HISTORY OF THE 35TH DISTRICT COURT
The 1963 Michigan Constitution and subsequent enabling legislation gave birth to the 35th District Court. The new Constitution introduced the concept of “one court of justice.” a hierarchical system that for the first time in Michigan included trial courts of limited jurisdiction or district court.
The first Judge elected to the new 35th District Court was Dunbar Davis, who took office on January 1, 1969. Judge Davis was Plymouth’s Municipal Judge, prior to the creation of the District Court system.
The new court was conducted in a number of new locations including Northville City Hall, the former municipal courtroom in Plymouth City Hall, and a trailer at Plymouth Township Hall. In its early history, the 35th District Court did not have branches in the townships of Northville and Canton.
As the district’s population and caseload continued to grow, it was determined that a centrally located court would be more efficient than individual branches throughout the jurisdiction.
A Court Advisory Board (CAB) was created with one representative from each community in the jurisdiction. It was formed to resolve issues involved in consolidating the court. Founding board members included Maurice Breen, Plymouth Township Supervisor; John Flodin, Canton Township Clerk; Henry Groper, Plymouth City Manager; John MacDonald, Northville Township Supervisor; and Steve Walters, Northville City Manager.
Prohibitive costs of renovating existing buildings in the district prompted the CAB to build a new facility. Key issues that forced the CAB included the site, how to finance construction, and how to divide court expenses and revenues.
The City of Plymouth donated land on Plymouth Road next to Massey softball field and Riverside cemetery. Construction of the new court was financed through a City of Plymouth bond issue. The bonds were to be retired through court revenues.
The court opened in 1981. It was the Dunbar Davis Hall of Justice in honor of the 35th District Court’s first judge. In 1984, Judge Davis retired and John MacDonald, former Northville Township Supervisor, was elected to fill the vacancy. In the latter parts of 1994, Judge Garber retired and Ronald W. Lowe was elected.
In December 1996, as a result of an agreement with the Wayne County Probate Court, the 35th District Court became the first District Court in the state to process juvenile ordinance/misdemeanor violations.
On July 2, 1997, a fire destroyed the court. The CAB was faced with the immediate decision of where to find temporary quarters while a new court was under construction. Unisys offered office space and later allowed use of vacant property where modular units were used for a courthouse, across the street from the former courthouse. The new courthouse was dedicated September 13, 2000.
Change for the 35th District Court came again in 2002 when the Michigan Legislation approved the addition of a third judge. Michael Gerou was elected and took the bench on January 1, 2003.
November of 2008 Judge John MacDonald retired and James A. Plakas at the age of 40, became the sixth individual to be elected to the bench at the 35th District Court.