Long-Serving Washtenaw County Chief Judge Announces Retirement, Opening Up Judicial Race

ANN ARBOR, MI – The chief judge of a court in Washtenaw County, Michigan has confirmed that he will not seek re-election. Joseph Burke, who has served as the 15th District Court chief judge pro tempore since 2016, announced his decision this week. His current term will conclude at the end of 2024.

In an email sent last week, Burke informed court staff about his retirement plans. He stated, “(My wife and I) figured it was time to retire. I’m looking forward to retirement. I’m sure there parts about my work that I’ll miss, but I’m looking forward to relaxing somewhat.”

Burke has an extensive legal career, having served as a judge in Ann Arbor for 12 years. Before that, he worked in the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office for 23 years and had six years of experience in private practice. He earned his bachelor of arts degree from Michigan State University in 1978 and his juris doctorate from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 1982.

While Burke did not make a formal announcement, he wanted to provide potential candidates with enough time to secure spots on the ballot. According to the Michigan Secretary of State, individuals interested in running for judge have until March 25 to file for candidacy.

Current 15th District Court Magistrate Tamara Garwood has already announced her candidacy for the judge’s position. During an Ann Arbor City Council meeting, Garwood emphasized her experience, knowledge, compassion, and integrity as she sits on the bench in Ann Arbor.

As Burke approaches his final day on the court, he anticipates missing sobriety court the most. He described it as an intensive probation program designed for individuals struggling with addiction. Through this program, judges develop personal connections with participants, making it difficult for Burke to leave it behind.

Burke’s last day as a county judge is scheduled for December 31.

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