Traverse City Record-Eagle

Election 2012

October 27, 2012

Two battle to become first female judge

TRAVERSE CITY — Two candidates with extensive court experience are vying to be the first female judge in Grand Traverse County history.

Voters on Nov. 6 will elect either Melanie Stanton or Kirsten Keilitz to a six-year term as Grand Traverse County probate judge. The winner will replace two-term incumbent David Stowe, who did not seek re-election after a series of personal and professional problems.

A probate judge primarily works in family law and makes decisions on guardians, wills, divorces, estates, abuse cases and more. Both Stanton and Keilitz have toiled with probate-related matters for years, and each candidate contends she has more and better experience than the other.

Keilitz has been a 13th Circuit Court referee since September 2009, a position that includes making recommendations to judges — including Stowe — on child abuse and neglect cases, juvenile offenders and other issues. Prior to that she worked in private practice.

Stanton was a nurse before she became an attorney. She's practiced family and probate law for more than two decades, and spent time as an assistant prosecutor in Leelanau County.

Stanton believes her compassion and experience in handling cases makes her the best person for the job.

"I have been a trench person," Stanton said. "I know what it's like to go in and work with families."

She also believes the fact that she has children — she has two daughters; Keilitz has a stepdaughter — gives her an edge.

"I think that's a huge factor when you're dealing with people who have kids," she said.

Keilitz countered that her experience as a court referee elevates her beyond Stanton.

"I have experience on one side of the bench and the other side of the bench," she said. "I think that's a pretty good package."

She also contends she would have a smoother transition to the probate judge seat because she's already familiar with the court's staff and technology, among other items.

She dismissed Stanton's contention that bearing children is a significant factor in being a probate judge.

"I came into my stepdaughter's life when she was 15. We did prom. We did first boyfriend. We did college," Keilitz said. "Melanie has two wonderful daughters ... but I don't think that means I'm not qualified."

Keilitz used to work at a local law firm; her husband still works there. She said she'll disqualify herself from any cases that present a potential conflict.

Both Keilitz and Stanton acknowledged the probate judge's post was tarnished under Stowe and vow to improve its public image.

1
Text Only

2012 Election Returns

Facebook
Record-Eagle+
Unlimited access to Record-Eagle.com
Subscribe Sign In
Find a Business
Associated Press Video
Heartwarming 'Batkid Begins' Documentary is Tear-Jerker Orlando Bloom 'Takes a Swing' at Justin Bieber In Ibiza Pitch Invading Morons Cause Chaos - @TheBuzzeronFOX Sadie Doesn't Want Her Brother to Grow Up "Maxim" Hotness! See Jessica Alba's Sizzling Spread Two women barely avoid being hit by train Broken Water Main Floods UCLA Orlando Bloom and Justin Bieber Reportedly Came To Blows In Ibiza Meet the Man Behind Dumb Starbucks Chris Pratt Adorably Surprises Kids at a 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Screening NOW TRENDING: Peyton Manning dancing at practice "The Bachelorette" Makes Her Decision Thieves pick the wrong gas station to rob Golden Sisters on '50 Shades' trailer: 'Look At That Chest!' Staten Island Man's Emotional Dunk Over NYPD Car - @TheBuzzeronFOX GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted 'Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1' Sneak Peek Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show'