Roadrunner at Law
Published on January 3, 2023 - 11 a.m.
Aidan Traynor left an indelible mark on Southwestern Michigan College, from being one of its first Honors Program students to serving as president of Sigma Psi, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the international community college honor society.
But if you guessed the 2017 SMC honors graduate spring-boarded those math and science courses into a medical career, like her mom, or followed that University of Michigan summer research fellowship into becoming a history professor, guess again.
Traynor returned to U of M for her bachelor’s degree in history, but not only did she then go to law school, Aug. 1 she joined the hometown Cass County Prosecutor’s Office as an assistant prosecutor.
The 2015 Cassopolis Ross Beatty Junior-Senior High School graduate had interned with Prosecutor Victor Fitz’s office in high school and college.
“Her internship efforts in Cass County included assisting in cold case investigations and working with licensed assistant prosecutors in their misdemeanor and felony case preparation,” Fitz said in the news release announcing her hiring. “While at University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, she continued showing interest in prosecution by completing internships in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Monroe County Prosecutor’s Office.”
“Aidan did a fine job during her multiple internships with this office,” Fitz said. “It’s clear that she is motivated to help crime victims and to keep our community safe. She is talented and will be a hard worker. We look forward to getting her into the courtroom.”
“I was going to be a history professor,” Traynor acknowledged after visiting the Dowagiac campus at lunchtime a few days after the 1st Source Bank Fieldhouse dedication. “I enjoyed projects I worked on at Michigan, but the part I enjoyed the most was researching, putting things together, analyzing and solving problems.”
In summer 2016, she was selected as one of 40 community college students for a 10-week paid summer research fellowship at U-M in social sciences, humanities, engineering, health sciences or physical, natural and environmental sciences. Traynor got versed in the kind of systematic inquiry she expected to undertake for a Ph.D. degree to become a history professor.
Honors Program co-founder Mark Pelfrey linked her with UROP, the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program.
“I really like research. I’m so thankful he showed me this because it was an amazing experience,” she said. “New to research, we were all in the same boat. It was easy to make friends. Diversity helped, too — India, Brazil, Guatemala, Canada, Africa. So many different life experiences. It made us more willing to connect with each other.”
Adopted from China at 2, Traynor didn’t arrive in Cassopolis until February 2014, after living in Chicago until starting school, in Massachusetts in first to third grade and in Maine from fourth grade until junior year at RBHS.
“Junior year of U of M I began to realize I didn’t want to be a history professor. It would take six or seven years with a Ph.D. Then I decided to take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test).
“I graduated from here in the winter of 2017 and went to Michigan in the spring. I was only here for a year and a half,” thanks to dual enrollment.
The former intramural basketball player made a point of returning to campus so she could see 1st Source Bank Fieldhouse.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “The gym definitely looks different. I did some rock climbing. I commuted from Cassopolis. I really liked SMC. It’s a good college, and I liked being close to Lake Michigan and Chicago. My mom’s job brought us to Cassopolis because she wanted to be in a rural area. I was always in the library doing math. We studied math in a group. I remember Steve Jess, Jeff Dennis, Mary Young-Marcks, Spanish with Natalie Anagnos, (Director of Library Services and PTK adviser) Colleen Welsch and Bill (Roggeman) at the SAC.”
Traynor took guitar lessons while at SMC, and she remembers campus dances and Steve’s Run.
Detroit Mercy Law, founded in 1912, is located on E. Jefferson downtown, across from the Renaissance Center. It has graduated 10,000 attorneys in 110 years, with 90 percent of its 2021 graduating class employed in legal positions.
“I originally thought I was going to go to Wayne State,” Traynor said. “UD Mercy was not really on my radar, but I was in Detroit so I thought I’d check it out. It’s just one building, but architecturally, It has character, and that drew me. The clinic was also a big factor. It’s right on the street, designed for the people it’s meant to help, instead of them having to go through the law school, trying to find it in a directory and going up elevators. That showed me they were there for their community.”
She’s engaged to be married in September 2023 to a man she met at U-M her senior year. “He got his degree in economics and is a numbers person. He started watching baseball, so I did, too.” They frequently attended Tigers games within walking distance at Comerica Park.
Her parents live in Adrian now, where her mother works with the VA Clinic.
Her first assignment with the Prosecutor’s Office is in Fourth District Court before District Judge Stacey Rentfrow, who is assisted by three magistrates because she also presides over Adult Treatment Court and Sobriety Court.
District Court has jurisdiction over civil claims where the amount of money in controversy or the value of goods unlawfully taken or detained is $25,000 or less; most traffic violations, including tickets and civil infractions; criminal misdemeanor offenses punishable by a fine or up to one year in jail or both; landlord/tenant disputes; land contract forfeitures; small claims up to $6,000; charter and ordinance violations; and attachment and garnishment proceedings.
All adult criminal cases begin in District Court, which is involved with all felony cases through preliminary examination and until the entry of an order binding a defendant over to Circuit Court. District Court handles initial arraignments for all adult criminal cases, including setting bail and accepting bonds.
“Michigan Court Rules allow me to go into court with a supervising attorney present,” Traynor said. She took the Bar in July and was sworn in on Dec. 28 by Judge Mark Herman.
“I really like the Prosecutor’s Office,” she said. “I didn’t expect to be back here, but I love working for Victor and the office. I really like what I do.”