Judge Janice K. Cunningham was elected on November 6, 2012 as the first woman Circuit Court judge in Eaton County and took office on January 1, 2013. She became Chief Judge for Eaton County Trial Courts effective January 1st, 2020.
The Circuit Court is the trial court of general jurisdiction with the broadest judicial powers in Michigan. The Circuit Court handles all civil cases with claims of more than $25,000 and all felony criminal cases. The Family Division of Circuit Court handles cases regarding divorce, custody and support. The Circuit Court also hears cases appealed from the District Court, certain matters from the Probate Court and appeals of decisions from local and state administrative agencies.
In addition to her normal case load, Judge Cunningham believes in the importance of utilizing
as an alternative to traditional adjudication. These specialty courts represent a shift in the way courts are handling certain offenders and working closely with justice system partners to develop a strategy that has proven to be effective in pressuring offenders into completing a treatment program and abstaining from repeating the behaviors that brought them to court. Justice system partners may include
- Probation officers
- Public defenders
- Social workers
Court Programs & Other Activities
Judge Cunningham presides over the SAFE-T
Program, which works with individuals at risk of losing their children because of drug or alcohol problems and she is the judicial volunteer for SMILE
, a mandatory program for all divorcing individuals that have minor children.
Judge Cunningham presides over the Adult Drug Court Program, a Community Corrections program designed to work with individuals that may be going to prison because of substance abuse issues. She also presides over the J. Sauter Veterans Treatment Court, that uses a hybrid combination of Drug Court and Mental Health Court principles to serve military veterans.
Judge Cunningham is an adjunct professor in Family Law at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, serves on the Executive Board for the Michigan Judges Association and is a frequent lecturer for ICLE, the Michigan Judicial Institute and the Family Law Institute. She Chairs the Eaton County Community Corrections Board, and serves on the Advisory Board of the Eaton County Families Against Narcotics (FAN)
Awards & Recognition
Judge Cunningham was awarded the 2019 Lawyer of the Year Award, by Michigan Lawyers Weekly. Link to Article
In 2018 Judge Cunningham was named the Recipient of the Marilyn Kelly Award for outstanding service to the Circuit Court Family Division. Judge Cunningham also received the Distinguished Alumni Service Award from the Western Michigan University Cooley Law School.
Prior to taking the bench, Judge Cunningham had a distinguished career in private practice for over 25 years. The following is a list of some of her awards and accomplishments:
- Adjunct Professor of Law - Thomas M. Cooley Law School
- Appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court to the Attorney Discipline Board
- Appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court to the Friend of the Court Advisory Board
- Appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court to the State Court Administrator's Office Forms Committee
- Delta Township Trustee - Elected in November 1996. Re-elected November 2000, 2004, and 2008
- The first mid-Michigan attorney selected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers
- Founding member and Trustee of the Waverly Education Foundation
- Frequent lecturer for attorneys at the Institute of Continuing Legal Education (ICLE)
- Frequent lecturer for judges throughout the state at the Michigan Judicial Institute
- Listed on the Martindale-Hubbell Register of Preeminent Woman Lawyers
- Member of the Legal Authors Society
- Recipient of the 1990 Enhancement of Women Award from National WBE Association
- Recipient of the 2004 Outstanding Adjunct Faculty Award from Cooley Law School
- Recipient of the prestigious 2010 Camille S. Abood Community Volunteer Award
- Recipient of the State Bar of Michigan’s 1992 Outstanding Young Lawyer
- Served on the Board of Directors for Legal Aid of Central Michigan
- Served on the Board of Directors for Sixty Plus Legal Clinic, Board of Directors
- Received the highest ranking from judges and her peers for her legal ability and ethical standards.