Investiture ceremony for COA’s Boonstra announced

The investiture ceremony for Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Mark Boonstra takes place Sept. 27 at 3:30 p.m. at Michigan Library & Historical Center, 702 West Kalamazoo St. in Lansing, with a reception in the Hall of Justice following the ceremony.

U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ralph Guy, Jr. will swear Boonstra into office. Boonstra served as Guy’s law clerk from 1983 to 1985.

Governor Rick Snyder appointed Boonstra to the COA last March for a term ending Jan. 1, 2013. Boonstra is running unopposed for a partial term ending Jan. 1, 2015.

Before his appointment, Boonstra was a senior principal in the law firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C., where he practiced for nearly 27 years.

Boonstra graduated from the University of Michigan in 1983 with both a Juris Doctor degree and with a Master of Applied Economics Degree. He is also a 1979 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Michigan State University, with a B.A. in Political Science.

For more information about the event, contact Deborah Allen at 517-373-0898.

MSC jury reform project honored by Nat’l Center for State Courts

The Michigan Supreme Court and 12 judges who took part in a two-year pilot project to test various jury reform proposals are receiving 2012 G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation.

The award, conferred by the National Center for State Courts, is given annually to recognize significant improvements or innovations for juries, NCSC President Mary C. McQueen said.

The jury reform effort, initiated by the MSC in 2005, resulted in amendments to the Michigan Court Rules last year.

Some of the more significant changes: judges may allow discussion among jurors about evidence during trial recesses and note taking. Juries may request views of crime scenes or other relevant locations. Judges are required to provide copies of the jury instructions to jurors when they retire for final deliberations.

NCSC Vice President and General Counsel Robert Baldwin will present the award to the Court and pilot project judges following the Court’s first oral argument on October 9. The ceremony will take place at 10:45 a.m. in the old Supreme Court courtroom in the state Capitol building.

The judges participating in the 2009-2010 pilot project include:

  • Judge Thomas P. Boyd, 55th District Court, Mason, Ingham County
  • Judge William J. Caprathe (retired) and Judge Kenneth W. Schmidt, 18th Circuit Court, Bay County
  • Judge Richard J. Celello, 41st Circuit Court, Dickinson/Iron/Menominee counties
  • Judge Beth Gibson, 92nd District Court, Newberry, Luce/Mackinac counties
  • Judge Timothy G. Hicks, 14th Circuit Court, Muskegon County
  • Judge Richard W. May, 90th District Court, Charlevoix/Emmet counties
  • Judge Wendy L. Potts, 6th Circuit Court, Oakland County
  • Judge Donald L. Sanderson, 2B District Court, Hillsdale County
  • Judge Paul E. Stutesman, 45th Circuit Court, St. Joseph County
  • Judge David Viviano, 16th Circuit Court, Macomb County
  • Judge Peter J. Wadel, Lake County Trial Court/79th District Court, Ludington

Dems, GOP select MSC candidates at weekend conventions

Michigan Republicans and Democrats selected their slates of Michigan Supreme Court candidates at party conventions held this past weekend.

Republicans chose Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Colleen O’Brien to run for a full, eight-year term on the MSC. O’Brien topped Court of Appeals Judge Jane Markey for the spot.

Justice Stephen Markman was nominated to run for another full term. Justice Brian Zahra will run for a partial, two-year term.

Democrats selected 46th District Court Judge Shelia Johnson to run against Zahra for the two-year term.

Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Connie Marie Kelly and Bridget Mary McCormack, a University of Michigan law professor, were nominated to run for eight-year terms.

Although nominated by political parties, all MSC candidates appear on the nonpartisan section of the November ballot.

The plot thickens: Johnson appointed to Inkster district court

Gov. Rick Snyder’s Sept. 5th appointment of Sabrina Johnson to the Inkster-based 22nd District Court could result in one of the shortest stays on the bench since Justice Alton Davis’s four-month stint on the Michigan Supreme Court in 2010.

Or it may be just the boost she needs to keep the job past the Jan. 1, 2013 expiration of her appointment.

Johnson, a long-time Wayne County assistant prosecutor with deep Inkster roots, was named to fill an opening created when the MSC removed Sylvia James from the bench on July 31 for misconduct. The Court found that James engaged in financial, administrative and employment improprieties, and then misrepresented the state of affairs to the Judicial Tenure Commission.

MSC Chief Justice Robert Young and Justice Stephen Markman voted with a unanimous Court to throw James off the bench. But they wanted even more. In a separate opinion, they argued in vain that James should be made to sit on the judicial election sidelines for six years. The two justices feared that James would simply run again and reclaim a seat on the very court she had just been booted from.

Seven days after being removed from the bench, James topped a field of eight contenders In the Aug. 7 primary for the 22nd District Court.

Here’s where the plot thickens. Johnson was also on the primary ballot. She finished second.

Johnson, now freshly appointed until the end of the year to fill the balance of James’ term, needs to win the November election or she’ll surrender the seat back to James.

A victory for James will give her the opportunity to thumb her nose at everyone who had anything to do with getting her kicked off the court. Young and Markman’s worst nightmares will come true.

Johnson will be listed on the ballot as an incumbent judge. James won’t. That usually does the trick in judicial elections and goes a long way in explaining Snyder’s appointment of Johnson.

But being forced from the bench for misusing public funds and telling whoppers to the authorities normally spells the end of a judicial career.

Except in Inkster, where some voters, caught up in a cult of personality, are apparently willing to reward James’ misconduct with another six-year term.

Judge makes stink about mayor’s ‘No Smoking’ signs

From today’s Macomb Daily comes word of big, spiffy yellow signs, with Warren Mayor Jim Fouts’ name prominently displayed on them, which prohibit smoking within 100 feet of city buildings on which the signs are displayed.

The signs are a big problem for Chief Judge John Chmura of the 37th District Court, who ordered them removed from the court building almost as soon as they were put up.

Chmura fumed that there is no ordinance to back up Fouts’ unilateral edict, issued in a mayoral order last week.

“[W]e can’t have one person deciding things like this on his own. If there is a law out there that says you can’t smoke within 100 feet of our court, I have no problem with that,” the Macomb Daily quotes Chmura about Fouts’ signs.

Tough to quibble with that. But Fouts blew some smoke of his own.

“To me, this reinforces the idea that some judges think they are above moral law and the law of the land,” said Fouts of Chmura’s decision to take down the courthouse signs.

One-person grand jury to investigate alleged election-rigging in GOP house race

Responding to a petition by the Michigan Democratic Party, a majority of the Ingham County Circuit Court judges has authorized a one-person grand jury investigation of alleged election-rigging by House Speaker Jase Bolger and Rep. Roy Schmidt.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina will conduct the probe of the two House Republicans and Matt Mojzak. Mojzak was allegedly recruited as a straw candidate to run a write-in campaign as a Democrat in Schmidt’s district after Schmidt made an 11th hour jump from the Democratic Party to the GOP.

Mojzak was allegedly offered money to stay in the race after it was learned that he couldn’t satisfy the residency requirements to run in Schmidt’s district.

We blogged some of the meaty details last month when the story first broke.

Appointments made to Wayne Probate, 36th District courts

Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed Lisa Marie Neilson, a probate and family law practitioner at Dickinson Wright, to the Wayne County Probate Court

The governor has also appointed Demetria Brue, an assistant prosecutor with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, to the 36th District Court.

Neilson replaces Judge Cathie B. Maher, who resigned. Neilson, a former partner of the law firm Zivian & Neilson, also served as a staff attorney for Oakland County Judge Linda Hallmark.

Neilson is also active in professional organizations, including the State Bar of Michigan, the Women Lawyers Bar Association, Federalist Society and the Catholic Lawyer’s Society. Neilson has a bachelor’s degree from Madonna University and received her law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Brue replaces Judge Willie G. Lipscomb Jr., who resigned. As an assistant Wayne County prosecutor, Brue has decades of litigation experience, including felony and misdemeanor trials, preliminary examinations and traffic hearings.

Previously she worked as a defense attorney, and as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Oakland County. She is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, the National Black Prosecutors’ Association, and the Wolverine Bar Association. Brue received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and a law degree from Wayne State University Law School.

Neilson will serve through Jan. 1, 2015, and will have to run for election in November 2014 for the remainder of Maher’s term, which expires Dec. 31, 2016. Brue will also serve through Jan. 1, 2015, and will have to run for election in November 2014 for a full term as well.