Oakland prosecutor’s contempt of court bid against judge dismissed
Pontiac – — A prosecutor’s effort to have Novi 52-1 District Judge Brian MacKenzie found in contempt of court was dismissed Thursday by an Oakland Circuit judge.
Judge Colleen O’Brien found that despite allegations from Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper that MacKenzie violated O’Brien’s order to disclose all domestic violence-related cases that went through his court, there was no evidence of a “willful disregard or disobedience.” .
A person found in contempt of court can face sanctions including fines and jail.
“I’m delighted by the opinion,” MacKenzie said Thursday night. “It finds I did not take 33 cases under advisement in violation of a court order ... it found that allegation was just not true.”
O’Brien’s opinion effectively dismisses a pending complaint against MacKenzie, a 26-year jurist up for re-election in November. MacKenzie’s attorneys have described the allegations as an effort to hurt his campaign.
The legal battle began on Nov. 26, 2013, when Cooper filed a complaint seeking superintending control of MacKenzie by Oakland Circuit Court because of allegations he had improperly handled 22 cases without an assistant prosecutor present in court to argue against dismissals or decisions that did not result in jail time.
MacKenzie argued that he acted within his discretion, had always provided prior notice and that the prosecutor’s office had elected to assign an assistant to his court only on specific days.
MacKenzie, better known for his veteran’s court and award-winning sobriety program, often prefers to take cases under advisement and place defendants in counseling rather than sentence them to jail.
O’Brien initially agreed MacKenzie’s actions were improper, ordered him to correct the procedure and to provide a list of all similar cases ongoing or handled over a 10-year period.
Cooper’s office later alleged 33 additional cases should have been disclosed. MacKenzie said after a computer search of 150,000 cases that only two of the 33 were somehow overlooked and went unreported. MacKenzie said a review found the rest cited by Cooper were handled under different or appropriate laws and some by different judges.
In dismissing the contempt request, O’Brien said she shared some of the prosecutor’s concerns including the reporting of some cases. She said while it did not rise to a level of contempt, she was “appreciative” that matters had also been sent on to the State Court Administrative Office.
The SCAO’s chief duty is to help state trial courts operative effectively. It cannot remove a judge from office or change a judge’s decision and does not conduct criminal investigations. It develops statewide policies for courts, including case reporting requirements and time guidelines for deciding cases.