Area residents had a chance to learn more about candidates for 48th District Court judge at a Wednesday.
Josh Arnkoff, District Judge Diane D'Agostini, and Steven Schwartz participated in the forum at the , hosted by the League of Women Voters Oakland Area. Candidate Gary Sanfield did not participate due to illness.
Highlights of the debate included discussion of recent media reports that after a first-time offender was sentenced to 20 days jail last July.
Arnkoff, an assistant prosecuting attorney with Oakland County, said he agreed with a question supposing that some attorneys would rather have their clients charged with felonies in order to deal with more lenient judges at the circuit court level, as opposed to being charged with a stiff penalty for a misdemeanor.
D'Agostini, who has won two elections since first campaigning for her spot on the bench in 2000, deflected the criticism of her sentences in that they "protect the community," whether they involve jail or otherwise.
"It all depends on the case: what I hear from the victim, what I hear from the prosecutor, the defense attorney, and the defendant," D'Agostini said. "When sentencing someone, I am to discipline the wrongdoer and protect society. I do protect my community. ... it's not just what the attorneys say, it's not just what the victims say. The judge should look at everything."
Schwartz advocated for the development of a new building to serve the court, in addition to the development of a federally-funded drug and sobriety court to be implemented at district court. "I don't think the building we have at this point is user-friendly," said Schwartz, a criminal defense attorney with a private practice.
"I would have the defendants meet with probation and they would be put on a track where their addiction would be addressed ... (jail) doesn't serve anybody and it costs the taxpayers money."
Arnkoff agreed with the idea of sobriety court, in the interest of efficiency at the court as well as the philosophy of helping from the bench.
Another issue surrounding the court recently involved the workload of the district court judges. D'Agostini supported an increase of power for district court judges to sentence a five-year felony, as well as an increase in jurisdiction. In February, the state legislature approved bills which will reduce the number of judges to two through attrition.
The district court candidates seek a six-year term. The top two advance to the November ballot.
The serves Bloomfield, West Bloomfield, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake Village and Sylvan Lake.