Erhart appointed to 90th District Court

Harbor Springs attorney James Erhart has been appointed to the 90th District Court covering Emmet and Charlevoix counties.

The appointment fills the vacancy created when Judge Richard May resigned.

Erhart’s appointment is through Jan. 1, 2015. He must seek election in November 2014 to serve a full six-year term.

Erhart, admitted to the State Bar of Michigan in 1979, has practiced law in the Petoskey area for many years. He was a partner and shareholder with the Stroup, Erhart & Lyons law firm.

A former adjunct professor in the paralegal program at North Central Michigan College from 2000-2009, Erhart is a state bar commissioner and and chairs the bar’s Upper Michigan Legal Institute.

Erhart received his J.D. from the Detroit College of Law.

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 appoints chief judge, issues rule changes and proposals

In recent orders released by the Michigan Supreme Court, the Court:

The Court amended MCR 6.001 and adopted new MCR 6.202. According to the staff comment accompanying the order, “The revision of MCR 6.001 provides a cross reference to MCR 6.202, a new rule adopted in this order. MCR 6.202 incorporates a ‘notice and demand’ procedure into the Michigan Court Rules with regard to forensic reports. Under the rule, a party could seek to admit a forensic report as evidence if notice requirements are met and no objection is filed. If a party objects to admission of the report, the analyst would be required to testify. The staff comment is not an authoritative construction by the Court.”

The Court approved LCR 3.204 of the Wayne County Circuit Court. According to the staff comment accompanying the order, “These local court rule provisions of the 3rd Circuit Court have been adopted in an effort to better process cases filed with a case-type suffix of ‘DC.’ Subrule (A) requires the use of uniform Child Custody Cover Sheets when an action is filed in a child custody dispute. Subrule (B) requires the use of the most recent local Court Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act forms or the equivalent most recent State Court Administrative Office forms in an action seeking registration, enforcement, or modification of another state’s or a foreign country’s child custody determination. The staff comment is not an authoritative construction by the Court.”

The Court proposed amendments to three Michigan Court Rules.

  • A proposed amendment of MCR 3.616, according to the staff comment, “would provide that the files of a young adult foster care youth are confidential, but may be accessed by the youth and by DHS. The proposal further would eliminate the requirement that the petition and order be served on the previous court in which the youth’s child protection case was disposed because the case is no longer active. This order also corrects numbering of subsection (F)(2)(i)-(iv) so that the subsections are labeled with letters (a)-(c). The staff comment is not an authoritative construction by the Court.”
  • A proposed amendment of MCR 3.925 “would clarify rules and procedures for retention and destruction of various records in juvenile cases,” according to the non-authoritative staff comment.
  • The proposed amendment of MCR 3.976, according the staff comment, “would require a court to indicate on the record the reason that no petition for termination of parental rights need be filed, thus providing a record to future auditors who review the state’s foster care program that the court explicitly chose the option. The staff comment is not an authoritative construction by the Court.”

The Court also extended the public comment period for proposed MCR 1.111 and MCR 8.127. Interested parties have until Nov. 1 to comment on two separate proposed rules that would create a certification and discipline program for court interpreters.

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.

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.

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.

Snyder appoints three to 36th District Court

Michael Wagner, Shannon Holmes and Prentis Edwards Jr. have been appointed to the 36th District Court in Detroit.

“I am very impressed by the legal skills, extensive experience and community involvement demonstrated by Michael Wagner, Shannon Holmes and Prentis Edwards Jr.,” said Gov. Rick Snyder in a prepared statement. “All three are highly successful attorneys and I am confident all three will make excellent judges.”

The appointments fill open seats created by the death of Judge George Chatman and the resignations of Judges Nancy Farmer and Noceeba Southern.

Wagner and Edwards Jr. were previously employed by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. Holmes has worked as chief of staff for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

All three must run for election in 2012 to retain their seats.