Longtime Cass County judge to retire

Published 2:30 pm Monday, October 25, 2021

CASSOPOLIS — A long-time Cass County Judge has announced that she will be stepping down from the bench.

Chief Judge Susan
L. Dobrich

Cass County Chief Judge Susan Dobrich announced that she is retiring effective Dec. 31. “Serving the citizens of Cass County as the probate-family judge since 1995 has been an amazing honor and wonderful experience,” Dobrich said.

Dobrich said her greatest passion was to serve the vulnerable populations — children, the elderly, the developmentally disabled, addicted and mentally ill. Growing up in the 1960s, the opportunity to work as a public servant and as a judge, in particular, was a childhood dream. She grew up watching Bobby Kennedy and the idea that public service was the only work she wanted to do.

Acting as Chief Judge of the Cass County Courts, Dobrich focused on training the staff in evidence-based practices and best practice approaches to assist in making a difference for families involved with the Cass County Courts. Judge Dobrich founded the Court Appointed Special Advocate program in Cass County in 1995 to provide a “voice” for children in abuse and neglect matters.

She was a member of the governor’s Task Force on Child Neglect & Abuse, appointed by Governor John Engler and subsequently reappointed by Governor Jennifer Granholm.

Having learned about the drug court movement in Florida in 2000, Dobrich brought this innovative approach to Cass County creating the first family dependency treatment court in Michigan. This leadership by Dobrich led to the development of additional problem-solving courts in Cass County, court officials said.

This leadership assisted the Cass County Courts in receiving 11 federal grants totaling $5,212,802. In addition, Cass County was awarded many state grants. Understanding that collaboration was the key to success, a team working with individuals with addiction has transformed lives for program participants, their families and the communities they live in, Dobrich said.

An award-winning jurist and leader, Dobrich was active at the state level. She was a leader in the judiciary having served as president of the Michigan Probate Judges Association, president of the Judicial Section of the State Bar, president of the Michigan Association of Treatment Court Professionals, co-chair of the Michigan Tribal State Federal Forum, as well as having served on numerous other state committees and authoring state legislation.

Dobrich has received many awards including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Edwardsburg Public Schools, the Michigan Association of Treatment Court Professionals Honorable William Schma Judicial Leadership Award, the Cass County Youth Council Flame Keeper’s Award, the CASA Judge of the Year Award, the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Edwardsburg Public Schools, Jurist of the Year award from the Foster Care Review Board Award, the Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals Hero Award, the Women in the Law Award by Michigan Lawyers Weekly, as well as the Daniel J. Wright Lifetime Achievement Award for Exemplary Service to Michigan Children and Families. Judge Dobrich also received the 2020-2021 Champion of Justice Award from the Michigan State Bar for extraordinary professional accomplishments.

Dobrich is a frequent lecturer at judicial education seminars and trainings, and she has served as an editorial writer and advisor for publications including serving as the contributing author for two chapters in a Benchbook for Family Courts on Substance Use Disorders and doing Peer Review for the National Family Treatment Court Best Practice Standards released in 2019.

Dobrich said she looks forward to spending more time with her husband of many years, retired Dowagiac Chief of Police Tom Atkinson, and her family. She will remain active in the drug courts and advocate for families and children.