appears to be a lot of interest in a new kind of court in Washtenaw
More than 80 lawyers, mediators, and probation officers packed
Judge Timothy Connors' courtroom on Friday.
They were there for a six-hour education session on the Native
American philosophy that guides the new peacemaking court.
The program was led by Tribal Council member and former Tribal
Judge JoAnne Gasco and Court Peacemaker Paul Raphael from the Grand
Traverse Band of Ottowa and Chippewa Indians.
There were about twice as many applicants as spaces available,
according to Judge Connors' judicial coordinator.
Judge Connors said the written applications revealed a strong
interest in an alternative to the traditional adversarial dynamic
at work in courtrooms.
Judge Connors said the goal of a peacemaking court is to seek
a more harmonious solution that integrates the repairing of harm,
healing of relationships, restoring the defendant back into the
family and the community, and a conscious redirection on a new path.
"So we're redirecting ourselves back to a commitment to
those fundamental values. And as it was mentioned that we've learned
from the Navajos, those are respect, relationships, responsibility,"
Lisa Greco directs the Washtenaw County Youth Center which houses
the County's juvenile detention program. She said the new court's
approach will be a good fit for all sorts of cases, not just ones
"We're all embedded in families and embedded in systems
and communities that all have to be a part of the healing,"
Greco agrees with Judge Connors that closure through the peacemaking
process holds the promise of longer-lasting resolution to conflict
than traditional court processes.
Juvenile, probate, and some civil and criminal disputes could
be eligible for the new court. The opportunity to participate must
first be offered by the judge. Participation is voluntary, and all
parties must agree.
Judge Connors said he has been contacted by judges from all
over Michigan who are interested in the new peacemaking court.