Jaklevic settles in as district court judge

BIG RAPIDS  —  Although he works at the same building he has for the past 20 years, Peter Jaklevic continues to adjust to a new routine, as the former prosecutor now sits behind the bench.

Heading the Mecosta and Osceola County 77th District Court, Judge Jaklevic now presides over cases and has a much different perspective and new procedures to become familiar with.

“Wearing the robe takes getting used to,” he chuckled. “Even entering the courtroom from a different door is strange. I worked in the prosecutor’s office for 20 years and followed the same pattern for so long, but things are different.”

He’s also getting accustomed to having a second office in Reed City, which he travels to a few times each week for proceedings. Although Jaklevic was familiar with the court staff in Osceola County, he now works with them more closely.

“I’m happy with the staffs in both offices,” Jaklevic said. “I’m fortunate they both are able to help me with the transition.”

Also helping with the transition was a judges school Jaklevic and other new judges from around the state attended in Lansing during the first week of January.

Although the judges were all technically “new,” they each had varying levels of experience as a judge, Jaklevic said.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” he said. “We got to hear from judges who, like me, are just starting out, as well as some that have actually sat on the bench for a year or two already. Overall, what I learned is there are standard procedures, but everyone does the job a little differently.”

One thing Jaklevic has already implemented and will continue to focus on is increased sentences for repeat offenders.

Those who are constantly going through the court system are the people who should, for example, be receiving longer jail times and more community service, he said.

“Most people we only see once because they’ve learned from their mistakes, but there are those who constantly are coming through our doors,” Jaklevic said. “My priority is seeing us focus our resources, such as programs and the jail, on those who are frequently offending.”

While Jaklevic had a multitude of experience in criminal cases from his time as Mecosta County Prosecutor, one area he was less familiar with was civil claims, which district court handles.

“I didn’t have a lot of experience with those type of cases, so there’s definitely a learning curve,” he said. “It’s one of the more difficult areas for me, but I’m working hard to learn and keep those cases moving to a resolution.”

Jaklevic was happy as prosecutor and enjoyed his job, but said he knew it was time for a change. While he’s still adjusting to his judge’s robe and entering the court from his office, he doesn’t regret the shake up to his usual routine.

“I’m excited to go to work each day because of the new challenges,” Jaklevic said. “I’m really glad I made the move.”