isn’t gaining much traction.”

Nelson was originally elected to his seat in 2010 following the death of Judge Joseph Deegan in 2009. After filling the two years remaining on Deegan’s term, Judge Nelson faced no serious opposition for re-election in 2010.

KROMKOWSKI KROMKOWSKI At least two local attorneys are known to be throwing their hats in the ring to replace Nelson when his six-year term expires at the end of the year.

And both ran against Nelson in 2010. They are Suttons Bay residents.

Marian Kromkowski, 63, is perhaps best known in Leelanau County as chair of the county’s League of Women Voters organization. She has also worked as a Family Court domestic relations referee since 1993 and a domestic relations mediator since 1998.

Michael J. Long, 52, is a principal of the Zimmerman-Long law firm in Traverse City, with practice areas including estate planning, family law and probate. He also serves as a judge with the Tribal Court of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.

LONG LONG The Leelanau County Probate Court handles wills, administers estates and trusts, appoints guardians and conservators, and orders treatment for mentally ill and developmentally disabled persons.

In 1998, the State Legislature created the Family Division of the Circuit Court and moved what traditionally had been Probate Court matters of adoption, child protective proceedings, and other family matters, from the Probate Court to the Circuit Court – Family Division.

Judge Nelson has also voluntarily taken on some of the obligations of the 86th District Court that serves Antrim, Grand Traverse and Leelanau counties.

Judge Nelson said a change in state law has been proposed that could require his successor to pick up some of the 86th District Court workload, but the measure is still very much undecided.

Officially, no one has filed to run for Judge Nelson’s seat in the non-partisan Primary Election slated for Aug. 7.

But Kromkowski said she fully intends to file her paperwork in Leelanau County by the April 24 deadline. She has already registered her campaign organization with the Secretary of State’s office in Lansing.

Long confirmed this week that he also plans to run. Like Kromkowski, he said he’s preparing paperwork to be filed at the county level and is setting up a campaign organization.

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