17th Circuit Court


Click on Judge Name for Bio

Judge Suite Phone Current Court Procedures
Deborah L. McNabb, Chief Judge  Suite 6200 A (616) 632-5219 Learn More »
Terence J. Ackert Suite 10200A (616) 632-5091 Learn More »
Curt A. Benson Suite 10500D  (616) 632-5012 Learn More »
Alida J. Bryant Suite 6500D (616) 632-5025  
Paul J. Denenfeld Suite 11500D  (616) 632-5032  
Christina Elmore Suite 10500C  (616) 632-5099 Learn More »
Mark A. Trusock Suite 11200B (616) 632-5008  
Clay M. West Suite 10200B (616) 632-5087 Learn More »
Patricia D. Gardner  Suite 9200B  (616) 632-5070 Learn More »
G. Patrick Hillary Suite 9200A  (616) 632-5206 Learn More »
George J. Quist Suite 12200A (616) 632-5076 Learn More »
J. Joseph Rossi Suite 8200A (616) 632-5020 Learn More »
Maureen A. Gottlieb Suite 6500C  (616) 632-5214 Learn More »
Scott A. Noto Suite 11200A (616) 632-5203 Learn More »

Judge Bios

Mark A. Trusock

Judge Trusock graduated from Michigan Technological University (MTU) in 1974.  After college, Judge Trusock worked for a large insurance company from 1975 to 1984.  In 1983 he obtained a Chartered Life Underwriter (CLU) from the   American College in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. In 1985 Judge Trusock graduated from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan.  For the next 21 years, he worked for the partnership of Lannen and Trusock.  At Lannen and Trusock he worked with civil, criminal, family, juvenile and appellate cases in courts throughout the state of Michigan. Judge Trusock was elected in November of 2006 to fill a new judicial position.  Judge Trusock is assigned to the Civil-Criminal Division of the Circuit Court.

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Terence J. Ackert

Judge Terence J. "T.J." Ackert took the bench on September 1, 2015.  A graduate of the University of Michigan and University of Toledo College of Law, he served clients throughout Michigan and the Midwest for thirty one years.  He was affiliated as a Shareholder with the firm Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, P.C. from 1984 to 2007, and then as a Member of Miller Johnson Snell & Cummiskey, PLLC from 2007 until 2015.  For most of his private practice, Judge Ackert served as a business counsel and trial attorney advising closely held and family owned businesses in both transactional and litigation matters involving an array of industries including manufacturing, construction, technology, and start-ups.  He received the distinction of being listed in Best Lawyers in America® for Business Organizations, Closely Held Companies and Family Business Law, Corporate Law and Mergers and Acquisitions Law.  Judge Ackert has served on numerous business, civic and charitable boards, including President of the Grand Rapids Bar Association in 2013.  Judge Ackert currently serves on the Tribal State Federal Judicial Forum.  Judge Ackert is assigned to the Family Division of the Circuit Court. 

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Curt A. Benson

Judge Curt Benson took the bench on January 1, 2019. Before his election in November of 2018, in his 33 years as a litigator and educator, Judge Benson had tried dozens of jury trials in both civil and criminal courts throughout Michigan. He has argued cases before the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, circuit, probate, and district courts, federal district and bankruptcy courts, Worker’s Compensation Bureau, American Arbitration Association, Driver’s License Appeal Division, as well as FINRA securities arbitrations and mediations in New York city and case evaluations in New Jersey. As a lawyer, Judge Benson was awarded an AV rating in Martindale – Hubbell (the highest rank possible) and is today a Fellow of The Michigan Bar Foundation.

As a tenured professor at Western Michigan University/T.M. Cooley Law School, Judge Benson taught Evidence, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Tort and Insurance Law. He has frequently and successfully coached Mock Trial and Moot Court Teams as they competed against law schools throughout the country. Today, Judge Benson hold the title Distinguished Professor Emeritus of the law school.

Judge Benson is a published legal author and frequent public speaker. He also served on the Grand Rapids Public Schools Board of Education for six years, including two years as president and two years as vice president.

Judge Benson is assigned to the Specialized Business Docket.

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Alida J. Bryant

Judge Bryant attended Mount Saint Mary's College where she earned a BA in political science and accounting. Later, she attended Drake University Law School where she acquired a JD. Twenty-eight years with the Defender's Office has afforded her the opportunity to serve the residents of Kent County as a felony attorney, followed by her ascension to the position of District Court Chief. Judge Bryant joined the Family Division of the Kent County Circuit Court on August 15th, 2022.

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Paul J. Denenfeld

Judge Denenfeld took the bench on August 10, 2009. He received his BA degree from Western Michigan University and his JD from the University of Cincinnati. Before taking the bench, Judge Denenfeld was a partner in the law firm Yates, LaGrand & Denenfeld, PLLC. Prior to that, he was the senior litigator with the Federal Public Defender office in Grand Rapids, and was the chief of the special litigation division of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. For nearly 10 years, he was a civil rights and civil liberties attorney in Detroit. Judge Denenfeld has also spent considerable time working on the rule of law in several former Soviet republics. Judge Denenfeld is assigned to the Civil/Criminal Division of the Circuit Court.

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Christina Elmore

Judge Christina Elmore was elected to the 17th Circuit Court and began her term on January 1, 2019. Before she was elected to this court, she was a judge on the 61st District Court for the City of Grand Rapids for almost 3 years.

Judge Elmore began her legal career as a Judge Advocate General in the United States Air Force, where she served for 13 years on active duty and in the reserves. She also worked as an assistant prosecutor for the Kent County Prosecutor’s office before she became an Assistant Attorney General for the Michigan Department of Attorney General.

Following her stint at the Attorney General’s Office, Judge Elmore spent 8 years in private practice where she was defense counsel on felony and misdemeanor criminal cases, represented parents and children in child abuse and neglect cases, advocated for juveniles in delinquency cases, and assisted clients with various other legal issues. She also continued to prosecute individuals for failing to pay child support as a Special Assistant Attorney General. In addition, Judge Elmore taught military law briefly at Cooley Law School.

Judge Elmore earned her law degree from Tulane Law School and her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan. She is also an alumnus of Ottawa Hills High School.

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Clay M. West

Judge Clay M. West grew up on a small family farm and attended Harvard for his bachelor's degree, Cambridge for his master's degree, and Yale for his law degree. He clerked for judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the California Supreme Court, served in Iraq and Afghanistan with the U.S. Army, and worked as a federal prosecutor in the Northern District of Illinois and the Western District of Michigan. As a Judge Advocate in the U.S. Army Reserve since 2004, Judge West has served worldwide in various assignments as prosecutor, defense counsel, and military judge in courts-martial proceedings. He is active in a number of local bar, community, and veterans associations.

Judge West took the 17th Circuit Court bench on April 17, 2023 following 22 years of legal practice. He is assigned to the Family Division.

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Patricia D. Gardner

Judge Gardner took the bench on January 13, 1997. She received her bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and JD from the University of Michigan. Before taking the bench, Judge Gardner practiced probate and family law with the firm of Kozera, Brown and Gardner.

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G. Patrick Hillary

Judge Hillary took the bench in January of 2001. Judge Hillary received his under-graduate degree from Ferris State University and JD from Thomas Cooley Law School. Before taking the bench, Judge Hillary was a sole practitioner with primary emphasis in Family Law. Judge Hillary is assigned to the Family Division of Circuit Court.

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George J. Quist

Judge Quist (Chief Judge Pro Tem) took the bench on January 23, 2012. He received his BA from Hope College and his JD from George Washington University. Before taking the bench, Judge Quist served as the Director of Employment Services for the Michigan Administrative Hearing System and Chief Magistrate for the Worker's Compensation Board of Magistrates. In addition to his administrative responsibilities, he tried over 500 cases as an administrative law judge and magistrate. In addition to 12 years experience as an adjudicator before taking the bench, Judge Quist was a civil litigator in Grand Rapids for 9 years. Judge Quist has been assigned to the Civil/Criminal Division since 2015. His first 3 years as Judge were with the Family Division.

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Deborah L. McNabb, Chief Judge

Hon. Deborah L. McNabb was elected to the 17 th Circuit Court in Kent County in 2016 to a newly created judgeship after serving 25 years as a Circuit Court Referee in the Family Division. In 2024, she was appointed Chief Judge of the Kent County Circuit Court, the first female to serve in that capacity. She continues to serve as the Presiding Judge of the Family Division. Her docket includes domestic relations, personal protection, juvenile justice, and child protective cases. Judge McNabb also presides over the Kent County Juvenile Treatment and Support Court (JTASC).

She is a member of the Michigan State Council for Juvenile Interstate Supervision, where she has served since her appointment in 2023. Judge McNabb has been a State Drug Treatment Court Advisory Committee member since her appointment in 2024. She also serves on the executive board of the Michigan Judges Association, where she co-chairs the Family Law Committee. Judge McNabb is a Fellow of the Michigan Bar Foundation and the American Bar Foundation. She has served on numerous advisory committees for the Michigan Supreme Court and is an active member of the American Judges Association.

As a firm believer in the importance of legal education, Judge McNabb has made significant contributions to various educational platforms. She is a frequent lecturer for Michigan’s Institute for Continuing Legal Education, the Michigan State Court Administrative Office, the State Bar of Michigan’s Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section, the Michigan Judicial Institute, the Grand Rapids Bar Association, and the National Council for Juvenile and Family Court Judges. Her lectures, which cover a wide range of legal topics, are highly regarded for their depth and practicality, making her a sought-after speaker in the legal community.

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Scott A. Noto

Judge Noto was elected to the Circuit Court in November 2020 and began his term on January 1, 2021. He received his BA from the University of Chicago and JD from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Prior to his election, he was in private practice, representing clients in civil and criminal matters. He has also served as a Judge Advocate on active duty in the US Army and the Army Reserve since 2009.

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J. Joseph Rossi

Judge Rossi was elected in November of 2016 and began judicial service on January 1, 2017. Judge Rossi attended the University of Notre Dame where he obtained a degree in English in 1988 and a Juris Doctorate in 1995. Between his undergraduate years and law school, Joe served as an infantry officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, including combat service in Operation Desert Storm and as a Special Operations instructor. Prior to his election he served as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for eight years in Grand Rapids, as well as working at the private law firms Smith Haughey Rice and Roegge and Drew Cooper and Anding. His legal experience includes appearances in many Michigan Courts, as well as Federal Courts in Michigan, Ohio, Illinois and Indiana. Joe also continued to serve in the Marine Corps Reserve, where he was called to active duty twice in 2004 and 2007. His final tour was on the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Pentagon, where he worked under the Director of Global Special Operations and Counter-terrorism. Joe retired from military service in 2012 at the rank of lieutenant colonel. Joe’s community service includes his parish finance council and several veterans and military support organizations. Joe serves in the Circuit Court’s Specialized Business docket and in the Court’s Civil-Criminal division.

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