Brighton lawmaker wants to impeach Livingston Co. judge

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Livingston County District Court Judge Theresa Brennan

A Brighton lawmaker wants to impeach a Livingston County district judge who has been at the center of a storm of investigations, complaints and lawsuits in recent months.

Republican state Rep. Lana Theis said Friday that she has begun the process to impeach 53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan, who has been the subject of complaints from lawyers, their clients, court employees, and the Judicial Tenure Commission.

Among the charges listed by the Judicial Tenure Commission in its complaint were perjury, deceit, impropriety, prejudice, irresponsible behavior and misuse of office.

Though the commission’s complaints against Brennan are pending and her caseload was removed in June, she continues to receive a salary, Theis said.

“This is a real problem in Livingston County,” Theis said. “This judge is not an impartial judge. This judge has flaunted the law she is supposed to enforce.”

Theis hopes to complete the impeachment resolution over the next few weeks and introduce it once the House comes back into session Sept. 5.

Should the resolution pass the House by a simple majority, three House members would be chosen to prosecute the impeachment trial before the state Senate, Theis said.

The trial would start in December, as soon as the House is adjourned.

“The Senate has the authority to remove her from the seat she’s in through the impeachment process,” Theis said.

Should Brennan resign or the Judicial Tenure Commission rule before the impeachment is complete, the resolution would no longer be necessary, Theis said.

Given the options, Theis said she would prefer a removal by the Judicial Tenure Commission so as to respect the separation of powers but felt she could no longer wait on the commission’s determination.

“It’s already been 18 months since it came to light that this judge was sleeping with the police officer in a murder case,” she said.

The furor surrounding Brennan started in 2017, when deposition transcripts from divorce proceedings between Brennan and her ex-husband revealed she had an affair with Michigan State Police Detective Sean Furlong during a murder trial in which he was a witness and she the judge.

Brennan and Furlong have insisted the affair started after the trial of Jerome Walter Kowalski, who was convicted in the 2008 murders of his brother and sister-in-law.

In June, the Judicial Tenure Commission filed a formal complaint against Brennan for failing to disclose the relations with Furlong, with whom Brennan allegedly exchanged numerous private telephone calls and texts while the trial was pending.

The commission also accused Brennan of failing to disclose a friendship with a local attorney who was before her for litigation and a friendship with a court administrator and former chief court probation officer whose divorce she presided over. The complaint alleges Brennan failed to be "patient, dignified and courteous" to lawyers who came before her in an official capacity.

The commission also alleged Brennan used employees for personal tasks and to work on her re-election campaign in 2014,  then lied to investigators about it.

In June, the Michigan Supreme Court appointed a retired Wayne County Circuit Court judge, Judge William J. Giovan, to serve as a fact-finder in the commission's disciplinary proceedings against Brennan.

The Michigan State Police is investigating the judge and Attorney General Bill Schuette has said he will review the police report once the investigation is complete.

In February, a court administrator filed a federal lawsuit against Brennan, saying she was retaliated against after testifying in the judge’s divorce proceeding.

And, last week, Livingston County filed a lawsuit against Brennan for her use of employees to complete personal tasks for her benefit, the Livingston Daily reported.

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