Leaving the bench

OSCEOLA COUNTY — Judge Marco Menezes has a birthday coming up and that means following through with his longtime plan to retire when he hit the magic age.

Menezes, who serves as the probate and family court judge for Osceola and Mecosta counties, will be officially retiring from his position on Sept. 30.

“My birthday is later this month and I said when I turned 67 years old I would retire,” he explained. “I was planning on this for a long time, so guess I knew it was coming even when I first took this job.”

Menezes was appointed to the position in December 2009 by Gov. Jennifer Granholm.

Prior to serving as a judge, Menezes was a lawyer for about 25 years, working in private practice in Big Rapids and also at a law firm in Cadillac. He then served for 10 years as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Wexford County.

After working as a prosecutor, Menezes became executive director at MOARC, where he had worked prior to attending law school. He returned to private practice for a while before applying for the probate judge position.

“I had done just about everything else do on other side of the bench —I’d been a defense attorney, I represented clients in civil matters and I’d been a prosecuting attorney,” he said. “The only job I hadn’t held was a judge, so I thought it would be a good way to end a career.”

Throughout the six-and-a-half years he’s been a probate and family court judge, Menezes has presided over divorces, abuse and neglect cases, adoptions, guardianships and mental health commitments.

“Typically, we work with the most vulnerable segments of the community – children, the elderly, people incapacitated for one reason or another,” he said. “It’s a different skill set and I think one reason Gov. Granholm appointed me was my experience at MOARC because I’d work with and around social workers.”

The decisions Menezes has made on the bench impact the lives of people in very fundamental ways, he said. This makes his job very stressful, but also rewarding.

“Every now and then you have a success. You place a child who had a rough upbringing into a loving family and that can be very rewarding,” he said. “On the other side, when you witness a parent who has had a rough go and they pull themselves together, that can be really rewarding as well.”

Gov. Rick Snyder will make an appointment to fill the vacancy left by Menezes. Until a replacement is selected, the three remaining judges serving Osceola and Mecosta counties will pitch in and handle the family and probate court matters, Menezes said.

The position was posted and six local attorneys applied and are being considered by the governor’s office at this point, Menezes said.

In his retirement, Menezes hopes to take six months to simply “chill” and relax. He plans to spend time with family, including two young grandchildren who live nearby. He also wants to travel with his wife and catch up on projects around his home.

After those first six months, Menezes said he would be willing to fill in as a visiting judge when other judges take vacation or are ill.