MONROE -- Melissa G. Matiash said she has wanted to be a probate judge for a long time, and this year she's taking the plunge.
The Monroe attorney has joined the race for a seat on the Monroe County Probate Court.
She said that as early as 2004 she decided that when Judge Pamela Moskwa retired from the court, she would make a run for the seat. She has wanted to sit on that bench, she said, because the majority of her legal practice is in the probate court representing children in neglect and abuse cases and delinquency matters. She also has represented clients in divorce, custody, and related cases and has served as a guardian ad litem for children.
"I have a passion for children and families," Ms. Matiash, 53, said.
Moreover, before she was an attorney, Ms. Matiash was a registered nurse for 18 years, and she believes that clinical background would serve her well as a probate judge.
"In court, there's a lot of medical documentation that comes into play," she explained. "I can read between the lines. I understand child development and children in their teenage years. I think that's important when you're making the decisions that have to be made in court and when you're making decisions about parental competency and guardianships."
She said she has some ideas for new programs at the court, but "I don't want to expound on it now, but it does have something to do with involving the community."
Ms. Matiash vies for the probate court seat held by Judge Frank Arnold. The other contenders are Anthony Brescol, a Bedford Township attorney, and Monroe attorney Jill LaVoy. The two highest vote-getters in the Aug. 7 primary will appear on the November ballot. Michigan judicial races are nonpartisan.
Judge Arnold was appointed by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm in July, 2010, and took his seat on the bench the next month, after Judge Moskwa retired in the middle of her term. Under Michigan law, he must run in the first general election to serve the remainder of the unfinished six-year term, which ends Jan. 1, 2015.
Ms. Matiash has been practicing in Monroe since 2001, when she was admitted to Michigan's state bar. She is from Tennessee and earned her nursing degree at St. Mary's Medical Center, Knoxville, and her bachelor's degree in nursing at the University of Tennessee. As a nurse, she worked in critical care. She earned her law degree at the University of Toledo.
She and husband Nicholas Matiash live in Monroe. Their son Joshua, 20, is a sophomore at Michigan Technological University. Tragedy struck the family when daughter Olivia contracted an unidentified illness at 17 and was left paralyzed and on a ventilator. She died in October at age 24.
Ms. Matiash's memberships include the Michigan Bar Association, the Monroe County Bar Association, the Monroe County Criminal Bar Association, the National Wild Turkey Federation, the Soroptimist Club, and Cornerstone Baptist Church.