Two Niles natives seek posts as Berrien County Circuit Court judges
ST. JOSEPH -- Two Niles natives are seeking posts as Berrien County Circuit Court judges.
St. Joseph attorney John M. Donahue, 49, has announced his candidacy, as has State Rep. Charles LaSata.
Both seek one of two seats being vacated by Circuit Court Judges John T. Hammond and Casper O. Grathwohl, who cannot seek new terms because of the state's age limitation.
John M. Donahue
Donahue has been an attorney with Straub, Seaman &Allen, P.C. in St. Joseph for 15 years. Prior to that, he held a judicial clerkship with the judges of the Berrien County Circuit Court for about three years.
He earned his law degree from the University of Notre Dame, and his undergraduate degree from Michigan State University.
His family has been active in the Berrien County legal community for several generations. His grandfather was an in Niles and his father, the late Edwin J. Donahue Jr., served as Municipal Court Judge in Niles from 1961 through 1969.
Donahue said he has a well-rounded legal background, which is a prerequisite for a successful career as a jurist. He has extensive experience with complex litigation involving a broad spectrum of legal issues, he said.
Donahue said he has successfully represented clients in federal and state courts in counties throughout Michigan, including: Allegan, Berrien, Branch, Calhoun, Cass, Clinton, Grand Traverse, Ingham, Ionia, Kalamazoo, Kent, Mackinac, Muskegon, Oceana, Van Buren and Wayne. His appellate experience includes arguing before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit; the Michigan Supreme Court; and, on more than 20 occasions, before the Michigan Court of Appeals.
However, Donahue's experience is not limited to the courtroom. His judicial clerkship gave him the opportunity to observe and participate in behind-the-scenes judicial activities. In addition, he has served as a court-appointed mediator on more than 75 cases. He also has considerable experience in municipal law: he currently serves as outside legal counsel for the GRSD Sewer Authority, Oronoko Charter Township, the Paw Paw Lake Waste Water Treatment Plant and the Village of Shoreham.
Donahue's civic activities include serving on the Board of Directors of three local organizations: The Public Safety Education Program, which provides fire safety education to young school children; Region 574 of the American Youth Soccer Organization (AYSO); and the Lions Club of St. Joseph, Michigan.
He also currently serves as Secretary of the Berrien County Bar Association.
Donahue, a life-long resident of Berrien County, was born and raised in Niles, and graduated from Niles Senior High School in 1972. He and his wife, Lisa, have three children, and currently reside in Royalton Township.
LaSata, 41, has practiced law in Berrien County for 16 years. He said he hopes to fulfill a lifelong goal of serving as a judge in Berrien County.
LaSata and his wife, Kim, are lifelong residents of Berrien County. They have three children Sarah 7, Anna 3, Chas 1, and are expecting their fourth this July.
Their children are the fifth generation of both their families to reside in Berrien County.
If elected, LaSata said he would be the first individual in southwest Michigan to have argued the law as a lawyer, made the law as a state legislator, and interpreted the law as a judge.
In addition to serving as Vice Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and House Criminal Law Committee, LaSata serves as Chair of the Legislative Lawyer's Caucus and Co-Chair of the House Bipartisan Urban Caucus.
LaSata's educational background includes a bachelor's degree from Kalamazoo College in 1985, and law degree from The Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. in 1988.
He is a member of the Berrien County Bar Association, State Bar of Michigan, State Bar of Indiana, and Insurance law committee of the State Bar of Michigan.
His numerous community and civic organization memberships include: past charter board member of Berrien County Guardianship Services, advisor on Berrien County 4H Foundation Board, Farm Bureau, Knights of Columbus, past member Michigan Mayors Association, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, past president of the St. Joseph Jaycees, St. Joseph-Benton Harbor Rotary Club, and Ducks Unlimited.
During his extensive career in law and community service, LaSata has earned numerous awards. While mayor of St. Joseph, he received the American Hometown Leadership Award from the National Center for Small Communities.
During his tenure as state representative, he was the Michigan Sheriff's Association Legislator of the Year in 2000, Michigan Association of Independent Colleges and Universities Legislator of the Year in 2001, Champion for Children award recipient from HOSTS national organization 2001, honored as 4-H Centennial Alumnus and member of the inaugural class of the Emerald Clover Society in 2002, included for the past several years in the Marquis "Who's Who in American Law," and Michigan delegate to the Civil Justice Committee of the American Legislative Exchange Council representing all 50 states in 2003 and 2004.
LaSata said he hopes to finally have the opportunity to serve his hometown of Niles.