State panel: Stop paying Livingston County judge Brennan

Livingston County Judge Theresa Brennan.

The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to suspend the pay of a Livingston County judge charged with judicial misconduct.

The panel made the request Tuesday against Judge Theresa Brennan, who is facing state ethics proceedings in connection with allegations that she had a close relationship with a Michigan State police investigator who was a key witness in a murder case the judge presided over.

Last month, Brennan, who sat on the bench of Livingston County's 53rd District Court, was charged with perjury and tampering with evidence by the Michigan Attorney General's Office. Brennan, whose salary is $143,844 per year, has been barred from hearing cases since June.

 Brennan is accused of having information deleted from her iPhone after her husband filed for divorce in December 2016, and then lying about it during depositions in the case in  2017.

Brennan's phone was seized by Michigan State Police during an investigation of misconduct and perjury in April 2017, according to an affidavit by MSP Sgt. Brian Reece, who conducted the investigation of the judge's phone. The device was taken to the Computer Crimes Unit in Livonia, where an investigator found it had been "reset to factory settings," meaning data had been erased, Reece wrote.

"...There is probable cause to believe that Theresa Brennan committed perjury during her divorce deposition, destroyed or tampered with evidence in a pending or future case before the Livingston County Circuit Court, and used her judicial office to enable her to destroy evidence without the court signing (an) ex parte protection order or reassigning the case to another judge," the affidavit read.

In its 30-page request filed Tuesday with the Michigan Supreme Court, the commission wrote: "Based on the new evidence, including respondent’s admissions during her sworn testimony in the hearing on FC 99 to facts that prove respondent lied under oath during her divorce deposition and tampered with relevant evidence in her divorce case, on November 21, 2018, the Examiner filed a motion and brief with the Commission requesting the Commission petition this honorable Court to suspend respondent without pay."

Glen Page, the deputy director of the Judicial Tenure Commission, wrote that Brennan's pay would be placed in escrow pending the outcome of the judicial misconduct proceedings against her.

A public hearing before the nine-member Judicial Tenure Commission is scheduled for March 4.

Last month, the fact finder for the commission's complaint against Brennan wrote in a 22-page opinion that he believed Brennan had committed judicial misconduct when she failed to disclose her personal relationship with MSP Detective Sean Furlong when she presided over the 2013 murder trial of Jerome Kowalski, who was convicted.

Retired Wayne County Judge William Giovan, who was the master in the commission case, also found that Brennan exhibited "persistent" abuse of attorneys, litigants, witnesses and her employees.

The judge, ruled Giovan, also failed to disclose other close relationships with parties who came before her for proceedings.

Kowalski's family has contended he did not get a fair trial before Brennan. Kowalski's convictions in the 2008 slayings of his brother and sister-in-law were vacated last week.

(313) 222-2027