Novi Judge Brian MacKenzie, Oakland Prosecutor Jessica Cooper Spar Over Contempt
Novi, Michigan District Court Judge Brian MacKenzie and Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper are sparring over whether Judge MacKenzie should be held in contempt for violating an earlier-issued Oakland County Circuit Court order regarding Judge MacKenzie issued in response to his failure to follow the Michigan Court Rules and other laws.
"Novi District Judge Brian MacKenzie should be held in contempt of court for ignoring an order to disclose domestic violence cases he dismissed, according to a complaint filed today by Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper.
Circuit Judge Colleen O’Brien in February ordered MacKenzie to provide the files to Cooper’s office after concluding MacKenzie had broken state law with his sentences and illegally dismissed cases without notifying prosecutors.
Cooper said her staff has found at least 33 more domestic violence cases that MacKenzie mishandled and failed to disclose, on top of 22 previously noted cases. His secrecy violates O’Brien’s order and he should face a contempt of court finding, Cooper argued.
Sanctions for contempt can include jail time.
MacKenzie and his lawyer, John Lynch, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. In past court filings, MacKenzie has called Cooper’s allegations, [']false, impertinent and scandalous.[']
Cooper said in her pleading that 30 of the 33 domestic violence cases her office recently uncovered included sentences that [']blatantly violated state law.['] Two other cases may have included illegal sentences, but because Mackenzie sealed those files, prosecutors cannot be certain, she said.
She also said he was ordering files sealed and sentencing defendants when he knew there would be no prosecutor in the courtroom to object.
[']I’m not surprised,['] Cooper told the Free Press. [']This is a rogue judge.[']
O’Brien ruled in in February that MacKenzie had violated state law at least eight time by illegally dismissing domestic violence cases or reducing sentences.
Among the cases O’Brien cited was one involving a woman charged with kicking in her husband’s bedroom door and assaulting him. MacKenzie dismissed the charges without approval of the prosecutor or the victim. O’Brien ruled his actions in that case were illegal.
In another instance, MacKenzie dismissed a domestic violence case against a woman who pleaded guilty to striking her husband in the eye as he held their 2-year-old daughter. MacKenzie originally sentenced her to one year probation, but on June 3, 2013, he dismissed the case [']on motion of prosecuting attorney.[']
Coopers insists there was no such motion and that her office would have contested a dismissal. When her office sought a transcript of the hearing, she was told there was none.
No hearing has been scheduled yet on Cooper’s latest complaint.
Wayne State University Law Professor Peter Henning said that if O’Brien determined MacKenzie was, indeed, violating her court order, she could find him in contempt and punish him in several ways, up to and including jail time.
[']But that’s getting pretty close to the nuclear option,['] he said. [']Judge O’Brien has several options and you don’t want to disrupt a court.[']
Other sanctions could include ordering him to appear before her, fining him, or warning him.
[']This is one the district court judge is ultimately not going to win,['] Henning said. [']He’s come to the attention of the Circuit Court and they’re going to expect him to comply with the law. A judge, above anyone else, is expected to comply with an order.[']
MacKenzie has not faced an election challenge since 1988, but now has two attorneys who hope to unseat him. Scott Powers, son of MacKenzie’s colleague, Dennis Powers, is running against him, as well as Travis Reeds, MacKenzie’s former law clerk.
The Oakland County Bar Association and the Free Press are sponsoring a candidate debate at 7 p.m. Monday at Wixom City Hall."