DEARBORN, Michigan – Gene Hunt, the newest judge on the 19th District Court, received salutes and a resonant ovation in the Ford Community and Performing Arts Center on Mon., Jan. 23, as he took the oath of office.
Hunt, a long-time attorney, was embroiled in a fierce 10-month campaign for the seat.
“This is the largest audience to ever witness an investiture for district judge,” Wayne County Commissioner Gary Woronchak (D- Dearborn), told the audience, jokingly— a testament to the strong relationships Hunt built throughout his career.
Kindness, respect, humility and love for his city were among the traits attributed to Hunt, affirmed by every old friend and speaker that evening.
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Brian Zahra, who administered the oath, recalled the time Hunt appeared before him 22 years ago when Zahra sat on the Wayne County Circuit Court. He said Hunt left him with the impression that he was a man of trust, character and loyalty.
Amid sweeping applause as Hunt took the oath, his two daughters adorned him with his judicial robe.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Martha Snow presented Hunt with a gavel and lauded his kindness and understanding.
“Gene will not be an arid, dry judge,” Snow said. “I know that every decision Gene renders will be grounded in the law, bound by the weight of precedent and consistent with finest traditions of the judiciary.”
To a handful in the Arab American community, Hunt was an unlikely winner. In fact, he was poised to lose the race on Election Night due to the voter counting method used that momentarily overlooked absentee ballots.
I will remember that there is no case too small or too trivial. I will keep in mind that to the people before me, these cases are not small and trivial to them. – Judge Gene Hunt
Hunt initially conceded before discovering that he was the winner.
When all of Dearborn’s 48 precincts had reported their numbers, City Council President Susan Dabaja appeared to have been the winner, with more than 1,100 votes over Hunt. However, the absentee votes had still not been tallied. When they were, Hunt was victorious, with 17,403 votes (50.4 percent) to Dabaja’s 16,982 votes (49.1 percent).
At the Park Place Banquet Hall in Dearborn, many of Hunt’s supporters had already called it a night and gone home.
Former State Rep. George Darany (D-Dearborn), who described himself as an underdog in a run for office 20 years ago, recalled that Hunt took a chance and supported him at the time.
Gene Hunt faced a dirty campaign full or deception and lies that subjected his family to distressful times. – Osama Siblani, Publisher of The Arab American News
“Gene is a fighter for social justice, an advocate for those less fortunate and a mediator who finds common ground to resolve differences,” Darany told the audience.
In a declaration of endorsement, Osama Siblani, publisher of The Arab American News, brazenly spoke of Hunt being subjected to a “dirty campaign full or deception and lies” that subjected his family to distressful times.
He said Hunt refused to reciprocate and engage in “mudslinging” throughout the race.
The famously easy-going Hunt took the stage and humbly spoke of his obligation as judge. He promised to understand that he is a servant of Dearborn’s residents, to keep ego and opinions in check and to remain consistent while on the bench.
“I will remember that there is no case too small or too trivial,” Hunt said. “I will keep in mind that to the people before me, these cases are not small and trivial to them.”
The ceremony concluded with an Islamic benediction by Imam Mohammad Ali Elahi of the Islamic House of Wisdom, who suggested that the judgeship is a “responsibility and a covenant with the community.”