High court won't suspend Livingston County judge's pay

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Judge Theresa Brennan leaves 53d District Court in Howell Tuesday after being arraigned on charges of perjury and tampering with evidence,  via video with Judge David Guinn in 67th District Court in Flint.

Livingston County Judge Theresa Brennan will continue to receive pay and benefits without hearing any cases, despite calls to suspend her pay.

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled Friday that a petition to suspend the judge’s salary would not be considered because it came from the deputy executive director for the Judicial Tenure Commission and not the commission itself.

The petition came in mid-January in the midst of state ethics proceedings in connection with the allegations that the Livingston County district court judge had a close relationship with a Michigan State Police investigator who was a key witness in a murder case over which the judge presided.

In December, the commission’s fact finder issued a 22-page opinion alleging that Brennan had committed judicial misconduct when she failed to disclose her relationship with State Police Detective Sean Furlong during the 2013 murder trial of Jerome Kowalski.

Brennan, who was charged with perjury and tampering with evidence by the Attorney General’s office, has been barred from hearing cases since June. She continues to receive $143,844 annually.

Glenn Page, the deputy director for the Judicial Tenure Commission, submitted a 30-page request Jan. 15 to the Michigan Supreme Court suggesting that Brennan’s pay could be placed in escrow pending the outcome of the judicial misconduct proceedings.

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

In the Jan. 15 request, Page said Brennan’s own admission “to facts that prove respondent lied under oath during her divorce deposition and tampered with relevant evidence in her divorce case” prompted the commission's fact finder to file a motion with the commission to request Brennan’s pay be suspended.

The Supreme Court denied Page’s motion, noting that the court did not have the authority to act without an invocation or petition from the commission.

“The petition before the court was not filed on behalf of the commission,” the court noted in its order Friday, but by the deputy executive director.

In a Jan. 18 response to the petition, Brennan’s lawyers countered the allegations that gave rise to the demand for the immediate suspension of her pay.

“As the judiciary’s 600-pound gorilla,” the court could act quickly to suspend Brennan’s pay, her lawyer, Dennis Kolenda wrote, but he reminded the court that Brennan is “entitled to thorough, not rushed and precipitous” review of the evidence in the case.

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 and failed to disclose other relationships with parties over whose cases she presided.

Kowalski's convictions in the 2008 slayings of his brother and sister-in-law were vacated in early January.


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