17th Circuit Court

Judges

Click on Judge Name for Bio

Judge Suite Phone
Mark A. Trusock, Chief Judge Suite 11200B (616) 632-5008
Terence J. Ackert Suite 10200B (616) 632-5091
Curt A. Benson Suite 10500D  (616) 632-5012
Paul J. Denenfeld Suite 11500D  (616) 632-5032
Christina Elmore Suite 6500D  (616) 632-5214
Kathleen A. Feeney Suite 10200A  (616) 632-5087
Patricia D. Gardner  Suite 9200B  (616) 632-5070
G. Patrick Hillary Suite 9200A  (616) 632-5206
Deborah L. McNabb  Court Room 6-A, Suite 6200 A (616) 632-5219
George J. Quist Suite 12200A (616) 632-5076
J. Joseph Rossi Suite 9500D  (616) 632-5020
Paul J. Sullivan Suite 10500C  (616) 632-5099
Christopher P. Yates Suite 11200A  (616) 632-5026
Daniel V. Zemaitis Suite 6500C  (616) 632-5203

Judge Bios

Mark A. Trusock, Chief Judge

Judge Trusock graduated from Michigan Technological University (MTU) in 1974.  After college, Judge Trusock worked for a large insurance company from 1975 to 1984.  In 1983 he obtained a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) from the   American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. In 1985 Judge Trusock graduated from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan.  For the next 21 years, he worked for the partnership of Lannen and Trusock.  At Lannen and Trusock he worked with civil, criminal, family, juvenile and appellate cases in courts throughout the state of Michigan. Judge Trusock was elected in November of 2006 to fill a new judicial position.  Judge Trusock is assigned to the Civil-Criminal Division of the Circuit Court.

Back to Top

Terence J. Ackert

Judge Terence J. "T.J." Ackert took the bench on September 1, 2015.  A graduate of the University of Michigan and University of Toledo College of Law, he served clients throughout Michigan and the Midwest for thirty one years.  He was affiliated as a Shareholder with the firm Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, P.C. from 1984 to 2007, and then as a Member of Miller Johnson Snell & Cummiskey, PLLC from 2007 until 2015.  For most of his private practice, Judge Ackert served as a business counsel and trial attorney advising closely held and family owned businesses in both transactional and litigation matters involving an array of industries including manufacturing, construction, technology, and start-ups.  He received the distinction of being listed in Best Lawyers in America® for Business Organizations, Closely Held Companies and Family Business Law, Corporate Law and Mergers and Acquisitions Law.  Judge Ackert has served on numerous business, civic and charitable boards, including President of the Grand Rapids Bar Association in 2013.  Judge Ackert currently serves on the Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum.  Judge Ackert is assigned to the Family Division of the Circuit Court. 

Back to Top

Curt A. Benson

Judge Curt Benson took the bench on January 1, 2019. Before his election in November of 2018, in his 33 years as a litigator and educator, Judge Benson had tried dozens of jury trials in both civil and criminal courts throughout Michigan. He has argued cases before the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, circuit, probate, and district courts, federal district and bankruptcy courts, Worker’s Compensation Bureau, American Arbitration Association, Driver’s License Appeal Division, as well as FINRA securities arbitrations and mediations in New York city and case evaluations in New Jersey. As a lawyer, Judge Benson was awarded an AV rating in Martindale – Hubbell (the highest rank possible) and is today a Fellow of The Michigan Bar Foundation.

As a tenured professor at Western Michigan University/T.M. Cooley Law School, Judge Benson taught Evidence, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Tort and Insurance Law. He has frequently and successfully coached Mock Trial and Moot Court Teams as they competed against law schools throughout the country. Today, Judge Benson hold the title Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the law school.

Judge Benson is a published legal author and frequent public speaker. He also served on the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education for six years, including two years as president and two years as vice president.

Judge Benson is assigned to the Civil/Criminal Division of the Circuit Court.

Back to Top

Paul J. Denenfeld

Judge Denenfeld took the bench on August 10, 2009. He received his BA degree from Western Michigan University and his JD from the University of Cincinnati. Before taking the bench, Judge Denenfeld was a partner in the law firm Yates, LaGrand & Denenfeld, PLLC. Prior to that, he was the senior litigator with the Federal Public Defender office in Grand Rapids, and was the chief of the special litigation division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. For nearly 10 years, he was a civil rights and civil liberties attorney in Detroit. Judge Denenfeld has also spent considerable time working on the rule of law in several former Soviet republics. Judge Denenfeld is assigned to the Civil/Criminal Division of the Circuit Court.

Back to Top

Christina Elmore

Judge Christina Elmore was elected to the 17th Circuit Court and began her term on January 1, 2019. Before she was elected to this court, she was a judge on the 61st District Court for the City of Grand Rapids for almost 3 years.

Judge Elmore began her legal career as a Judge Advocate General in the United States Air Force, where she served for 13 years on active duty and in the reserves. She also worked as an assistant prosecutor for the Kent County Prosecutor’s office before she became an Assistant Attorney General for the Michigan Department of Attorney General.

Following her stint at the Attorney General’s Office, Judge Elmore spent 8 years in private practice where she was defense counsel on felony and misdemeanor criminal cases, represented parents and children in child abuse and neglect cases, advocated for juveniles in delinquency cases, and assisted clients with various other legal issues. She also continued to prosecute individuals for failing to pay child support as a Special Assistant Attorney General. In addition, Judge Elmore taught military law briefly at Cooley Law School.

Judge Elmore earned her law degree from Tulane Law School and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. She is also an alumnus of Ottawa Hills High School.

Back to Top

Kathleen A. Feeney

Judge Feeney took the bench on March 27, 2000. She received her BA from Michigan State University and her JD from the University of Illinois College of Law. Before taking the bench, Judge Feeney clerked for the Honorable Jane E. Markey of the Michigan Court of Appeals. She also practiced family, employment, and insurance law with the firms of Mika, Meyers, Beckett & Jones and Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith. Judge Feeney is assigned to the Family Division of Circuit Court.

Back to Top

Patricia D. Gardner

Judge Gardner took the bench on January 13, 1997. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and JD from the University of Michigan. Before taking the bench, Judge Gardner practiced probate and family law with the firm of Kozera, Brown and Gardner. Judge Gardner is assigned to the Family Division of Circuit Court. Judge Gardner was appointed Presiding Judge of the Family Division on January 1, 2010.

Back to Top

G. Patrick Hillary

Judge Hillary took the bench in January of 2001. Judge Hillary received his under-graduate degree from Ferris State University and JD from Thomas Cooley Law School. Before taking the bench, Judge Hillary was a sole practitioner with primary emphasis in Family Law. Judge Hillary is assigned to the Family Division of Circuit Court.

Back to Top

George J. Quist

Judge Quist took the bench on January 23, 2012. He received his BA from Hope College and his JD from George Washington University. Before taking the bench, Judge Quist served as the Director of Employment Services for the Michigan Administrative Hearing System and Chief Magistrate for the Worker's Compensation Board of Magistrates. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, he tried over 500 cases as an administrative law judge and magistrate. In addition to 12 years experience as an adjudicator before taking the bench, Judge Quist was a civil litigator in Grand Rapids for 9 years. From January 2012 through May 2015, Judge Quist was assigned to the Family Division of the Circuit Court.  As of June 1, 2015, Judge Quist is assigned to the Civil/Criminal Division of the Circuit Court.

Back to Top

Paul J. Sullivan

Judge Sullivan took the bench in March of 1995. Judge Sullivan received his under-graduate degree from Georgetown University and JD from Catholic University of America. Before taking the bench, Judge Sullivan was an Assistant District Attorney in Philadelphia, and in private practice for 14 years with the law firm of Twohey, Maggini, Muldoon, Mudie and Sullivan. He also served six years as a 61st District Court Judge. Judge Sullivan served as Chief Judge Pro-Tem from January 1, 2000 until December 31, 2003. On January 1, 2004 Judge Sullivan became the Chief Judge of the 17th Circuit Court by appointment from the Michigan Supreme Court. He was reappointed in January 1, 2006 and again in January 1, 2008 and served as Chief Judge until December 31, 2009. Judge Sullivan is assigned to the Civil/Criminal Division of the Circuit Court.

Back to Top

Christopher P. Yates

Judge Yates took the bench on April 22, 2008.  He received his BA from Kalamazoo College and his JD and MBA from the University of Illinois.  Before taking the bench, Judge Yates served as a law clerk to a federal trial judge and a federal court of appeals judge, then as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, then in the Office of Legal Counsel at the U.S. Department of Justice, and as the Chief Federal Public Defender for the Western District of Michigan.  Most recently, he worked in private practice as a partner in two Grand Rapids law firms, Willey, Chamberlain & Yates and then Yates, LaGrand & Denenfeld.  Judge Yates is assigned to the Court’s Specialized Business Docket.

Back to Top

Daniel V. Zemaitis

Judge Zemaitis took the bench in January 2003. He received his BA and MA from Marquette University, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His JD was earned from Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. Prior to taking the bench, he was a sole practitioner and multi-District Court Magistrate. Judge Zemaitis is assigned to the Family Division of the Circuit Court.

Back to Top

Deborah L. McNabb

Judge McNabb took the bench on January 1, 2017. She received her BA from Alma College and her JD from DePaul University College of Law. Before taking the bench, Judge McNabb served as a Circuit Court Referee in the Family Division for 25 years. Judge McNabb is assigned to the Family Division of the Circuit Court.

Back to Top

J. Joseph Rossi

Judge Rossi was elected in November of 2016 and began judicial service on January 1, 2017. Judge Rossi attended the University of Notre Dame where he obtained a degree in English in 1988 and a Juris Doctorate in 1995. Between his undergraduate years and law school, Joe served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, including combat service in Operation Desert Storm and as a Special Operations instructor. Prior to his election he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for eight years in Grand Rapids, as well as working at the private law firms Smith Haughey Rice and Roegge and Drew Cooper and Anding. His legal experience includes appearances in many Michigan Courts, as well as Federal Courts in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. Joe also continued to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve, where he was called to active duty twice in 2004 and 2007. His final tour was on the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, where he worked under the Director of Global Special Operations and Counter-terrorism. Joe retired from military service in 2012 at the rank of lieutenant colonel. Joe’s community service includes his parish finance council and several veterans and military support organizations. Joe serves in the Circuit Court’s Specialized Business docket and in the Court’s Civil-Criminal division.

Back to Top