Michigan Supreme Court removes Livingston Judge Theresa Brennan from office

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Brighton — Livingston County Judge Theresa Brennan, who faces criminal charges and allegations of ethics violations, was removed from office Friday by the Michigan Supreme Court.

Livingston County District Court Judge Theresa Brennan

The court issued its unanimous decision just nine days after justices heard arguments. The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission had recommended her removal.

The justices sided with Judicial Tenure Commission findings that Brennan failed to disclose relationships with a state police detective and an attorney who appeared before her; tampered with evidence in her divorce case; lied under oath; "was persistently impatient, undignified, and discourteous"; and ordered employees to perform personal tasks during work hours.

"The cumulative effect of respondent’s misconduct convinces this Court that

respondent should not remain in judicial office," the ruling said. "Therefore, we remove respondent from office and conditionally suspend her without pay for a period of six years, with the suspension becoming effective only if respondent regains judicial office during that period."

Dennis Kolenda, an attorney representing Brennan, did not immediately respond to a phone call seeking comment Friday.

Earlier this year, after a lengthy investigation and hearing process, the Judicial Tenure Commission said Brennan should be removed from the bench and pay roughly $35,570 in costs and expenses for making misleading statements to the commission.

Brennan filed a petition to reject the commission's decision. The Michigan Supreme Court, which in February suspended the judge but ruled she would continue to receive a $143,844 annual salary and benefits, agreed to hear arguments for and against her removal.

During the hearing last week, Kolenda disputed many of the allegations against Brennan, arguing there wasn't enough proof to support them.

Brennan, who was appointed to the 53rd District Court in 2005, had been accused of having a close relationship with former Michigan State Police investigator Sean Furlong, who was a key witness in the 2013 murder trial of Jerome Kowalski. 

Prosecutors have planned to retry Kowalski, whose convictions were vacated because of the scandal.

Kolenda has said Brennan did not have a romantic relationship with Furlong until after the trial.

In court filings, he also rejected claims the judge deleted information from an iPhone after her husband filed for divorce and then lied about it during depositions in the case.

Kolenda said her husband’s business provided service for the phone and he wanted it back, so Brennan chose another from AT&T, whose employee transferred the device data to the new one.

The attorney has also said the judge's staff volunteered or agreed to perform tasks for her but it did not interfere with their duties.

In December, then-Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office charged Brennan with perjury, destroying evidence and misconduct in office.

On Wednesday, Genesee County District Judge David Guinn ordered Brennan to stand trial on the charges after a multi-day preliminary examination in which several witnesses testified, Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office said. The charges carry up to 15 years in prison.

Associated Press contributed.