Genesee County’s longest serving district court judge retires

Judge Nathaniel Perry is leaving the court after three decades of service to the community, which first elected him in 1990.
Published: Jan. 4, 2021 at 6:36 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - (1/4/20201) - Judge Nathaniel Perry spent 30 years on the bench, putting away some of Flint’s most notable criminals.

He retired December 31, 2020, as Genesee County’s longest serving district court judge.

“It’s bittersweet,” Hon. Perry said. “Primarily because I’ve always been the kind of person that enjoyed this. I always figured Iwas helping people, I always figured that the idea of following the law and managing people was always an interesting concept.”

Judge Perry said he wasn’t ready to be done, but the district court judge position is term limited.

He’s leaving the court after three decades of service to this community, which first elected him in 1990.

“You’d never believe I always wanted to be probably a principal, a high school principal,” he said.

That’s what brought the Tennessee native to Flint. Perry became a teacher in the city and was also a talented basketball coach, working in both the Beecher and Flint school districts.

But the Judge said with budget cuts, he lost his position, prompting him to go to law school.

Perry started out in the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office, before starting his own private practice and eventually running for District Court Judge.

He’s presided over countless high-profile cases. ABC12 News asked what he’s learned from seeing this community at its worst...

“Well, the unfortunate thing about trouble is it’s easy to get into, but very hard to get out of,” he explained. “And what I found is that, in some instances, people recognize that they just want to be heard sometimes.”

Perry’s dedication to listening to people, sorting out the facts and keeping his cool in the courtroom have prompted many whose lives he’s touched to come back and thank him.

“Very gratifying moments to know that in terms of the criminal aspect, or the punishment aspect of this, there’s always some rehabilitation and some deterrents that people really understand. And, it’s not as bad as maybe some people might think,” Perry said.

To honor his 30 years of service, the Mayor presented Perry with a key to the city, Michigan’s Supreme Court gave him a proclamation and a portrait of the judge now sits in his successor’s courtroom.

“That says to me that the job that I’ve done over the years has meant something not only to me, but it’s meant something to other people. And that’s really been important for me,” Perry added.

To fill Perry’s seat, Flint voters elected Tabitha Marsh to the 67th District Court in November.

Perry said he’s not done working. He would like to find a position working for the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office or Attorney General’s Office.

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