MARQUETTE - After taking her oath of office Friday as Marquette County's 15th probate court judge, Cheryl Hill said she's ready for the job.
"I am ready because I take with me the confidence that my parents instilled in me, my stepfather, my family, my friends, my education and my experience," Hill said. "I am ready."
Hill has a career dating back more than two decades in law, including her most recent positions as Marquette County chief civil counsel and chief assistant prosecuting attorney. She said at a judge's orientation session, Hill was instructed she is "no longer a lawyer in the way that you think."
Above, Cheryl Hill is sworn in Friday by retiring Judge Michael Anderegg as the first female probate court judge in Marquette County history. At left, With other jurists looking on, retired Marquette County District Court Judge Patricia Micklow, right, who was the first female district court judge in Marquette County, presents Hill with a gavel Friday in the south circuit courtroom. (Journal photos by Zach Jay)
"It scared me. Twenty-five years I've been a lawyer. That's what I know, that's what I do," Hill said. "They said, 'No. You're not a lawyer that represents one side or another any longer. You have one client. Your client now is justice. You serve justice.'"
Hill said that got her thinking a lot about a piece of artwork on the prosecutor's office wall, a command from Deuteronomy: "Justice, justice, that shall pursue."
"That implies to me an ongoing endeavor, always striving to succeed," Hill said. "I don't consider just getting this job the end. This is where I start. I will start pursuing justice for everyone who comes into that courtroom."
Hill thanked, judges attorneys, support staff, family and friends and the Marquette community, where she grew up and chose to remain.
"I want to give back. I really believe in this community and I am so happy that this community has given me that opportunity by electing me to be your next probate judge," Hill said. "I really, really can follow in those big footsteps and I know that I can do good for this community."
Hill is replacing Judge Michael Anderegg, who told Hill becoming a judge is something that people can tell you about, "but you don't really understand it until you're there."
"I think you will soon learn about that in a personal way and I believe that your experience will stand you in good stead," Anderegg said.
He passed along a spittoon to Hill he had received.
Anderegg said he first thought the probate court docket involved an odd mixture from cases of abuse and neglect to delinquency to cases involving probate estates, wills, trusts and guardianships.
He said a former probate judge and Michigan Supreme Court chief justice explained to him that in a probate court there's always someone who is before the court who cannot speak for themselves - being either too young, in need of protection, deceased or incompetent.
"It's an unusual mixture of work, but I think that you will find that there is a common thread," Anderegg told Hill. "And I'm confident that you will be able to meet the challenges that are before you."
Marquette County Prosecuting Attorney Matthew Wiese said Friday's investiture ceremony would be the last time he could refer to his former chief assistant as "Ms. Cheryl Hill."
"After this, I will have to address her as your honor, or Judge Hill or her personal preference, which I'm not warmed up to yet: 'Your eminence,'" Wiese said, drawing laughs from the packed audience, which included a dozen current and former judges from Marquette and Alger counties.
"As an assistant prosecuting attorney, Cheryl exemplified extraordinary qualities: superb legal research skills, encyclopedic knowledge of the law and, perhaps most importantly, the ability to make decisions based upon the law, justice and fairness," Wiese said. "I know that Cheryl Hill has the personality and compassion to have an excellent judicial temperament and that she will treat everyone that comes before the probate court with the dignity and respect they deserve. I am confident she will continue to serve our community well as our next probate court judge."
Harley Andrews, former county attorney, said he has known Hill for close to 25 years "as a professional colleague and a very true and valued friend." Hill said Andrews was her mentor.
Andrews called Friday's occasion "historic."
"Marquette County last seated a new probate court judge in January 1977, when Judge Anderegg began his distinguished judicial career. At that time, it should be noted, that Cheryl was a very, very busy freshman at Marquette Senior High School," Andrews said, prompting more laughs. "I think I could say with some certainty that succeeding Judge Anderegg as a probate court judge was probably way down on a list of the Top 100,000 things she wanted to accomplish in her lifetime. But here we are."
Andrews said Anderegg's lengthy, nearly two-generation tenure has played an important role in the history of the county and its citizens. He said Hill being installed as the county probate court's first female jurist was also historic.
Andrews said Hill completes the "judicial trifecta" in Marquette County with retired Judge Patricia Micklow installed as the first county district court judge in January 1987 and Judge Jennifer Mazzuchi being named the county's first circuit court judge in January 2009.
"Both personally and professionally she is bringing to this office traits and characteristics and the experience necessary to maintain the high level of competence and professionalism that we expect from our probate judge," Andrews said.
Micklow presented Hill with a gavel, saying judges wielding gavels is a tradition dating back to Medieval times in England.
"I know that as a symbol of justice, a symbol of power and authority, that you will certainly add compassion and grace to your use of it," Micklow told Hill. "And I'm confident that you're going to make a terrific judge."
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.