United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan

The United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan (in case citations, W.D. Mich.) is the federal district court with jurisdiction over of the western portion of the state of Michigan, including the entire Upper Peninsula.

United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan
(W.D. Mich.)
LocationGrand Rapids
More locations
Appeals toSixth Circuit
EstablishedFebruary 24, 1863
Chief JudgeRobert James Jonker

Appeals from the Western District of Michigan are taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit (except for patent claims and claims against the U.S. government under the Tucker Act, which are appealed to the Federal Circuit).

The current Acting United States Attorney for the Western District of Michigan is Andrew B. Birge, who was appointed on January 20, 2017.


The United States District Court for the District of Michigan was established on July 1, 1836, by 5 Stat. 61, with a single judgeship.[1] The district court was not assigned to a judicial circuit, but was granted the same jurisdiction as United States circuit courts, except in appeals and writs of error, which were the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. Due to the Toledo War, a boundary dispute with Ohio, Michigan did not become a state of the union until January 26, 1837. On March 3, 1837, Congress passed an act that repealed the circuit court jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court for the District of Michigan, assigned the District of Michigan to the Seventh Circuit, and established a U.S. circuit court for the district, 5 Stat. 176.[1]

On July 15, 1862, Congress reorganized the circuits and assigned Michigan to the Eighth Circuit by 12 Stat. 576,[1] and on January 28, 1863, the Congress again reorganized Seventh and Eight Circuits and assigned Michigan to the Seventh Circuit, by 12 Stat. 637.[1] On February 24, 1863, Congress divided the District of Michigan into the Eastern and the Western districts, with one judgeship authorized for each district, by 12 Stat. 660.[1] The Western District was later further divided into a Southern Division and a Northern Division.

In the Northern Division, Court was held at the Old Federal Building in Sault Ste. Marie from 1912 until 1941. While the law allows court to be held in Sault Ste. Marie,[2] it no longer is.[3]


The District Court is based in Grand Rapids, courthouses also located in Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Marquette in the Upper Peninsula. The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has appellate jurisdiction over the court.


The Western District comprises two divisions.[2]

Northern Division

The Northern Division comprises the counties of Alger, Baraga, Chippewa, Delta, Dickinson, Gogebic, Houghton, Iron, Keweenaw, Luce, Mackinac, Marquette, Menominee, Ontonagon, and Schoolcraft.[2]

Court for the Northern Division can be held in Marquette and Sault Sainte Marie.[2]

Southern Division

The Southern Division comprises the counties of Allegan, Antrim, Barry, Benzie, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Charlevoix, Clinton, Eaton, Emmet, Grand Traverse, Hillsdale, Ingham, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kalkaska, Kent, Lake, Leelanau, Manistee, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Montcalm, Muskegon, Newaygo, Oceana, Osceola, Ottawa, Saint Joseph, Van Buren, and Wexford.[2]

Court for the Southern Division can be held in Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Lansing, and Traverse City.[2]

Notable cases

Some of the notable cases that have come before the United States District Court for the Western District of Michigan include:

Current judges

As of January 31, 2017:

# Title Judge Duty station Born Term of service Appointed by
Active Chief Senior
20 Chief Judge Robert James Jonker Grand Rapids 1960 2007–present 2015–present G.W. Bush
19 District Judge Paul Lewis Maloney Kalamazoo 1949 2007–present 2008–2015 G.W. Bush
21 District Judge Janet T. Neff Grand Rapids 1945 2007–present G.W. Bush
22 District Judge vacant
16 Senior Judge Robert Holmes Bell inactive 1944 1987–2017 2001–2008 2017–present Reagan
18 Senior Judge Gordon Jay Quist Grand Rapids 1937 1992–2006 2006–present G.H.W. Bush

Vacancies and pending nominations

Seat Seat last held by Vacancy reason Date of vacancy Nominee Date of nomination
3 Robert Holmes Bell Senior Status January 31, 2017

Former judges

# Judge State Born–died Active service Chief Judge Senior status Appointed by Reason for
1 Solomon Lewis Withey MI 1820–1886 1863–1886 Lincoln death
2 Henry Franklin Severens MI 1835–1923 1886–1900 Cleveland elevation to 6th Cir.
3 George P. Wanty MI 1856–1906 1900–1906 McKinley death
4 Loyal Edwin Knappen MI 1854–1930 1906–1910 T. Roosevelt elevation to 6th Cir.
5 Arthur Carter Denison MI 1861–1942 1910–1911 Taft elevation to 6th Cir.
6 Clarence W. Sessions MI 1859–1931 1911–1931 Taft death
7 Fred Morton Raymond MI 1876–1946 1925–1946[Note 1] Coolidge death
8 Raymond Wesley Starr MI 1888–1968 1946–1961 1954–1961 1961–1968 Truman death
9 W. Wallace Kent MI 1916–1973 1954–1971 1961–1971 Eisenhower elevation to 6th Cir.
10 Noel Peter Fox MI 1910–1987 1962–1979 1971–1979 1979–1987 Kennedy death
11 Albert J. Engel Jr. MI 1924–2013 1970–1974 Nixon elevation to 6th Cir.
12 Wendell Alverson Miles MI 1916–2013 1974–1986 1979–1986 1986–2013 Nixon death
13 Douglas Woodruff Hillman MI 1922–2007 1979–1991 1986–1991 1991–2002 Carter retirement
14 Benjamin F. Gibson MI 1931–present 1979–1996 1991–1995 1996–1999 Carter retirement
15 Richard Alan Enslen MI 1931–2015 1979–2005 1995–2001 2005–2015 Carter death
17 David McKeague MI 1946–present 1992–2005 G.H.W. Bush elevation to 6th Cir.
  1. Recess appointment; formally nominated on December 8, 1925, confirmed by the United States Senate on December 18, 1925, and received commission the same day

Chief judges

Chief judges have administrative responsibilities with respect to their district court. Unlike the Supreme Court, where one justice is specifically nominated to be chief, the office of chief judge rotates among the district court judges. To be chief, a judge must have been in active service on the court for at least one year, be under the age of 65, and have not previously served as chief judge. A vacancy is filled by the judge highest in seniority among the group of qualified judges. The chief judge serves for a term of seven years or until age 70, whichever occurs first. The age restrictions are waived if no members of the court would otherwise be qualified for the position.

When the office was created in 1948, the chief judge was the longest-serving judge who had not elected to retire on what has since 1958 been known as senior status or declined to serve as chief judge. After August 6, 1959, judges could not become or remain chief after turning 70 years old. The current rules have been in operation since October 1, 1982.

Succession of seats

See also


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