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.

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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

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.

‘The show is just beginning’: JTC case against Hudsonville judge moves forward

A special master has been appointed in the Judicial Tenure Commission’s case against 58th District Court Judge Kenneth Post in Hudsonville, who jailed an attorney for contempt after he repeatedly invoked his client’s Fifth Amendment privilege.

According to the JTC’s formal complaint against Post, attorney Scott Millard was representing Ethan Whale at an arraignment before Post. During the arraignment, Post asked Whale whether he would be “clean or dirty” if given a drug test. Millard told Post that Whale would stand mute to Post’s question.

Post insisted that Whale answer the question. After a recess, Post asked Whale directly if it was true that he didn’t want to reveal the last time he had used drugs. Millard interjected and said that was so.

Post told Millard that he was talking to Whale, not Millard. After another recess, during which Whale was tested and came up positive, Post continued to question Whale directly about the last time he used drugs. Millard twice attempted to assert Whale’s Fifth Amendment privilege on behalf of Whale. Post cut him off each time and warned him that a contempt citation was on the way.

Post told Millard that he needed Whale’s answer to determine “what the bond level is going to be.”

Post persisted in his questioning of Whale. Millard persisted in attempting to assert Whale’s rights.

Post fined Millard $100 for contempt of court. Millard again asserted Whale’s Fifth Amendment privilege. Post ordered Millard jailed for contempt.

While Millard was in custody and on his way to the county jail, according to the JTC’s complaint, Post summoned him back to court.

Just before Millard appeared in court, the court’s recording system captured these remarks between Post, who was laughing, and an unidentified speaker:

THE COURT: Good thinking. The show is just beginning. You won’t get better tickets anyplace. I’d sit up close if I were you.

UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Okay.

THE COURT: The front row is good.

Post told Millard, who appeared before him in handcuffs, that he would be released if he agreed to return to court with Whale and allow Whale to answer Post’s question. After some discussion Post again remanded Millard to jail.

After an hour in jail, Millard was transported to the Ottawa County Circuit Court, in handcuffs and leg shackles, both attached to a belly chain. Circuit Judge Leo Post (no relation to Kenneth Post) ordered Millard released.

The JTC’s complaint charged that Judge Kenneth Post failed to follow the law, displayed an improper demeanor toward counsel and trivialized a court proceeding.

Post responded to the complaint with a 30-page answer. In the “Conclusion” section of the answer, Post wrote:

Judge Post admits that he made a mistake of law in not realizing that Attorney Millard’s instruction to his client not to respond in light of his client’s 5th Amendment rights was colorable and therefore that the holding of Attorney Millard in contempt was an abuse of his discretion. However, an error of law does not subject a judge to a violation of the Judicial Canons or to a violation anticipated by MCR 9.104(1) 9.205 (sic) or the Michigan Constitution or (sic) 1963 as amended in Article 6 Section 30.

Judge Post admits that his remarks, as directed to Attorney Millard were sarcastic and possibly demeaning, and therefore constituted a “failure to be patient, dignified, and courteous to lawyers with whom the judge deals in an official capacity,” contrary to the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 3A (3), and that his conduct may have “eroded public confidence in the judiciary and that he failed to avoid all impropriety,” contrary to the Code of Judicial Conduct, Canon 2A.

No word yet on a hearing date. Stay tuned.

MSC removes Inkster District Court judge from office

The Michigan Supreme Court has removed Inkster District Court Judge Sylvia James from office for judicial misconduct.

In the MSC’s opinion, authored by Justice Marilyn Kelly, the Court stated that the evidence established:

that respondent misappropriated public funds, some of which were intended for victims of crime in the city of Inkster. She inappropriately spent much of this money on self-promoting advertisements and travel expenses for herself and various other court employees. She treated these funds, as the master phrased it, as her own “publicly funded private foundation.” In addition, she (1) denied people access to the court by instituting and enforcing an improper business-attire policy, (2) employed a family member in violation of court policy, and (3) made numerous misrepresentations of fact under oath during the investigation and hearing of this matter.

The cumulative effect of respondent’s misconduct, coupled with its duration, nature, and pervasiveness, convinces this Court that she is unfit for judicial office. Although some of her misconduct, considered in isolation, does not justify such a severe sanction, taken as a whole her misconduct rises to a level that requires her removal from office.

Four of the Court’s justices, Chief Justice Robert Young, Stephen Markman, Mary Beth Kelly and Brian Zahra, signed Kelly’s lead opinion.

Justices Michael Cavanagh and Diane Hathaway concurred “in the majority’s result of removal from office and its decision to direct the Judicial Tenure Commission to submit an itemized bill of costs pursuant to MCR 9.205(B).”

In a separate opinion, Markman, joined by Young, concurred in removing James from office but said they would have gone even further.

Although the majority’s ordering removal from office addresses the immediate harm caused by Judge James, it is an inadequate response and fails to address the likelihood of continuing harm. As a result of the majority’s decision, Judge James will be removed from office from today’s date until the expiration of her present term at the end of 2012. She has her name on the August primary ballot, however. If she is successful in the primary, her name will be placed on the ballot for the general election in November. And should she prevail in those elections, she will be allowed to resume her judgeship on January 1, 2013. …

This Court has a duty to redress the harms done by Judge James’ harm, and that duty is not vitiated if Judge James is reelected. Nor is that duty limited to past harm; rather, it also extends to guarding against future harm. Imposing a six-year conditional suspension, which would be in effect throughout the next judicial term, is the only way this Court can adequately protect judicial integrity and redress the substantial harm caused by Judge James’s refusal to be bound by the same laws she is charged with applying.