Judge Cooper vs Judge MacKenzie
|Novi Judge Brian McKenzie|
I'm aging myself by belonging to a group of 50-something lawyers that can recall when Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper was a circuit court judge, then a Court of Appeals judge. Now she is, of course, the Oakland County Prosecutor. Impressive career trajectory.
And as the prosecutor, Judge Cooper's career is now intersecting with another local judicial luminary, Novi District Judge Brian MacKenzie. Their career collision comes through a complaint the prosecutor filed -in the form of a petition for a Writ of Superintending Control- with the Oakland County Circuit Court, now assigned to Judge Leo Bowman.
The Writ alleges illegal conduct against the Novi judge. Judge MacKenzie has struck back hard with a responsive pleading that, on first blush, sure calls into question the propriety of the prosecutor's Writ.
Channel 7 Action News was one of the first news outlets to break the story about the details of Cooper's allegations. Judge Cooper alleges that over the past decade, Judge MacKenzie handed down sentences that did not comport with the law; that he dismissed cases after guilty pleas were tendered and accepted by the Court; that he dismissed cases stating it was with the consent of the prosecutor when there was no such prosecutorial consent; and perhaps most disturbingly, that he removed these cases from the public files of the Novi District Court.
Judge McKenzie is one of those judges that polarizes public opinion. Truly, he is an iconic figure in our local judiciary. Some folks love him; others not so much.
Several of the defendants that have been sentenced by MacKenzie applaud the justice they received in his courtroom; Channel 7 had a few willing to go on camera to defend the judge. You do not have to look very far around Novi, Milford and Highland to encounter people who respect Judge MacKenzie's brand of justice.
On the other hand, now-retired Oakland Circuit Judge Steven N. Andrews admonished Judge MacKenzie on an appeal from the Novi District Court to the Oakland Circuit Court way back in 2004. In reversing McKenzie's judgment of sentence, Judge Andrews, in a tersely-worded opinion called-out the district judge for meting-out sentences that did not comport with the law; Judge Andrews characterized MacKenzie's sentences as an illegal "pattern of conduct."
We here at the Law Blogger have always known Judge MacKenzie to be devoted to the Sobriety Court he established and nurtured in the Novi District Court and to the concept of required sobriety for alcohol-convicted probationers in general. He is also known as a friend of veterans, recently starting a veterans' court in Novi.
There used to be websites devoted to a favorable portrayal of McKenzie and there are websites devoted to the disparagement of the good judge; now all deeply buried in Google's search results by this breaking story.
Some lawyers, vocal but who must remain nameless, view the manner in which Judge MacKenzie conducts a criminal call to be akin to "Kabuki Theater": heavy on drama, light on substance. Others see him as a champion of justice that has a positive effect on the lives of the people that appear in his courtroom.
We now shall wait and see how the Oakland County Circuit Court Judge eventually assigned to the case assesses the allegations set forth in Judge Cooper's Writ. Stay tuned for updates on this one.