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Whitmer names Black judge

Ed Black

ALPENA — The Alpena County prosecutor will be the next judge for Alpena and Montmorency County’s 26th Circuit Court.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced the appointment of Alpena County Prosecutor Ed Black on Friday, three months after four local attorneys applied for the position vacated when then-judge Michael Mack was suspended and then retired while under investigation by the police.

The investigation is being conducted by Michigan State Police detectives from outside the area, but police have not disclosed what they’re looking for.

Black will fill the remainder of Mack’s term, through the 2020 election. Voters will choose the next Circuit Court judge next year.

Three other Alpena attorneys — Joel Bauer, Matt Wojda, and Lora Greene, the latter who ran for state representative last year — also submitted applications to be considered for the judgeship.

Informed of the governor’s decision on Friday, Black said he will continue as prosecutor for roughly another two weeks before transitioning to the bench.

When he assumes the judgeship, Black will not be able to preside over cases for which he has served as prosecutor. It is yet to be determined how the court caseload will be assigned in upcoming months, he said.

Black’s term as prosecutor expires at the end of 2020. Benjamin Bolser, appointed chief judge of the 26th Circuit Court in November, will appoint someone to fill the rest of Black’s term. Bolser was unavailable for comment Friday.

Assistant Prosecutor Cynthia Muszynski announced Friday that she will be on the ballot for the prosecutor position in November. She is running as a Republican. Black is a Democrat, as is Whitmer.

Anticipating the potential of a change to his position, Black said, he has intentionally involved his office’s other prosecutors in recent cases in hopes of providing a smooth transition after his departure.

“To say that you’re not kind of in awe of the whole thing would be a lie,” Black said of the appointment. He said it’s both a great honor and a huge responsibility and said he has great respect for the other candidates, all of whom, he said, love the community.

“I’m going to pull on them to help me move forward and do the best job we can,” Black said.

Soon to be making judgement in cases presented by current colleagues, Black said that his relationships to other attorneys in town have to be immaterial to the facts of any given case.

The court system is based on fairness and impartiality, Black said, and, as judge, he will need to disassociate his feelings toward the people he knows and has worked with in another capacity and adhere to what the law requires.

According to online disclosure records from the Michigan Secretary of State, Black gave $1,200 to Whitmer’s gubernatorial campaign. Black’s last donation was in November 2018, long before the judgeship appointment became a possibility.

Bauer donated $250 to Whitmer’s campaign. There is no record of donations by Greene or Wojda to the governor’s campaign, although Greene gave $150 to a political action committee dedicated to helping elect Democrats statewide.

State Sen. Jim Stamas, who represents Northeast Michigan, issued a statement applauding Whitmer’s appointment of Black.

“Ed Black is a man of integrity who is committed to the law and the community,” said Stamas, R-Midland. “Ed was elected three times by the people of Alpena County as their prosecutor, and he will continue to stand strong for them as a judge.”

Prior to his election as prosecuting attorney, Black served as an assistant prosecuting attorney in Montmorency County and as an associate with the firm Wenzel, Bennet and Kowalski and the Law Offices of Harris and Literski. He also served as a law clerk for the 26th Circuit Court and the 6th Circuit Court of Oakland County.

Julie Riddle can be reached at 989-358-5693, jriddle@thealpenanews.com or on Twitter @jriddleX.

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