Livingston County Judge Theresa Brennan removed from bench over ethics complaint

Brennan accused of having affair with Michigan State Police investigator

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®, Derick Hutchinson

LIVINGSTON COUNTY, Mich. - Livingston County Judge Theresa Brennan is no longer taking cases after she was removed from the bench.

Judge Miriam Cavanaugh huddled with the other judges in her courthouse Wednesday and decided it was time to take action after a particularly damning Judicial Tenure Commission report against Brennan that came out Tuesday.

Here is part of the statement from Cavanaugh:

"We recognize Judge Brennan is entitled to due process of law and a hearing on the allegations against her.

"However, judges are held to a higher standard of conduct so that the integrity and the independence of the judiciary may be preserved.

"Further, the citizens of Livingston County deserve to know that elected judges are beyond reproach in the performance of their duties.

"Accordingly, in deliberation with other Livingston County judges, Judge Brennan's caseload has been removed and reassigned, effective immediately and until further notice."

The 53rd District Court was closed Wednesday, and all court business was put on hold as the judges decided how to handle the situation.

When the court reopens Thursday, Brennan's cases will be heard by the other judges in the complex.

The Judicial Tenure Commission revealed a laundry list of problematic charges against Brennan. They include, in small part, misconduct in office, conduct clearly prejudicial to the administration of justice, and failure to respect and observe the law.

The list comes largely from the murder trial of Jerome Kowalski, who is serving a life sentence after his conviction. The case was brought to trial mainly because of Michigan State Police investigator Sean Furlong.

The Judicial Tenure Commission found Furlong and Brennan were carrying on an affair during the trial, and when asked to remove herself from the case, Brennan refused. When questioned by state police about it, she said, officials said.

Republican state Sen. Joe Hune said her removal is a first step.

"I'm tired of this circus, tired of this miscarriage of justice," Hune said. "It's really terrible. This judge needs to resign."

He said his office has been inundated for years with complaints about her "nasty" demeanor from the bench.

"We have a charade, a black eye in our local judicial system," Hune said. "This needs to end."

The Michigan Supreme Court appointed retired Wayne County Circuit Court Judge William J. Giovan as a special master to conduct an evidentiary hearing on the complaint against Brennan.

"The Court has the utmost confidence in Judge Giovan’s ability to handle this matter with fairness and expedition on behalf of the people of Livingston County and the people of Michigan," Chief Justice Stephen J. Markman said.

During his 39-year career, Giovan was chief judge of the Wayne County Circuit Court from 2008-2009, presiding judge of the Civil Division from 2000-2007 and chief judge pro tempore from 2004-2005. He earned his degree from the University of Michigan Law School.

Goivan will hold hearings and sent the findings to the JTC, which will then make a recommendation to the Supreme Court.

The court will then hear arguments and make a decision.

Here is the full formal complaint against Brennan:

Copyright 2018 by WDIV ClickOnDetroit - All rights reserved.