A former FBI agent and Sandusky lawyer will vie for Sanilac County Circuit Court Judge Donald Teeple’s seat in the Nov. 3 election.
Teeple is not eligible to run for reelection since he turned 70. Michigan law prohibits anyone 70 and older to run for judgeship.
The elected judge will serve a six-year term. A circuit court judge receives an annual salary of $154,467, according to the Michigan State Court Administrative Office.
Mark Davidson, a former FBI agent, said his experience would be invaluable as the courts struggle to return to full services during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic upended the court system by postponing jury trials for months, moving many hearings to Zoom and requiring officials to comply with safety measures and state guidance.
Davidson served as the Detroit FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Coordinator, where he responded to threats involving chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive materials. He provided legal advice to the Detroit Joint Terrorism Task Force and U.S. Attorney Office, maintaining his Michigan Bar License throughout his career.
He deployed on operations overseas, including an assignment in Iraq with the combined explosives exploitation cell.
A large part of his career involved keeping people safe, whether it be from a biological threat, such as the anthrax scare following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, or a physical threat, such as helping defuse explosives as a bomb technician.
That knowledge, along with his experience implementing a COVID-19 school safety plan as part of the Sandusky Community Schools Board of Education, will translate well when implementing and following safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic, Davidson said.
In his time with the school board and the FBI, Davidson said he has managed several budgets, which will be invaluable experience as courts’ and municipalities’ budgets are expected to shrink in the next couple of years due to the economic downturn during the pandemic.
Davidson said he would be open to continuing to use technologies that make the court system more efficient, such as Zoom, as long as those technologies do not violate people’s constitutional rights.
Davidson began his career as a clerk for St. Clair County Circuit Court Judge Peter Deegan in 1988, and later joined the Sanilac County Prosecutor’s Office as an assistant prosecutor and chief assistant prosecutor.
Davidson said he would also be open to exploring a problem-solving court within Sanilac County if it can be done in a cost-efficient way, such as by sharing resources with another courthouse.
Problem-solving courts, such as mental health, recovery, and veterans’ courts, provide an alternative to incarceration and connect defendants with resources to address the issues that cause them to be involved in the criminal justice system.
Sanilac County does not currently have its own problem-solving court.
If elected, Sandusky lawyer Timothy Wrathell said he would encourage the use of the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, update and modify the family law division and update the courts’ technology.
He said he will update and modify standard parenting guidelines in the family law division and update the courts’ technology, starting with the process of implementing an e-filing system.
He would also like to impose higher fines and longer sentences for certain felony cases on a case-by-case basis.
He also wants to encourage the use of the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, which allows felonies to be erased from youthful offenders’ records upon completion of probation.
Wrathell has served as an attorney during the COVID-19 pandemic, which gives him firsthand knowledge of how the court operates with new technologies, such as Zoom. He said Zoom can be a useful tool for some administrative hearings and open access to the courts because it removes barriers such as transportation.
However, he said he prefers in-person hearings for evidentiary and litigated hearings because in-person hearings better serve a defendant’s constitutional right to confront their accusers. Defendants also do not have the privacy to talk to their attorneys over Zoom as they would in the courtroom, where they can whisper in their attorney’s ear or write a note.
“I think we need to make sure that we protect people’s constitutional rights by allowing them in-person hearings when the constitution mandates it, but at the same time, balancing people’s safety on routine hearings where maybe an in-person hearing is not necessary,” he said.
Wrathell said he would be supportive of exploring the implementation of one or several problem-solving courts in Sanilac County because it gives people the resources to improve their lives.
Practicing law for more than a decade, he has experience as a litigator, a guest referee for Friend of the Court, a mediator, a case evaluator, and an arbitrator.
He has jury trial experience in district, circuit and probate courts in 13 counties, handling cases such as civil, criminal, divorce, custody, child support, family law, personal protection orders, abuse and neglect, and more.
Wrathell said his experience will be invaluable as a circuit court judge because he understands the issues surrounding those cases and how to handle them.
Contact Laura Fitzgerald at (810) 941-7072 or [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @LM_Fitz.
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