What's Up At the 52/1st District Court in Novi?
|Novi District Judge Dennis Powers|
To maintain a well-oiled docket, either at the district court or the circuit court level, is a monumental task that requires legal knowledge, wisdom and perhaps most importantly, management skills. As either a circuit or district court judge, you are elected from the very community in which you pronounce judgment, day-in-day-out.
Judges, even more so than our public servants in the other branches of government, must have impeccable integrity. When a judge breaches the public's trust, it erodes the fabric of our justice system; when that breach is due to dishonesty, the damage is accelerated.
Two veteran jurists in Novi have been in the news over the past year for this type of mission-critical breakdown. They have left their communities wondering about the brand of justice that is served at the 52/1st District Court.
Last week, the Judicial Tenure Commission filed a 58-page complaint against district judge Dennis Powers, alleging among other things that Judge Powers requested reimbursements to which he was not entitled, was frequently late to court, granted favors to his "friends", as famously detailed in a Fox News' expose, and threatened to terminate the whistle-blower on his staff after the local media reported on the story.
For his part, Judge Brian MacKenzie, in the adjacent chambers at the 52/1st, is also under scrutiny; his docket is being reviewed by a higher court; and a tape recording made in Judge MacKenzie's chambers about a questionable conversation the judge directed involving an exchange of dismissals, civil for criminal, is under review by the FBI. We shall see where all that goes...
Our blog has already detailed some of the shenanigans sponsored by Judge Brian MacKenzie in an earlier Law Blogger post. Since then, Oakland Circuit Judge Colleen O'Brien did find that Judge MacKenzie acted contrary to the law in at least 8 cases, and ordered part of his docket [in domestic violence cases] to be subject to her review.
Then there is the 2014 election where the allegations against Judge MacKenzie will be tested on the non-partisan ballot, first in the August primary, then in the general election if MacKenzie survives the primary; he is being challenged by two local attorneys- his former law clerk Travis Reeds, and Scott Powers, Judge Dennis Powers' son.
With the formal JTC complaint now filed against him, it is uncertain whether Judge Powers will even make it through the two years remaining on his term. That would open-up a seat on this radioactive bench for Governor Rick Snyder to fill through a local judicial appointment.
In order to restore faith in our local judiciary, Governor Snyder needs to get that appointment right, should he have the opportunity. Stay tuned and we will keep you posted of all significant developments happening out in Novi.
In the meantime, if you've had an interesting experience in a district court, we would like to hear from you.