Oakland County District Judge Brian MacKenzie (Detroit News file photo)
Pontiac — Novi District Judge Brian MacKenzie, under fire from the Oakland County prosecutor for allegedly dismissing dozens of cases without a prosecutor present, said in court pleadings that the claims are false and some of the cases in question were handled by other judges.
Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper has asked Oakland County Circuit Judge Colleen O’Brien to find MacKenzie in contempt of court for placing defendants on probation or delaying sentences without input from her office.
MacKenzie’s attorneys, John Lynch and David Timmis, filed a 12-page response seeking dismissal of the prosecutor’s claims, alleging they are riddled with errors.
A contempt-of-court finding could result in sanctions, fines or jail time for MacKenzie, a veteran jurist who’s running for re-election. He alleges the allegations are politically motivated.
“The prosecutor’s motion to show cause is factually inaccurate and misleading,” MacKenzie’s response said. “Moreover, the prosecutor is and has been aware of the fact that the affidavit is inaccurate and has made no effort to correct the misleading factual assertions.”
In February, O’Brien ruled that MacKenzie had violated the law by placing defendants on probation or delaying jail sentences without notifying the prosecutor. She ordered him to stop the practice and provide the prosecutor with a list of cases handled in that manner.
MacKenzie argued Cooper’s office was always told of sentencing dates but chose not to attend.
While judges have discretion in sentencing, including suspending or delaying jail time, O’Brien ruled in February that input in such decisions by Cooper’s office was necessary. She also ordered MacKenzie to stop the practice and to turn over a list of all related cases to Cooper.
MacKenzie and court employees say they did an “extensive review” of 10 years’ worth of files and provided Cooper with a list of 78 cases.
A month before reviewing the list, Cooper’s office filed the contempt request with O’Brien, explaining it had discovered an additional 33 cases violating O’Brien’s order.
The judge’s attorneys acknowledged that two cases subject to O’Brien’s order “were inadvertently not identified, despite a computer-assisted search of 150,000 cases.”
“Of the remaining 31 cases on the list, five were not even on Judge MacKenzie’s docket and Judge MacKenzie never handled any proceedings relating to these criminal defendants,” MacKenzie’s attorneys wrote. “Of the remaining 26 cases, none of them were dismissed in whole or in part.”