Peter Jaklevic hopes to move from prosecutor to judge
BIG RAPIDS — After 20 years serving the residents of Mecosta County, chief prosecutor Peter Jaklevic, is hoping to take his career to the next step as the 77th District Court Judge.
"I have the wisdom and the life experiences necessary to serve the people as judge," Jaklevic said. "I believe my years of serving as a prosecutor and the knowledge of the justice system makes me the right candidate. Now is the time to run."
Jaklevic, a Detroit native, attended Michigan State University for undergraduate school, and completed law school at Michigan State University College of Law, graduating with honors in 1993. After law school, he applied for and received a law clerk position at the 49th Circuit Court under Judge Lawrence Root. After his tenure with Root ended, he began work as an assisting prosecutor under Jim Samuels and remained in the area ever since.
"I grew to love hunting and fishing in this area and I made Mecosta County my home," Jaklevic said. "It wasn’t the plan, but that is the way it happened. I love the area and the people. This is my home."
Jaklevic moved up the judicial ladder under prosecutor John Sullivan. At age 29, in 1998, Jaklevic was appointed as chief prosecutor after Sullivan left in the middle of his term.
"I was the youngest chief prosecutor in the Michigan at that time," Jaklevic said. "Now, I’m in my fourth term. I believe that says something to the voters about my job performance. When a prosecuting attorney is doing his job people see that and know that. I think it is one of the reasons I’ve run unopposed for so long."
Jaklevic's 20 years of experience has taught him to understand the different aspects of the courtroom, all sides of the law and the important role a judge plays in the judicial system, he said.
"The judge has to make very important decisions," Jaklevic said. "Judges are the final arbiters. Whether it is a dispute between private litigants or in a criminal context, the job of judge cannot be taken lightly. As a prosecutor who has been doing this job as long as I have, I believe I have the experience and discernment to be a good judge.
"It takes years of experience and listening to people," Jaklevic added. "Hearing and understanding both sides of the story gives me the common sense to make decisions that are required to be a good judge."
As judge Jaklevic will recognize the importance each case means to the people involved.
"Each case is very important," Jaklevic said. "Small claims are important to the litigants. Criminal cases are important to the crime victims and to the defendant. Each case that comes before the judge is very important and requires a level of thought process before making a judgement. I offer that as a candidate."
Jaklevic has handled a number of big cases over the years. He has successfully prosecuted five first-degree murder cases, including two cold case homicide prosecutions.
"I was part of the process that brought to justice the killers of Mary Pine and Stella Lintemuth," Jaklevic said. "They were two unsolved cases of elderly women brutally murdered in their own homes. I remember people talking about those cases when I was a law clerk. Those were very challenging cases and I'm particularly proud that I had a small part to help settle those cases. I look at it as a highlight of my career."
The majority of Jaklevic's career may have been spent as a prosecutor, but he said he understands the important role the defense plays in the judicial system.
"Before graduating from law school, I worked as an intern in the federal defender's office in Detroit," Jaklevic said.
He understands the defense side of the law, and knows that a common misperception of the prosecutor’s role is to pursue the conviction of those who break the law.
"That is a large part of my job, but the reality is, as a prosecutor, my job is to represent all the people and that includes the defendant," Jaklevic said. "Most of the time justice means going after the bad guy, but on occasion there are situations where people are getting a raw deal with false claims. I'm there to help protect the innocent."
As a judge Jaklevic will use the knowledge from his career to view each side of a case.
"There are people who are innocent," Jaklevic said. "As a prosecutor I must consider everybody’s interest in the case. I think that the various roles in the justice system whether you are a prosecutor or a defense attorney means looking out for for the people. A prosecutor has to be neutral and impartial when approaching a case. My obligation to the Constitution is to represent all the people and I think that makes me especially qualified to be judge."
As prosecutor, Jaklevic has played a role in the Sobriety Court program. He supports the program and its efforts to reduce drinking and driving cases between the two counties. He believes the program should continue.
"I work and I have witnessed successful graduations from the program," Jaklevic said. "Sobriety Court follows a national model, which is working in the two counties."
As a candidate for the 77th District Court judge, Jaklevic would like voters to know who they are voting for on election day, by asking questions and researching what is said on the campaign trail.
"Speak to the people who work everyday in the court system," Jaklevic said. "Ask about the candidates. Talk to people in law enforcement in each county find out why they are supporting either candidate. Educate yourselves before going to the polls."
He feels once the people have looked at each candidate for judge they will see his experience has given him the wisdom to be judge of the 77th District Court.
"I am the right man for this job and I believe the people will see that when they look at all the facts," Jaklevic said. "I bring to the bench a fair and honest approach, along with an overwhelming understanding about our justice system. Experience, knowledge and wisdom are important traits of a judge and I have them."