PI County judge to head state workgroup

News File Photo Judge Aaron Gauthier appears in this November 2019 News archive photo.

ALPENA — A local judge has been tapped by the state to help decide the future of public access to courtrooms.

Aaron Gauthier, who presides over Presque Isle County’s 53rd Circuit Court, will chair a workgroup as part of the state’s efforts to improve its courts.

Workgroup members will study the challenges courts face in balancing transparency and privacy in court proceedings, especially in light of changes forced upon courts during the coronavirus pandemic.

The workgroup will develop recommendations regarding courts’ continued use of remote and livestreamed proceedings.

Many judges turned to these tools to keep courts running when pandemic-related restrictions forbade public gatherings.

Gauthier — who still posts recordings of his court hearings on YouTube after many judges stopped providing digital access to courtrooms — will lead the workgroup in examining transparency and public access issues and their place under existing court rules.

The workgroup is one of eight such groups that will examine areas included in an operational plan released on Wednesday by the Michigan Judicial Council.

The operational plan, and an accompanying strategic agenda, reflect the council’s stated intent to make Michigan courts more user-friendly, accessible, and consistent.

Other workgroups will examine strategies to simplify legal processes and court procedures, divert people with mental health and substance use disorders away from the justice system, and increase public trust in the court system, among other goals.

The Michigan Judicial Council was established in 2021 to establish statewide goals and strategies for court improvements and unification.

Gauthier serves as an at-large judge on the 29-member council, appointed by the state Supreme Court.

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


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