The 63rd District Court is about to undergo a big change. After four decades, Judge Steven R. Servaas has retired and his seat will be filled with new blood.
Jeffrey O’Hara was elected to Servaas’ seat in the November election. His six-year term officially begins Jan. 1.
“I’m honored and humbled on being elected,” O’Hara said.
In the meantime, O’Hara is working to close down his law practice, which he founded in 1987.
O’Hara said the firm was originally a general practice law firm, and he did a lot of work in the areas of real estate, civil law, divorce and criminal law.
“As the years went by, I specialized in criminal defense in both the state and federal (levels),” he said.
He noted being in the courtroom on a nearly daily basis has been an excellent learning opportunity that will serve him well.
“I have a great deal of experience trying cases and being in court,” he said. “For the past 25 years, I’ve been in court on a daily basis for most of my career. As a result, I’ve observed the judges, court proceedings, and I’ve tried an awful lot of cases. I think I have a vast amount of experience.”
His decades of experience are what prompted O’Hara to run for the 63rd District Court seat in the first place.
“I have been a resident of northern Kent County all my life, and the legal profession is a service profession and I wanted to serve our community in a greater capacity than just as an attorney. It was my way of serving our community,” he said.
In addition to his practice, O’Hara has been involved with the annual Hillman Advocacy Program, which is a three-day seminar providing courtroom training to hundreds of trial lawyers. He has served on the steering committee and as a member of the faculty. He also volunteers his time with the Rockford DARE program, which teaches students good decision-making skills to help them lead healthy and safe lives.
O’Hara said he would bring a high level of integrity with him to the bench.
“First and foremost I am committed to being fair and just to everyone that comes before the court,” he said.
As 63rd District Court judge, O’Hara said he would primarily preside over criminal cases. He noted approximately 80 percent of the cases that make it into the courtroom are criminal cases. The other 20 percent include civil cases, landlord and tenant disputes, and small claims cases.
Though he was born in Toledo, Ohio, O’Hara has spent the majority of his life in Grand Rapids. He said his family moved to the area when he was still a toddler. He attended Northview High School, followed by Michigan State University where he received a bachelor’s degree in business administration. A couple of years later, he entered Thomas M. Cooley Law School, earning his law degree.