17th Circuit Court
The following short biographies are for the ten Circuit Judges and three probate judges assigned to the Family Division of Circuit Court along with addresses and phone numbers of their secretaries. The judges are elected in county-wide elections to serve 6-year terms.
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.
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.
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 Family Division of the Circuit Court.
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.
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.
Judge Johnston first took the Circuit bench on January 1, 1989. He received his BA from the University of Virginia and JD from Wayne State University Law School. Before taking the bench, Judge Johnston served ten years as a Kent County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and held a 61st District Court Judgeship for ten years. Judge Johnston currently chairs the Jail Bed Allocation Committee. Judge Johnston served as Chief Judge Pro Tempore from January 1, 2004 until December 31, 2009. On January 1, 2010 Judge Johnston became the Chief Judge of the 17th Circuit Court by appointment from the Michigan Supreme Court. Judge Johnston is assigned to the Civil/Criminal Division of the Circuit Court.
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.
Judge Leiber took the bench on January 1, 1989. He received his bachelor's degree from Aquinas College and JD from Wayne State University Law School. Before taking the bench, Judge Leiber was a Grand Rapids Assistant City Attorney and then served twelve years as a Kent County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney. Judge Leiber served three years in the Family Division of Circuit Court, and, as of January of 2001, the Judge is serving in the Civil/Criminal Division of the Circuit Court.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.