Three judicial seats available in Kalamazoo 2022 election

The primary election is on Tuesday, August 2. The general election is on Tuesday, November 8.

In Kalamazoo County, three judicial seats are up for grabs in the 2022 election year. Six candidates are running for two available  9th Circuit Court seats: Ken Barnard, Rebecca D’Angelo, Josh Hilgart, Joseph Hohler III, Julie Jensen and Rachel Vinales. Three candidates are vying for one open seat in 8th District Court: Thomas Allen, Lana Maria Escamilla and Becket Jones. 


One judicial candidate, Angelique Camfield, was removed from the ballot due to invalid petition signatures. 


The primary election is on Tuesday, August 2. The general election is on Tuesday, November 8.


Judicial races are unique because they are non-partisan. Any voter, democrat or republican, can vote for judicial candidates on their ticket during the August primary. Judicial candidate platforms are not limited by political parties, and instead emphasize their ability to remain fair and impartial. 


However, local judicial races do not get the same attention as partisan races, and 25% of voters who come to the ballot box do not bother casting a vote in judicial elections. Voters must go all the way to the bottom of the ballot to find judicial candidates, and often they are not familiar with their options, and are unable to make an informed choice on who to vote for.


With competitive judicial races taking place this year, Public Media Network will be recording candidate statements and including judicial candidate info and interviews into our 2022 voter guide.


Kalamazoo County has three types of state courts: District Courts, Circuit Courts, and Probate Courts.


There are approximately 100 District Courts in Michigan, and judges are appointed to six-year terms. District courts are also known as the People’s Court, because this is the court which people have the most contact with, according to Michigan Courts. The district courts handle less serious crimes: traffic violations, civil cases with claims up to $25,000, landlord-tenant matters, traffic tickets, and all misdemeanor criminal cases with less than a year of jail time if found guilty.


Circuit Courts handle more serious criminal matters, like cases that would result in felonies, prison time, or civil cases with claims over $25,000. The circuit court also includes a family division handling divorce, paternity, adoptions, personal protection actions, emancipation of minors, treatment and testing of infectious disease, safe delivery of newborns, name changes, juvenile offenses and delinquency, juvenile guardianship, and child abuse and neglect.


The circuit court also hears appeals from other trial courts and administrative agencies. There are 57 circuit courts in Michigan. Circuit court judges are elected for six-year terms.


There are 78 Probate Courts in Michigan; probate judges are elected for six-year terms.


Probate courts specialize in the passing on of property and assets. They handle matters such as handling wills, administer estates and trusts, appoints guardians and conservators, and helps decide best care options for the mentally ill and developmentally disabled persons.


Local courts handle a wide variety of topics, and have faced challenges in recent years.


Court dockets have greatly expanded in recent years, with many more crimes and civil cases. Sometimes, people are forced to appear without the assistance of legal counsel due to lack of money.


COVID-19 has made that situation even worse, causing some real delays in court procedures, and by staff reductions both temporary and permanent. Trials were suspended from Jan. 11 to Feb. 22, 2022 due to a surge in COVID-19 cases.


Significant backlogs exist in all our courts, said Thomas Allen, candidate for 8th District Court Judge. 


“Kalamazoo County Circuit Court has held 20 criminal jury trials since August 2021, and very few civil cases. The court had not heard a trial for 17 months during the COVID shutdowns,” said Allen.


Stay tuned with PMN for information on your local judicial election candidates.