EDITOR’S NOTE: The author has corrected three errors pointed out in the comments section.
Allegan County Circuit Judge Kevin Cronin of Hopkins is leaving the bench next month in about as controversial way as he entered it.
Cronin, it was announced earlier this week, will retire from his post Friday, Jan. 12, though his term of office does not expire until the end of 2020. Chief Circuit Judge Marge Bakker, who announced his retirement, did not disclose a reason and reporter Daniel Pepper of the Allegan County News & Gazette said Cronin did not respond to efforts to contact him for comment.
A successor to fill out the remaining three years of Cronin’s term, will be appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder.
There was no indication whether Cronin, who is 68 years old, has any health issues, or he stepped down to “spend more time with his family.”
Cronin was admitted to the bar in 1986 and served as an attorney in Allegan County Family Court before seeking the Circuit Judge post in 2008, running against William Baillargeon, who was an incumbent appointed by then-Gov. Jennifer Granholm.
That election was controversial because it was extremely close, but a full recount failed because of irregularities at the touwnship and city clerk’s offices.
The Holland Sentinel reported the day after the November 2008 election: “Attack ads may have stacked the deck in a tight local judicial contest, and now a recount may be in the cards. In the Tuesday election for judge of the 48th Circuit Court in Allegan County, challenger Kevin Cronin squeaked by incumbent Judge William Baillargeon by 215 votes, 21,220 to 21,005… The difference is small enough to trigger an automatic recount in some states…”
Ballotpedia reported, “However, over half of the ballot boxes were improperly sealed and could not be recounted. The result of the election ended with Baillargeon gaining 13 votes and Cronin adding 12. Cronin won with 50.02% of the vote, defeating Baillargeon who received only 49.43%…”
Many of Baillargeon’s supporters cried foul because one of Cronin’s campaign workers was Jason Watts, son of Allegan County Clerk-Register of Deeds Joyce Watts. They also cried foul because the attack ads were engineered by Gary Glenn, then-president of the American Family Association of Michigan, who is widely regarded as a right-wing opponent of gay rights.
Cronin insisted he had nothing to do with the ads, which attacked Baillargeon for his ties to gay rights groups.
Baillargeon later was elected an Allegan County District Court Judge. Cronin was re-elected to another six-year term on Circuit Court without opposition in 2014.
According to the Michigan Bar Association’s web site today, Cronin is regarded as active and a member in good standing.
Cronin also was involved in a controversial case involving the Melinn family of Wayland.
The web site Allegan County Justice, which focuses on domestic cases, has alleged, “The father in this case, Blake Melinn, was convicted of domestic violence by another court in 1998 over an incident wherein he beat his then-wife Maria so severely that her face was abraded and her back was broken. She took their 3 children and left. Her abuser later sought custody of the children and won based on the argument that Maria could not adequately care for the children because she had a broken back. She has petitioned Judge Cronin countless times asking for a reversal of that decision, but her pleas for justice have all been denied. All three children in Blake’s care have PTSD and other psychological issues due to the abuse they witnessed against their mother and abuses directly suffered by them at their father’s hand, as documented in CPS (Child Protective Services) reports from hospital personnel, school counselors and teachers, counselors, clergymen, and law enforcement.
“Judge Cronin has taken a personal interest in Maria, a domestic violence victims’ advocate, that moves beyond his courtroom, stalking her on blog sites online  and even showing up to her domestic violence advocacy speaking engagements in order to ambush and threaten her. Such conduct places him in violation of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct.”
A petition demanding a performance audit of Cronin was delivered to the state auditor, Bakker and the Judicial Tenure Commission.
Pat Foster of Fennville has been involved in extensive litigation in attempts to force Cronin to disclose his campaign finance statements and he charged the judge with bias. His requests were denied by higher courts. And it was reported that much of the information he sought already was available on line.
Perhaps most interesting were Cronin’s attempts to have his legal fees paid in his action against Bakker for not allowing him to hire a clerk that she had fired beforehand.
According to MLive.com reporter John Agar in 2014, “The fight was sparked primarily by Cronin’s hiring of Chris Anderson, an attorney and long-time county worker, as his legal clerk late last year. Just months earlier, Bakker had fired Anderson as a Friend of Court referee.
“After Cronin hired Anderson, Bakker said Anderson would be escorted out if he showed up for work. Bakker wanted to establish a pool of law clerks who could help in either courtroom as well as Probate Court.
“Cronin contends he tried to have the dispute over Anderson’s hiring mediated, but he was forced to ask the Supreme Court to intervene.
In the end, an agreement allows Cronin to hire his own law clerk, as long as the candidate is qualified – and isn’t Chris Anderson.”
Cronin served as supervisor of Hopkins Township back in the 1990s before he entered the public arena as an elected judge and he was an attorney with Allegan County Family Court.
He was listed as an independent as supervisor for Hopkins Township. He also had been an instructor in the Hopkins Public Schools.