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Kalamazoo County 9th Judicial Circuit Court {_getChooseLabel(this.selections.length)}

The Ninth Circuit Court is the court of highest jurisdiction in Kalamazoo County. The Circuit Court consists of a Family Division and a Trial Division, supported by Technology Services, Finance Services, Drug Treatment Courts and Planning, Friend of the Court and Juvenile Home.Term: 6 years

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    Ken Barnard

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    Rebecca D'Angelo

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    Josh Hilgart

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    Julie Jensen

Biographical Information

How have your education, professional experience and interests prepared you to serve on this court?

What have been the most effective methods for improving court procedures? What other methods would you suggest to improve efficiency or make the courts less intimidating to the public?

What role should the court play in promoting racial justice?

Age 52
Occupation / Current Position Senior Assistant Prosecutor for Kalamazoo County
Education Law Degree from the University of Detroit Mercy; Master of Business Administration from Western Michigan University
Experience & Qualifications Experienced prosecutor, protecting the rights of victims for nearly 25 years; Led Kalamazoo County Child Abuse Multi-Disciplinary Team
Campaign Phone (269)532-4255
Campaign Email
Campaign Website
Campaign Facebook Page
I have unmatched experience handling major cases in court and will be prepared to run a courtroom on the first day of my term. My experience spans all courts: Family, Probate, Circuit and District Court. I have won jury guilty verdicts for some of the worst crimes we face, with particular focus on criminals who target our children.

Becoming a judge is a calling; a calling to serve. Instead of pursing private interests, as most lawyers and candidates do, I have chosen to serve the public exclusively. For over two decades it has been an honor to open each and every one of my cases by introducing myself: “Ken Barnard, for the People.”
1) Technology:

Missing wages and paying for gas/babysitting is a hardship many working people cannot afford. Return to using Zoom and Youtube as much as possible. Adopt an overdue automated system for filing court documents.

2) Streamline Services:

There are many areas where the courts can cooperate to save money and time. For example, one judge instead of two should set bond for persons with cases before District and Circuit Courts.

3) Expand Specialty Courts:

Drug Court allows participants to receive treatment and overcome addictions. This model should be expanded to address other social problems that we know jail alone will not fix.
It is the duty of every judge to promote racial justice. Learning about the differing experiences of people is part of a judge’s necessary homework for the job.

As a judge, I will ensure that bail does not disproportionately affect people of color. That commitment is why I held a forum on bail reform in 2019.

Also, young children must not be dragged to court for discipline that should occur in the home or schools. For cases the court needs to handle, it must address the causes and trauma underlying behavior.

Finally, diversity training should be mandatory. And I will do my part by hiring a diverse staff and appointed legal counsel.

Age 44
Occupation / Current Position Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, III
Education JD Roger Williams School of Law
Experience & Qualifications Thorough knowledge of law based on 20 years of experience in the Family, Criminal, and Civil Courts. Senior Trial Prosecutor assigned to cases involving major felony crimes in Kalamazoo County.
Campaign Phone 7814546053
Twitter Handle @Judge4Kalamazoo
I am actively working in Kalamazoo County as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. I work closely with Local and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies, Community Resources; Urban Alliance, the YWCA; DHHS/CPS; Family and Children Services, Bethany Christian Services; and the Gospel Mission. I am committed to bringing justice to victims and fashioning dispositions to best curb the violence and repeat offenders. By working and living in Kalamazoo for the last 16 years, I believe the long term key to reducing recidivism rates within Kalamazoo is to facilitate expectations of excellence within the community by utilizing our local resources.
The most effective method for improving the court is to listen to the people of the community. Their voice needs to be heard. I often hear frustration with repeat offenders and rehabilitation. The court needs to listen and put into place a plan to address this need. On the bench, I will facilitate a monthly round table inviting 3 community resources to come and present their program. This will inform Judges, Defense Attorneys, Prosecutors, MDOC and Probation of resources that are right here in Kalamazoo. Knowing what is available to assist people in rehabilitation will reduce recidivism, and bring support to our community.
In a system that is often known for being out of touch, the people of Kalamazoo deserve a judge who is passionate about creating lasting change. I am committed to providing knowledgeable, impartial rulings, and building lasting relationships of trust with every resident of Kalamazoo. I believe that everyone deserves the utmost respect, professionalism, clear communication, and ethics. In my courtroom: You will be safe. Your voice will be heard and your case will be efficiently resolved.
Age 52
Occupation / Current Position Executive Director of Kalamazoo Defender (Kalamazoo County's Public Defender Office)
Education JD Michigan State College of Law; BA Shimer College
Experience & Qualifications Over 12 years in Washington, DC, conducting political communications and project management. Former Law Clerk in the 9th Circuit Court, helping research and draft the Court's opinions and orders. Former Legal Aid Attorney based in Kalamazoo, representing hundreds of impoverished clients in various areas of law. I designed, founded and now run Kalamazoo County's first Public Defender Office.
Campaign Phone 2693659237
Campaign Website
My formal education focused on philosophy, social science and the law—the human experience. My professional career continued that education as I fought to reduce barriers for those who need it most.

Specifically: I offered direct legal services to the poor and neglected in Kalamazoo and created systemic legal support to the same populations as the founder of Kalamazoo's holistic public defender office.

As judge, I will balance the dignity of individuals before the court with the laws and legal precedents that often fail to take into account the lived human experiences of those individuals.
1) Make Court processes transparent to the public;

2) respect litigants with clear guidelines, thoughtful scheduling, and courtroom procedures that reduce friction or confusion; and

3) identify and implement alternative means of holding parties accountable to produce better outcomes than traditional approaches like incarceration.

A courtroom should be a safe environment that does not impose trauma or fear until legally necessary. And even then, when a court must hold people accountable, it can do so in a manner that fosters learning and growth.

(See Kalamazoo's groundbreaking specialty courts, upon which we can expand.)
A court can take into account where racial justice is absent.

For example, did systemic racism influence interaction between a defendant and law enforcement?

A black youth experiencing over-policing and videos of young unarmed black being killed will probably respond to law enforcement -- even responsible law enforcement -- differently than a white person.

Other areas abound: denial to generational wealth due to federal housing policy, denial to fathers due to mass incarceration, denial to education due to local funding practices.

A court that notes these factors can incorporate them into more effective and appropriate decisions.
Age 53
Occupation / Current Position Attorney/Administrative Law Specialist at the Michigan Department of Treasury
Education Bachelor of Arts from the Univ of Michigan and Juris Doctor from Thomas M. Cooley Law School
Experience & Qualifications 1.5 years at the MI Ct of Appeals, 9 years as a civil litigation lawyer, 10 years with the MI Attorney General handling unemployment law matters and other labor cases, 9 years as an administrative law specialist at Treasury
Campaign Phone 269-377-2489
Campaign Website
At Thomas M. Cooley Law School, I graduated 5th in my 1992 class. My 30 years of practice since then, litigating in courtrooms all over the state, has taught me court procedure, how to manage large volumes of cases efficiently, how to treat others with civility and respect, how to interpret and apply legal principles to evidence, how to reach a conclusion promptly and how to communicate it concisely and clearly, both in written and oral speech. My public service experience has taught me to be even-tempered, but firm, open-minded, but decisive. It has taught me how to be compassionate and understanding while being objective and impartial.
Studying similar courts with efficient procedures and implementing those best practices has been effective at improving court procedures. Focusing on another court's successes can be a valuable resource. However, focusing on one's own failures is also a critical step toward improvement. Implementation of court satisfaction surveys are an excellent tool for gathering feedback from the court's users and engaging them in the process. Responding to concerns and committing to improve the process builds trust with the community. Central to a nonthreatening system are: voice, respect, neutrality, understanding, and helpfulness.
Courts have a direct and fundamental responsibility to dispense justice with impartiality, and must critically consider racial equality in doing so. Courts must embrace diversity and inclusion training as well as implicit bias training and seek to increase diversity on the bench and bar. It must strive not just for equal or same treatment of all, but to build an equity framework, which seeks to level the playing field for those facing race, social, or economic challenges by forging strategic community partnerships, by promoting early resolution services, by improving remote court access, and by removing barriers to participation.