Lake County prosecutor, Mason County prosecutor, former Mason County prosecutor in the running LAKE COUNTY \u2014 Although this year\u2019s general election still is months away, three attorneys have announced their candidacy for 51st Circuit Court judge. Lake County Prosecutor Craig Cooper, Mason County Prosecutor\u00a0Paul Spaniola and Ludington-based attorney\u00a0Susan Sniegowsk have all announced their candidacy for the position. The position will be opening up because current\u00a051st Circuit Court\u00a0Judge Richard I. Cooper will be retiring. The 51st Circuit Court is one of 57 in the state and comprises of Lake and Mason counties. Generally, the circuit court handles civil cases with claims of more than $25,000, felony criminal cases and family law cases. The court also hears cases appealed from other courts. Circuit court judges are elected to six-year terms. An Aug. 5 primary election will narrow the field down to two candidates, while a Nov. 4 general election will decide who becomes judge. In an attempt to educate voters about the candidates running for\u00a051st Circuit Court judge, the\u00a0Lake County Star\u00a0has provided background information to introduce the candidates. Craig R. Cooper Cooper currently serves as the Lake County prosecuting attorney, and was previously the assistant prosecutor. Prior to that, he worked as a private attorney with the law firm of Gockerman, Wilson, Saylor & Hesslin, P.C., Western Land Services, Inc., and Plante & Moran, PLLC. His legal experience ranges from criminal, family, estate, civil and business law. He was admitted to the bar in 2009. \u201cI think I\u2019ve really enjoyed being prosecutor here in Lake County,\u201d Cooper said. \u201cI really appreciate and understand Lake County and the residents, and I think I have done a good job being prosecutor. I think we have accomplished a lot.\u201d Cooper was born and raised in Ludington, where he graduated from Ludington High School. He attended the University of Michigan, where he obtained his Bachelor of Business Administration degree with an emphasis in business law and accounting. Cooper obtained his Juris Doctor Degree from Michigan State University College of Law where he graduated Magna Cum Laude. While at MSU College of Law, he served on the Law Review as managing editor and worked for the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Tax Tribunal. He takes pride in the fact that he attended the same law school as his father and grandfather and has strong roots in the community. His grandfather, Dic Cooper, served as Lake County\u2019s Prosecutor during the 1950s, and his father is\u00a0current\u00a051st Circuit Court\u00a0Judge Richard I. Cooper. Copper said he would consider it an \u201chonor\u201d to continue in his father\u2019s footsteps if he is elected as judge. Cooper is an Eagle Scout from Troop 1190 based out of the Community Church in Ludington, where he is also a church member. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the President Ford Field Service Council and is President of the Baldwin Rotary Club. He also is an avid outdoorsman, skier and enjoys playing the alto sax with the Scottville Clown Band. If elected, Cooper said continue the\u00a051st Circuit Court reputation of being firm and fair and would always keep Lake and Mason county residents\u2019 best interests in mind. \u201cI have a true sincere appreciation for the residents of this circuit and I think I am always going to have the best interest of our residents in mind when I make my decisions,\u201d Cooper said. \u201cI don\u2019t see a better candidate being able to do that then I can.\u201d Susan K. Sniegowski Ludington attorney Susan K. Sniegowski\u00a0has been practicing law in the circuit since 1999. She has experience as a trial lawyer and has practiced extensively in the circuit court. She currently represents individuals, families and businesses in private practice as well as representing the City of Ludington in misdemeanor criminal cases. She served as prosecuting attorney for Mason County for four years. She is a sole practitioner with an office in Ludington. Sniegowski received her Bachelor of Arts degree from Michigan State University and Juris Doctor from the University of Denver. Sniegowski has been actively involved in the local community in volunteer positions. She currently serves as the chairperson of the Mason County Bar Association, volunteer attorney for the C.O.V.E. Legal Clinic, annual support committee for the hospital, Franklin Elementary PTC and is on the Board of Directors of West Shore Youth for Christ. She lives in Ludington with her husband, Tom, and their son. Sniegowski could not be reached for further comment. Paul Spaniola Paul Spaniola, 55, is the Mason County Prosecuting Attorney. He took office as the elected prosecuting attorney on January 1, 2009. He joined the Mason County Prosecutor\u2019s Office in 2001 as an assistant prosecuting attorney, after 17 years of private practice in Mason County and the surrounding counties. \u201cI am very excited about the prospect of running for circuit judge and serving in that role,\u201d Spaniola said. \u201cJudge Cooper has served the residents of our circuit with distinction since 1979 and I look forward to the next several months as I set forth my judicial philosophy of fairness and equal justice for all participants in the justice system, be they parties, victims, defendants or witnesses.\u201d Spaniola is a graduate of Central Michigan University and the University of Toledo College of Law. He was admitted to the bar in 1984.\u00a0His\u00a0private law practice included criminal defense, family law, real estate, general civil practice, probate and estate planning and personal injury. In addition to his duties as prosecuting attorney where he supervises a staff of five and carries a busy caseload, he chairs the Mason County Concealed Pistol License Board and the Mason County Child Death Review Team. Since 2012 he has been a member of the Board of Directors of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM) where he sits on the Technical Services Committee, Training and Education Committee, and Outreach Committee. In 1988 and 1989 he was president of the Mason\u2013Lake County Bar Association. He has also served as an adjunct professor at West Shore Community College Law Enforcement Program. \u201cI enjoy immensely serving as (Mason County\u2019s) prosecuting attorney,\u201d\u00a0Spaniola\u00a0said. \u201cIt is an extremely fulfilling job, protecting the rights of our crime victims, and ensuring that justice is done. Becoming the Circuit Judge would be an extension of this calling. All participants in the justice system deserve to be treated with fairness and respect. I have sought to do this as prosecuting attorney and will continue to do so should I be elected circuit judge.\u201d Service organizations that\u00a0Spaniola\u00a0has been involved with in his 30-year professional career include the Ludington Area Foundation, Area 24 Special Olympics, Ludington Recreation Soccer Board, and the Ludington Area Jaycees.\u00a0He has been a registered referee with the United States Soccer Federation and the Michigan High School Athletic Association since 1997. He resides in Ludington with his wife, Pat, who is a retired teacher from the Ludington Area Schools. They have two grown sons, Charlie and Jeff.