2012-2013 EPS Hall of Fame Inductees
Susan L. Dobrich
Edwardsburg Public Schools is pleased to announce the induction of the Honorable Susan L. Dobrich into the Edwardsburg Public Schools Hall of Fame. A dinner and induction ceremony sponsored by the Edwardsburg Public Schools Foundation will be held Saturday, April 27, 2013 at the Edwardsburg Performing Arts atrium and auditorium. The dinner will be at 6:00 p.m. (reservations required) with the induction and reception following at 7:30 p.m. and is open to the public.
The Honorable Susan L. Dobrich is the 2012 Recipient of the Lifetime Award of the Edwardsburg Public Schools Hall of Fame. She has a long list of accomplishments in the legal field and is well known in Michigan for her leadership on behalf of the protection of children in cases of child abuse and neglect. For this reason and many others, she was one of Michigan Lawyer Weekly’s 20 honorees of the 2012 Women in the Law award which exemplifies the state’s breadth and depth of legal talent. She has contributed significantly to social justice not only for her accomplishments on the bench, but also as a collaborative trainer, instructor, lecturer, and creator of key legislation benefiting Michigan’s child welfare and probate court system. These accomplishments make her a natural choice for induction into the Edwardsburg Public Schools Hall of Fame.
Her accomplishments began early because of encouragement of her father, George Dobrich. It was he who convinced her that women could accomplish anything that men could. She managed the bowling leagues at the family-owned Terrace Lanes from childhood through college. At Edwardsburg High School, she was a member of the Student Council and a cheerleader all four years, was a member of the National Honor Society and was the salutatorian of the Class of 1972. Upon high school graduation, she received a State of Michigan scholarship to Kalamazoo College where she was on the work-study program. She graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science with a minor in sociology.
At Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan, Susan was president of the law school student council during her third year. She also worked for Michigan State Attorney General Frank Kelley, specializing in research on the Open Meetings Act and the Freedom of Information Act. She earned her Doctor of Jurisprudence in 1980, finishing as salutatorian of her class. She subsequently was hired by then Cass County Prosecutor Bill Grimmer. Three years later, she was appointed as Cass County’s first woman Prosecuting Attorney and, in 1984, was elected to that office.
In 1987, she joined the law firm of Westrate, Holmstrom and Dobrich in Dowagiac, specializing in family and municipal law. Susan Dobrich was first elected as Cass County Probate Judge in 1994. She was appointed the Cass County Family Court judge in 1997 when the court was established by the Michigan Legislature as a division of the Cass County Circuit Court.
Since 2004, Judge Dobrich’s family court has received numerous grants which has allowed for the creation and continuation of the Family Treatment Court, focusing on abused and neglected children and their parents. She also has received grants from the Michigan Supreme Court which focus on substance abusers. A stimulus grant, received in 2007, from the U. S. Department of Justice, helped with returning children to their homes and had a 75 percent success rate.
The success of the Cass County Family Treatment Court is or has directly resulted in the observation and/or replication of the program in at least seven Michigan Counties. In 2012 the Cass County Family Court received a $300,000 “Second-Chance” grant from the U. S. Department of Justice to serve parents who have concurrent criminal and family treatment cases before the court.
Judge Dobrich is a member of the Governor’s Task Force on Child Neglect & Abuse (formerly Children’s Justice) and Executive Committee of the Governor’s Task Force on Neglect and Abuse. She helps to create or recommend ways to improve the child welfare system in Michigan.
She is a leader in several of Michigan legal organizations. She is past president and a current board member of both the Michigan and the Southwestern Michigan probate judges associations, and a board member and current treasurer of the Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals. She has, or currently serves, on many committees designed to improve the welfare of children in Michigan on behalf of the Michigan Probate Judges Association and helps write legislation involving protection of children. As a member of the State Bar of Michigan’s Judicial Crossroads Task Force, she works on the restructuring of the Michigan courts.
She also serves on the State Bar of Michigan’s committee on defining the practice of law, and is a member of the State Bar’s Judicial Conference Committee . She serves on the state’s Pro Se Litigant Task Force Committee, helping individuals who do not qualify for legal aid to find mechanisms to aid them in self representation within the court system.
Locally, Judge Dobrich is a member of the Southwestern Michigan College Foundation board and, from 1995 to 2000, she was an instructor for the SMC paralegal program. She is a member of the Cass County Human Resources Coordinating Council and the Cass County Community Corrections Committee.
A prolific trainer and instructor for the Michigan Judicial Institute and the Michigan Association of Drug Court Professionals, she covers a plethora of legal topics.
She has received numerous local and regional awards and in 2007, she was a state nominee for CASA Judge by the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) organization.
Judge Dobrich has been married for 30 years to Thomas Atkinson, chief of police in Dowagiac. They have two daughters, Julie Howard and Jamie Kastelic. Both women are graduates of Edwardsburg High School.