Attorney facing assault charge and family court referee seeking Muskegon County judge position

MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – A family court referee and a local attorney facing a misdemeanor domestic violence charge are running in the November election to become a circuit judge in Muskegon County.

The open position on the 14th Circuit Court is due to the retirement of long-time Judge William C. Marietti.

Seeking to replace Marietti are Jenny L. McNeill, an attorney and family court referee for the 14th Circuit, and Jason Kolkema, an attorney who has been charged with allegedly assaulting a woman he was dating in a downtown Muskegon apartment on Aug. 18. Kolkema has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for a trial on Nov. 21-22.

The nonpartisan position is for six years.

McNeill and Kolkema were the top two vote-getters in the Aug. 2 primary, beating out Brandon Davis and Kendrah Robinson for the right to face off in the Nov. 8 general elections.

Related: Muskegon judicial candidate headed to trial for domestic assault

Kolkema is a Muskegon area native and graduated from Fruitport High School, Michigan State University and the law school at University of Detroit-Mercy. He has been an attorney for 25 years, handling circuit court criminal and civil cases.

He previously represented municipalities and community mental health authorities for a Lansing municipal defense law firm. He also previously worked as a due process hearing officer for the Michigan Department of Education.

McNeill has been a Muskegon family court referee for four years and an attorney for 25 years. She began her career as a legal aid attorney.

She’s involved in numerous local organizations and serves as treasurer of Legal Aid of Western Michigan, vice president of the Muskegon Family Care Board of Directors and assistant director of the Michigan Irish Music Festival.

MLive/Muskegon Chronicle partnered with the nonpartisan League of Women Voters of Michigan

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Serial killer Jeffrey Willis granted new attorney to appeal his murder convictions

MUSKEGON, MI – After questioning his attorney’s abilities, serial killer Jeffrey Willis is getting new counsel to fight his two murder convictions.

A Muskegon County judge ruled Tuesday afternoon that the attorney previously representing Willis in the appeals process can withdraw from the case.

Willis appeared in a Muskegon County courtroom, via Zoom, for a motion hearing Tuesday, Aug. 30, after his court-appointed appellate counsel filed a motion earlier this month to withdraw herself from the case.

The 52-year-old is serving life without parole in a Michigan prison for the 2014 killing of jogger Rebekah Bletsch and the 2013 kidnapping and killing of Jessica Heeringa, an attendant at a Norton Shores gas station.

Ann M. LaBreck has represented Willis through the Court of Appeals process, but told Muskegon County Circuit Judge William C. Marietti on Tuesday that her client wants “things done yesterday.”

“This has been an ongoing issue with Mr. Willis,” LaBreck said of the attorney-client relationship. “He’s going to tell you today that he still wants me on the case, which I really don’t think he does. He’s questioned, frequently, my abilities on the case.”

LaBreck said she’s had arguments with Willis about procedural rules and how court hearings run.

“In my opinion, I’ve gone above and beyond for him,” she said, adding she’s obtained hundreds of pages of documents Willis requested to prepare for an evidentiary hearing.

However, LaBreck said she has not received all materials requested – via a Freedom of Information request – from some police agencies and will not move forward with an evidentiary hearing without being prepared.

“I think at this point in time, Mr. Willis could use a new set of eyes to look at his case,” she said.

Willis somewhat disagreed.

“I think Ms. LaBreck was doing a better job than

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