MSC seeks comment on proposed judicial performance measures

The Michigan Supreme Court is interested in measuring trial court performance and providing public access to the reports.

Proposed Administrative Order No. 2012-XX would authorize the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) to create standardized methods for evaluating trial court performance.

The proposal is broad in concept but short on details.

The concept:

Performance measurement is a critical means to assess the services provided to the public and the processes used to deliver those services. Performance measurement can assist in assessing and recognizing areas within courts that are working well, and those that require attention and improvement.

Trial court performance measures are not a new concept. The National Center for State Courts first issued the 10 CourTools in 2005; in the 1990s, SCAO formed a task force, including judges and court administrators, to study how to measure a court’s performance. In 2009, the state court administrator convened the Trial Court Performance Measures Committee, which piloted performance measures and offered recommendations. The committee stressed that all trial courts should embrace performance measures as an opportunity to provide high-quality public service in the most efficient way. Further, because transparency and accountability are integral elements of an efficient and effective judiciary, SCAO’s standardized statewide performance measure reports should be readily available to the public.

How might all of this work? That’s largely being left to the SCAO to figure out:

A. The State Court Administrative Office is directed to:

1. Develop a plan for implementation of performance measures in all trial courts.

2. Assist trial courts in implementing and posting performance measures.

3. In conjunction with the Trial Court Performance Measures Committee, assess and report on the effectiveness of the performance measures and modify the measures as needed.

B. Trial courts are directed to:

1. Comply with the trial court performance measures plan developed by the State Court Administrative Office.

2. Report performance measure information to the State Court Administrative Office.

C. SCAO’s standardized statewide performance measure reports shall be made available to the public on the Internet.

Got some thoughts about this? Refer to the proposal for information on submitting comments. The comment period closes Nov. 1.

MJA seeks nominations for Hilda Gage Judicial Excellence Award

Judge Hilda Gage

Judge Hilda Gage, the inspiration for the MJA’s Hilda Gage Judicial Excellence Award.

Do you know a current or former circuit court or Court of Appeals judge worthy of recognition for an outstanding legal career?

The president of the Michigan Judges Association, Judge Timothy Hicks, wants to hear from you.

The MJA is accepting nominations for its third annual Hilda Gage Judicial Excellence Award. The award recognizes current or former Circuit or Court of Appeals Judges who have demonstrated exemplary service by excelling in trial and docket management, legal scholarship and contributions to the profession and the community.

The award is named in honor of the late Judge Hilda Gage. Gage served with honor on the Court of Appeals and Oakland Circuit Bench before passing away in 2010. She was renowned for her courage and scholarship. She was the first female President of MJA and the first woman to chair the Judicial Tenure Commission.

Past recipients of the Hilda Gage Judicial Excellence Award include the Hon. J. Richardson Johnson, of the Ninth Circuit Court in Kalamazoo, and the Hon. James Ryan, formerly of the Third Circuit Court in Wayne County, the Michigan Supreme Court, and the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hicks said that MJA seeks nominees who follow in Judge Gage’s footsteps by “serving their state and their communities with integrity, skill, and courage every day.”

Nominations are due by July 20. Here’s a nominating form and instructions or give Hicks a call at (231) 724-6337.

Special master appointed in JTC complaint against Adams

The Michigan Supreme Court has named Donald Miller, a retired Macomb County circuit court judge, to hear evidence of misconduct charges filed by the Judicial Tenure Commission against Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Deborah Ross Adams.

The JTC, in Formal Complaint No. 89, charged Adams with lying under oath and forging documents in connection with her divorce.

The divorce complaint landed in Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Mary Ellen Brennan’s courtroom after the entire Wayne County circuit bench recused itself.

The JTC charges that Adams, while represented by counsel, frequently called Brennan’s office concerning her case, and persisted in doing so after being advised that such contact was inappropriate. The JTC’s complaint alleges Adams, while under oath, denied she had made the calls.

The JTC further alleges that Adams forged her former attorney’s name on a motion and brief to set aside or modify Brennan’s judgment of divorce.

Adams is also charged with making false statements to the JTC about the matter.

The complaint alleges that Adams violated the Judicial Code of Conduct, several court rules and Michigan’s perjury statute.

Miller will hear evidence and prepare a report for the JTC. The JTC, after a hearing, can then decide to dismiss the complaint or recommend that the Michigan Supreme Court impose one of several forms of discipline such as public censure, a suspension or removal from office.

Gov. appoints White to 38th Circuit Court bench

Gov. Rick Snyder appointed appointment Monroe family lawyer Daniel White to the 38th Circuit Court in Monroe County. The appointment fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Joseph A. Costello Jr.

White began his legal career as an attorney with the law firm of Lennard & Graham. For nearly 30 years, he has been in private practice. He is a former member of the Monroe City Council and remains active in his community and professional organizations, including the Monroe County Bar Association and the Monroe County Airport Board. He is a graduate of Monroe County Community College, University of Michigan and earned his law degree from the University of Toledo.

White’s appointment runs through Jan. 1, 2013. He will have to seek election in November 2012 for the remainder of the term ending Jan. 1, 2015.

Gov. makes appointments to circuit, district courts

Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed Kathleen M. Brickley, of South Haven, to the 36th Circuit Court in Van Buren County. The appointment fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge William C. Buhl. She will serve as Van Buren County’s first female judge.

The governor also appointed Daniel A. Goostrey, of Jackson, to the 12th District Court in Jackson. The appointment fills the vacancy created by the removal of Judge James M. Justin.

Brickley is active in her community and professional organizations, including the State Bar of Michigan, Kalamazoo County Bar Association and Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan. She will serve the remainder of Buhl’s term through Jan. 1, 2013, and will have to run for election in November for a full term.

Goostrey has been with the law firm of Parker & Adams PC since 2002. He previously worked as an associate attorney for the firm of Best, Heyns, Klaeren & Schroeder PC. Goostrey currently serves as president of the Napoleon Board of Education and has served on the board since 2005.

His appointment runs through Jan. 1, 2013, and he will have to seek election in 2012 for a full term.

Prosecutors can bypass circuit judges to get more help

Prosecutors can appoint assistant prosecuting attorneys without circuit court approval under legislation signed by Governor Rick Snyder.

2012 PA 73 eliminates an almost century-old requirement that a prosecutor must first obtain the circuit court judge’s consent before appointing assistants.

Snyder also signed related legislation, 2012 PA 72, which eliminates the judicial consent requirement when a prosecutor obtains assistance for a felony trial, or appoints an assistant to perform the prosecutor’s duties “during a period of disability.”

State Sen. Darwin Booher (R-Evart) sponsored the two-bill package, which sailed through both houses of the Legislature on unanimous votes.

Hoopes named chief of Muskegon district court

The Michigan Supreme Court has appointed Judge Maria Ladas Hoopes as chief judge of the 60th District Court (Muskegon).

The appointment is effective immediately and expires on Dec. 31, 2013.

She replaces Judge Harold Closz, who earlier this year named her chief judge pro tem and tendered his resignation as chief judge to the MSC.

Hoopes is a 1992 graduate of the University of Iowa School of Law and was appointed to the 60th District Court bench in 2006.

MSC denies rehearing in Justin judicial discipline case

It’s the end of the line for former 12th District Court Judge James Justin.

The Michigan Supreme Court yesterday denied Justin’s petition to rehear the court’s January decision to remove him from office for judicial misconduct.

The former Jackson jurist was accused of fixing his own parking tickets, and speeding tickets of his wife and staff without a hearing. (There was a lot more; see MSC: Justin not credible, removed in our Feb. 3, 2012, issue.)

Along with yesterday’s rehearing denial, the MSC ordered Justin to pay $7,657.86 in costs to the Judicial Tenure Commission, which had recommended Justin’s removal from office last fall.

The MSC’s order clears the way for Gov. Rick Snyder to appoint Justin’s replacement.

Michigan Lawyers Weekly names its 2012 Lawyer of the Year

Michigan Lawyers Weekly named Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. as its Lawyer of the Year today.

MiLW recognized Young at its annual Leaders in the Law awards luncheon for his banner year as Chief of the state’s highest court, and his leadership in the efforts to streamline the state judiciary. Young has been one of the major driving forces behind the implementation of the State Court Administrator Office’s Judicial Resources Recommendation report. The report called for a significant reduction of the state bench.

Before this year, the state had shed just one judgeship in the last 10 years. But Young was able to build consensus in the bench and bar, which was necessary for the legislature to pass a series of bills that eliminates a total of 36 trial judgeships and four Michigan Court of Appeals seats over the next 10 years.

Watch for coverage of Leaders in the Law and our Lawyer of the Year in the March 19 and 26 editions of Michigan Lawyers Weekly.

Ciungan named chief judge of downriver district court

Judge Michael Ciungan will be the chief judge of the 25th District Court (Lincoln Park) and 26th District Court (Ecorse and River Rouge) through March 31, 2012, under an order issued yesterday by the Michigan Supreme Court.

And beginning April 1, 2012, he’ll preside as chief judge of the 25th District Court through December 31, 2013.

Why the two-week dual appointment? At the end of the month, the 26th District Court will close its doors.

It’s all part of a court consolidation plan, 2011 PA 300, signed into law late last year by Gov. Rick Snyder.

Ciungan currently serves as the only judge of the 26th District. As of April 1, the 26th District will be consolidated with the 25th District. Ciungan’s colleagues on the the newly consolidated 25th District Court will be the current 25th District judges, David Bajorek and David Zelenak.

Ciungan, 60, has served as a district court judge for 26 years.