Cooper (Max Ortiz)
Pontiac — The ongoing legal battle between Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper and a Novi district judge escalated Wednesday when the court’s chief judge accused Cooper of not having her facts straight and being mean-spirited in her handling of the matter.
At issue is whether Novi 52-1 District Judge Brian MacKenzie dismissed certain cases or took them under advisement without having a prosecutor present in the courtroom. Prosecutors routinely appear in courtrooms on state law days, when more serious cases are heard.
Cooper alleges MacKenzie has dismissed some cases or taken them under advisement on days prosecutors aren’t assigned to his courtroom.
Cooper filed an Oakland Circuit Court complaint in November seeking superintending control over MacKenzie for allegedly mishandling his docket. Cooper cited nine cases since 2003 she says were given questionable treatment and believes there may be others that have been shielded because MacKenzie has closed the files.
MacKenzie has countered Cooper’s office has always been given advance notice of hearings in his court, including in the cases in question. He said he exercised his judicial discretion at sentencings and noted his decisions, by law, can always be appealed. He wants Cooper’s request to be dismissed.
In answering Cooper’s complaint, MacKenzie included a letter from Rochester Hills 52-3 District Judge Julie Nicholson to Cooper as proof and support that he is operating within the law.
In her letter, Nicholson — who is the chief judge over four district courts including Novi — took Cooper to task for allegedly playing loose with facts concerning issues and operation of the courts under Nicholson’s supervision. Nicholson was responding to a letter she had received from Cooper in which the prosecutor described MacKenzie as an “out of control” judge.
“Perhaps you should have checked your facts before penning your four-page letter, which is laden with sarcasm, vitriolic accusations, inaccurate information and threats,” Nicholson’s letter says in part. “While I am cognizant that you have an issue with Judge MacKenzie, you have a forum to deal with this issue.”
Circuit Judge Colleen O’Brien will hold a hearing Feb. 26 to hear arguments that MacKenzie — a veteran jurist better known for his award-winning sobriety and veteran’s treatment programs — has been allegedly illegally sentencing people facing drunken driving and repeat domestic violence offenses without providing notice to the prosecutor’s office.
MacKenzie has denied any inappropriate behavior and indicated advance notice has always been provided to Cooper’s office. His attorney, John J. Lynch, has responded in filings that due to the court’s caseload, it is not always possible to assign cases on state law days. MacKenzie oversees about 17,000 cases a year, Lynch wrote, or 150,000 since 2003 when the nine questionable cases occurred. Lynch said nine of 150,000 cases do not reflect a general policy requiring superintending control.