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Longtime Wayne Circuit Court Judge Robert Colombo Jr. is retiring from the bench by early next year, state officials announced Wednesday.

The chief judge at the Detroit court had been slated to serve his term through Dec. 31, 2019, but Timothy M. Kenny has been appointed to fill in starting Jan. 1, the Michigan Supreme Court said in a notice.

“Chief Judge Colombo has been a leader among leaders who has helped guide the implementation of e-filing in Michigan among many other accomplishments," said State Court Administrator Milton Mack, Jr., a former Wayne County Probate Judge and longtime friend. "We will miss him but wish him well in a well-deserved retirement.”

Colombo, who graduated from law school in 1975 and worked as a clerk for Michigan Appeals Court Judge George N. Bashara Jr., was elected to the Circuit Court in 1983 and appointed chief in 2014, according to a biography.

Among the most notable cases he presided over was a public records lawsuit brought by the Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News that led to the release of the secret settlement agreement in the whistleblower’s lawsuit brought against the city and then-Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

In 1990 he oversaw the case of Lawrence DeLisle, who was charged with intentionally driving his car into the Detroit River, killing his four children.

Colombo handled all asbestos litigation in Wayne County for 25 years, and in the 1990s managed and tried Dow Corning’s breast implant insurance coverage case, Supreme Court officials said. In the latter, the Court of Appeals noted “the remarkable skill and patience exhibited by Judge Colombo in the face of some of the most expansive and complex litigation in the history of the state.”

In February, Colombo — son of the late Robert Colombo, Sr., a longtime judge in the Detroit Recorder’s Court and Wayne County Circuit Court — overturned a medical marijuana initiative Detroit voters approved last year that would have changed city zoning rules.

He also has earned a Spirit of Detroit Award for reinstating a Law Day program, through which city high school students visit the court, the state’s largest, to hear from keynote speakers and participate in a mock trial.

 “I’ve always tried to be a really good circuit court judge and put the work into making the right decision,” Colombo recently told the state Supreme Court for a retrospective ahead of his retirement. “I hope I’m remembered for just being a good judge, and the work that I’ve done in this court.”

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