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Bench change



Effective Jan. 1, Virgil C. Smith Jr. will be the new chief judge at Wayne County Circuit Court, the third chief judge in as many years. The Michigan Supreme Court appointed Smith to the spot last month, replacing Chief Judge William Giovan, who's retiring. He praised his successor.

"He has vigorously responded to the challenge and difficult times since being named, and I know he will do everything in his power to continue," Giovan says.

Giovan filed suit against Wayne County, seeking a freeze of the 2007-2008 budget. County Executive Robert Ficano had proposed 10 percent reductions from all county departments and suggested the court eliminate 241 of its 831 positions in addition to other cuts.

"The vast size of the fiscal year 2008-2009 reductions approved by the County are a clear attack on the ability of the Court, as a separate branch of government, to maintain proper security of its courtrooms, juries, litigants and the public," the suit reads.

Citing a busy docket, Smith declined an interview request.

Smith, 61, was born in Detroit and attended Pershing High School before earning an undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and a law degree from Wayne State. He spent 12 years as a state representative, serving the 10th district and was elected to the state Senate in 1988. He's been voted legislator of the year by the Michigan Judges Association and the Michigan Police Officers Association.

In 2004, he was the chief of legislation, grants and community relations for the Wayne County Prosecutor's office when Gov. Jennifer Granholm appointed him to fill a vacancy at Wayne County Circuit Court. Voters kept Smith on the bench in the 2006 election.

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or

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