Judicial officers could preside by video under MSC proposal

The Wizard of Oz

We’re fairly certain it won’t look like this.

Judicial officers could hold court via video conferencing equipment under a proposed Michigan Supreme Court administrative order.

The proposal would allow judicial officers, under certain circumstances, to preside from a remote location without the parties’ consent.

Remote participation by judicial officers shall be limited to the following specific situations:

1) judicial assignments;

2) circuits and districts that are comprised of more than one county and would require a judicial officer to travel to a different courthouse within the circuit or district;

3) district court districts that have multiple court locations in which a judicial officer would have to travel to a different courthouse within the district;

4) a multiple district plan in which a district court magistrate would have to travel to a different district.

The judicial officer who presides remotely must be physically present in a courthouse located within his or her judicial circuit, district, or multiple district area.

Under the proposed administrative order, multicounty circuit and district courts seeking permission to have judicial officers preside via video equipment must submit a proposed local court rule for the State Court Administrator’s approval. The State Court Administrative Office will monitor video equipment use and let the MSC know how things are working out.

The MSC is seeking comments about the proposal through Nov. 1. Refer to the proposal for more information about submitting comments.

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Isn’t it romantic?

Today the House Judiciary Committee will take up a package of bills that would allow district court magistrates and judges, and probate judges to solemnize marriages anywhere in the state.

Senate bills 698-700 have passed in the Senate. They would allow judges to perform marriages anywhere in the state without having to get a temporary assignment from the State Court Administrative Office; it would also require a $10 fee for performing the ceremony to be paid to the court.

Just in time for wedding season, the committee will discuss the bills this morning at 10:30.

Mary Beth Kelly criticized as her appointment set to expire

From the Metro Times, several Wayne County judges and departments are apparently displeased with the leadership of Chief Circuit Judge Mary Beth Kelly, whose appointment as Chief Judge expires at the year’s end.

Critics of Kelly — who came to the bench as an appointee of Republican Gov. John Engler in 1999 — sometimes characterize her policies as part of an effort by outstate conservatives to control leaders in the more liberal Detroit. They say some of her actions reflect the region’s longtime inability to come to terms with racial issues. She’s not making the correct, albeit difficult, decisions about how to effectively manage governmental operations with limited dollars, they say. And she should be stopped.

"I say Mary Beth Kelly has got to go," Detroit City Councilwoman Brenda Jones told one gathering held to "learn about the injustices taking place in our court system."

Defenders in the story call her fair-minded and say that her biggest problem is that she “came to power in an unusual way.

Roseville judge suspended without pay, censured by MSC for drunken driving

The Michigan Supreme Court has ordered a 90-day suspension without pay and has publicly censured Roseville District Court Judge Catherine Bove Steenland.

Steenland was arrested last spring in Ogemaw County for driving after drinking way too many beers.

According to a report in the Bay City Times, Steenland was on a trail that winds around a lake when she backed into a ditch. Her efforts to get the car out prompted witnesses to call 911.

Steenland had a blood alcohol level of .23 after her arrest. She pleaded guilty to operating a motor vehicle while visibly impaired.

The Judicial Tenure Commission conducted discipline proceedings and recommended a 90-day suspension without pay, and public censure. The Michigan Supreme Court accepted the JTC’s recommendation in an order released yesterday afternoon.

The suspension is effective Dec.18.

In announcing its discipline of Steenland, the MSC observed:

The respondent has pled guilty to the commission of a misdemeanor designed to promote public safety. The commission of a crime by a judge erodes public confidence in the judiciary, which is prejudicial to the administration of justice.