MONROE - Monroe attorney Mark Braunlich - who followed his father into the role of county legal adviser in 1989 when the older Mr. Braunlich became a judge - is again planning a walk in the family's career footsteps.
Mr. Braunlich, 45, announced his candidacy earlier this week for the First District Court judge's chair that will be forcibly vacated at the end of this year by his father.
Because of his age, Paul Braunlich, who will turn 70 in December, is barred by the Michigan Constitution from seeking another term on the bench. He is one of three judges on the district court bench; the others are Terrence Bronson and Jack Vitale.
A graduate of the University of Toledo Law School, the younger Mr. Braunlich has practiced law in Monroe for the last 21 years, serving during that time both as the county's legal adviser an as an assistant county prosecutor from 1983 to 1986.
But while he admits that he may certainly have an advantage of name recognition in this year's election, Mr. Braunlich believes he has enough credibility within the local legal community to win their support on his own merits.
“I don't think I'm just running on my name,” Mr. Braunlich said. “I'm fortunate to have a father and an uncle [William Braunlich, Jr.] that established good reputations, but I think I've earned the respect of the legal community in my own right.”
Mr. Braunlich, whose role as county legal adviser and as former longtime treasurer for the Monroe County Democratic Party have enveloped him in political issues throughout his career, is making just his second attempt at winning elected office.
He ran an unsuccessful campaign for the State House of Representatives in 1981 as a young attorney fresh out of law school, and was trounced during the primary by the late Jerry Bartnik.
Since then, he said, he has concentrated on growing his legal practice and staying, as much as possible, out of the limelight of politics.
“Everything there is to do in District Court I've done. As a general practitioner, I have experience in all aspects of criminal law,” Mr. Braunlich said.
A 1974 graduate of Monroe Catholic Central, Mr. Braunlich is a 1978 graduate of Notre Dame University and earned his law degree from UT in 1981.
He has been active both in and out of the legal community, serving as past president of the county bar association and past president of the Monroe Exchange Club. An avid boater, Mr. Braunlich is a member of the Monroe Boat Club and is active in several Catholic organizations and the United Way.
While Mr. Braunlich admits that he inherited much of his father's legal practice when Paul Braunlich became a District Court Judge, he said he has had to work hard to maintain those clients and bring in new ones, something he feels he has accomplished.
“If you don't take care of the clients, [your practice is] not going to last, regardless of what your name is,” the county legal adviser said.
In making his announcement this week, Mr. Braunlich becomes the first candidate to declare interest in the open judicial seat, election to which is a nonpartisan contest.
County prosecutor Mike Weipert and former county prosecutor Edward Swinkey, both of whom ran for the District Court judgeships in 1998, said they were not interested in running for this year.
Former assistant county prosecutor Nancy Feick, who also unsuccessfully sought the bench seat in 1998 that was eventually won by Judge Vitale, could not be reached for comment about her plans.
While campaigning, Mr. Braunlich said he plans to continue his practice, including his role serving as legal adviser to the board of county commissioners.
If he survives a probable Aug. 6 primary and is elected in November, he would have to suspend his private practice.