Honorable Judge Thomas McLaughlin will be stepping down from the Family Court system

January 12, 2012

To the Editor,

At the end of this year we will be losing a long-standing member of our criminal justice system.   Honorable Judge Thomas McLaughlin will be stepping down from the Family Court system, what used to be called Probate Court, to finally unzip that black robe and put down the gavel once and for all.

Before being appointed by the Governor to fill in a Probate position in Clare-Gladwin County he also served as the Prosecutor for the County of Clare. Before then he shared a law firm with Dave Dreyer called Dreyer and McLaughlin where he had a private practice for years before becoming appointed by the Governor.  Besides being a little grayer (with all due respect sir) he was one of the few judges that if court was at a certain time during the day, you had better be there as he started right exactly when it was scheduled.

He was a no nonsense type of Judge that was basically hearing the same types of stories each day pertaining to family problems with children, or probate issues or other issues that involved probate estates.

You would hear people complain that the court was not stiff enough or punishment was not severe enough and that is why the same offenders were there all the time.

First of all, If Judge McLaughlin wanted to he probably could have financially crippled the county if every offender was put in lockdown, due to the severe cost and obligation of having a minor in custody.

I know if I did something wrong and the police said you have a choice,   we can take you home and explain it to your father or have the probate Judge hear what happened, no question, I would have chosen Judge McLaughlin before my Dad.

I’m not trying to put words in Judge McLaughlin’s mouth but I believe he felt that to correct issues with problem children and teenagers, the probate court should not be hired to be their babysitter, and that the family as a whole had to take a more proactive approach, come up with some guidelines and responsibilities and stick with them.  In other words his goals were to make the mother and father of a problem child be a parent and assume those responsibilities and quit thinking the court is going to solve all their problems.

I know some parents would say “once we go ahead and discipline our child we will end up in court for child abuse.”

I think our court system is smart enough to know the difference between abuse and proper discipline.  I know problem juveniles were not going to pull that on him as he probably has heard it a thousand times.

You did a good job Your Honor, and did the best you could with what you had to work with.   A new Judge will take over with new and fresh ideals but I bet over a period of time there is going to be also a touch of gray in his hairline too.

Judge McLaughlin was a prosecutor for our County too and he was one of the finest Prosecutors that aggressively prosecuted especially violent offenders and he did what he could to protect the safety of our officers.

By the end of the year the gavel will hit the table one more time, the black traditional robe will be coming off and someone else will be taking his place.

Thanks for always treating me with dignity and respect, Your Honor, and enjoy life, my friend.

 Richard Miller

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