Celebrating Local Black Heroes: Judge Curtis J. Bell
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Honorable Curtis J. Bell, Circuit Civil Division and Business Court Judge, believes, “you should leave every person you interact with a little bit better than before you met them.” The Kalamazoo Judge is making the community a better place, on and off the bench.
A child of extremely driven parents and one of nine siblings, Bell was raised in a home of strong, conscientious Christian values. “My friends always said my parents weren’t judgmental at all. Their arms and hearts were always open to everyone,” Bell shares. “They were so inspirational to me.”
Bell’s parents set clear expectations for their children. “There was a drive never to sit. We were expected to work and do well in school,” Bell explains. “I always strived to honor them.”
Judge Bell applies the sentiments his parents taught him in his adult life. He strives to positively influence everyone he encounters in and out of the courtroom. Due to his outstanding work in Treatment and Recovery Court and Behavioral Health, the Michigan Supreme Court appointed Bell to share his wisdom on the Task Force on Well-Being in the Law in 2022. Among many things, this task force supports the mental wellness of legal professionals.
Bell also shares his time with the Human Trafficking Coalition, which serves young victims of trafficking. “When you have a chance to make a difference in [a person’s] life, you should be open to doing that,” Bell explains.
In every interaction we have, we should give something back. People are inherently good, but some have experienced difficult situations in their lives that make them the way they are now. If you look closely, you can see your extended family, friends, and even yourself in them.Judge Curtis J. Bell
Bell fervently believes in being kind to others, no matter what. He recalls an interaction in a grocery store parking lot when a man he didn’t immediately recognize approached him. What seemed like an everyday interaction turned out to be a moment of clarity that encouraged Bell to keep going in his career. The man said to Bell, “You were a court-appointed lawyer for me… You did an outstanding job and changed my life.”
Bell shares, “It makes you realize you must keep working hard and gives your soul energy to continue… I always hope that my work has a positive ripple effect so my client’s lives are better, and then others’ lives are also better.”
On top of being a judge and a robust community advocate, Judge Bell is also a husband and a father. When his children were young, he would leave work to serve as their coach and to watch the stage productions they were involved in.
“I was the biggest kid, and I wanted to be there for them,” he shares. “You want to build stairs for your family, so when they walk through life it’s a little easier for your kids and grandkids to find joy in what they do.”
When asked to share any final wisdom with the community, Bell encourages, “Always try to be kind to everyone you meet. If you cannot be kind, try to disengage from a situation … You know nothing about what’s going on in someone else’s life. When you encounter a nasty person (or situation) always be kind to others, to the greatest extent possible.”