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Judicial Outreach Week

Press Release
40 N. Main Street
Mount Clemens, Michigan 48043
Phone: (586) 469-5150
Image of Circuit Court Seal

James M. Biernat Jr., Chief Judge 16th Judicial Circuit Court,
Macomb County Probate Court,
42nd District Courts

For Immediate Release                                                     Date:  March 8th, 2024

Media Contact:  Jean Cloud



16th Circuit Court Celebrates Judicial Outreach Year-round

The 16th Judicial Circuit Court is proud of the many events and programs offered over the last year to engage the community and to foster confidence in our legal system. The following are just some of the important events which demonstrates this Court’s commitment to building public trust and transparency.


School Tours brought back after Covid

For three years after the onset of Covid, the Circuit Court had been devoid of the faces of many school-aged students who would take a field trip to the courthouse to learn about the judicial system. In June of last year, the Circuit Court had the privilege of hosting a Girl Scout Troop so they could earn their Democracy Badge!  The young ladies had the opportunity to watch proceedings to see how the court functions. They learned about the three separate branches of government, how the Court operates, and what it is like to be a Judge.

In November, the Court again welcomed high school students from Merritt Academy to learn about Circuit Court functions. Following a criminal docket in Judge Kathryn Viviano’s Court, the students had some one-on-one time to ask questions about court operations, the judicial branch of government, the constitution, and criminal law with Judge Kathryn Viviano, Judge Antonio Viviano, and Court staff.

In February, Macomb County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Toia hosted 79 - 2nd graders from South River Elementary School. The children were then able to watch a few of the Court proceedings.  They had the opportunity to tour the County Clerk’s office, the jury room, the Lockup and Fingerprint room by Macomb County Sheriff's Deputies, and Judge Toia's courtroom. They were each presented with a United States Constitution and Declaration of Independence booklet.


Chief Judge James M. Biernat, Jr with Girl Scouts


Judge Kathryn Viviano answer students' questions


Specialty Courts Touch the Community

The Specialty Courts in Circuit Court play a vital role in the rehabilitation of so many individuals who struggle with addiction and/or mental health issues.  In October, Judge Joseph Toia, Judge Jennifer Andary, and Judge Julie Gatti, together with Drug Court and DWI/Sobriety Court team members, participated in the Macomb County Treatment Court Trunk or Treat held at the 41-B District Court. Despite the gloomy weather, there were lots of laughs, great costumes, and big smiles. 


Juror Appreciation Month

Last July, Chief Judge Biernat and Macomb County Clerk Anthony Forlini addressed the jurors to thank them for their service.  Signs were posted and cake was served as a small token to say "thank you."  This gesture was important to commend the efforts of thousands of people who set aside time in their busy lives to serve as jurors.  Jurors are a crucial component of our judicial system, for the right to a trial by jury would not exist without the citizens who serve as jurors.


Image of Chief Judge James M. Biernat, Jr. and Clerk Anthony Forlini Thank Jurors


Cake to thank jurors


Circuit Court Judges Making a Big Impact for Law Day

Last year, National Law Day was May 1st, and for the first time, students were recognized by local Judges in individual events held at each school.  In the past, a group celebration was held at the County Administration Building.  Last year’s national theme was “Cornerstones of Democracy: Civics, Civility, and Collaboration.”  Students from first through eighth grade participated, with the younger students drawing posters and the older students completing essays.

Circuit Court Judges Matthew Sabaugh, Julie Gatti and Joseph Toia visited St. Anne Catholic School in Warren, Salk Elementary School in Clinton Township, and Tenniswood Elementary School in Clinton Township to congratulate the first and second place winners of the competition.

This year, the Court will continue the long-standing tradition of participating in the Law Day celebration, which will be held on Friday, May 3 in the Board of Commissioners’ room.


Judge Joseph Toia with studens on Law Day


Judge Julie Gatti on Law Day


Judge Matthew Sabaugh on Law Day


Community Outreach at Local Festivals

In July, Circuit Court Judges Richard Caretti, James Biernat Jr., and Judge Toia attended the Italian Festival at Freedom Hill County Park. They all took on the difficult task of judging meatballs at the Frank J. Palazzolo Memorial “Judges Judging Meatballs” contest.


Juvenile Court Staff Educates Local High School Students

Every semester, the Macomb County Juvenile Court participates in educating high school students about the juvenile justice system.  Erik Flager, Case Worker Manager for the Juvenile Court, speaks to Sociology and Contemporary Living Classes each semester at Henry Ford II High School.  Speaking primarily to juniors and seniors, he discusses such topics as institutions like juvenile detention, the differences between the adult and juvenile system, intervention programs, what being detained is like for kids, and changes in the juvenile justice system.

The Juvenile Court’s program not only contains an education component, but also a long interactive question and answer session about juvenile court in Macomb County.  For Contemporary Living classes, the topics also include the importance of education, entering the job market for careers in justice and law, the impact that choices make on the youth’s record and employment, and practical knowledge for youth to utilize in their preparation to adulthood and being independent. 


Michigan High School Mock Trial Competition

The Circuit Court had the privilege of hosting the Michigan High School Mock Trial Competition on March 2.  Many judges and lawyers in the community volunteered their time to judge the competition.  It was a wonderful and invaluable experience for these young, brilliant students to have the opportunity to litigate a civil case in a real courtroom with real judges presiding over the case.


Family Court Making a Difference for Families Going Through the Legal Process

The SMILE program in Macomb County (Start Making it Livable for Everyone) is an education program for separating and/or divorced parents with minor children.  Every month there is a live presentation where a Family Court Judge, a representative from the Macomb County Friend of the Court, CARE, and a

practicing family law attorney discuss the dynamics of families separating and the legal process.  The presentation from the Family Court Judge is a very important part of this presentation as they bring forward their years of experience in dealing with divorcing parents and their children.  Their perspective allows families to understand the basics of the divorce process, as well as the do’s and don’ts that will help make the experience healthier for all parties involved.  Their monthly, in-person presentations, as well as the interactions with divorcing parents, is an integral part of the SMILE program.


Macomb County is very proud of the community outreach that we have done and continue to do.  Chief Judge Biernat stated, “This Court has made it a priority over the years to participate in many community events to demonstrate our commitment to fairness and equality.  We are proud of our accomplishments in the areas of public trust and transparency.” 


Department:16th Judicial Circuit Court
Press Release