Michigan High Court Removes Embattled Judge From Bench

LANSING, Mich. (CN) – The Michigan Supreme Court on Friday permanently removed a suspended Livingston County judge from the bench for a litany of ethics violations and pending criminal charges.

The state’s high court unanimously agreed that Judge Theresa Brennan was unfit for office. In an opinion published late Friday afternoon, the court agreed with the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission’s findings.

“The cumulative effect of respondent’s misconduct convinces this court that respondent should not remain in judicial office,” the unsigned ruling states.

Brennan, who was already suspended, had appealed the decision to the high court, arguing the commission members should have disqualified themselves, but the justices found that argument to be “without merit.”

Brennan was found to have not disclosed a romantic relationship with a key witness in a murder trial she presided over and did not immediately recuse herself from her own divorce case.

She defied an ex-parte motion to preserve evidence for the divorce trial and made false statements under oath when deposed about it. Last December, she was charged with perjury, tampering with evidence and misconduct in office.

In the first-degree murder trial, Brennan failed to disqualify herself based on her relationship with police detective Sean Furlong and told a court reporter she believed the accused was guilty based on conversations she had with Furlong.

Jerome Kowalski was convicted of killing his sister-in-law and brother in Oceola Township in 2013. His conviction was later overturned based on Brennan’s misconduct and he awaits a new trial.

The judge also failed to disclose a close personal relationship with an attorney who appeared before her in five trials between 2014 and 2016 and denied motions to disqualify herself in those cases.

She was also said to be highly abusive to employees as well as attorneys, witnesses and general litigants. Employees were forced to perform personal tasks for her during business hours and also work on her re-election campaign, according to court records.

Brennan, appointed by then-Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm in 2005, is immediately removed from office and prohibited from running for any judicial position for six years.

Current Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced Friday afternoon she had appointed Matthew McGivney, a local bankruptcy attorney, as Brennan’s replacement.

 

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