Novi Judge Brian MacKenzie has provided “falsified” court documents to prosecutors to hide his practice of improperly handling domestic violence cases, according to a new filing by Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper. And in some cases, he has kept defendants on probation beyond the two years allowed by law, Cooper claims.
Cooper made the allegations in a motion filed before Oakland Circuit Judge Colleen O’Brien to find MacKenzie in contempt of court. O’Brien is expected to issue her ruling within weeks.
MacKenzie’s attorney, David Timmis, said, “These attacks are factually inaccurate and misleading,” and accused Cooper of trying to harm MacKenzie’s re-election chances in November.
“This is an experienced, compassionate and award-winning judge who has been lauded throughout his career,” Timmis said in an e-mail to the Free Press.
Cooper’s office has been reviewing MacKenzie’s files after O’Brien ordered in February that he hand them over to prosecutors because he was treating repeat domestic violence offenders as if they were first-time offenders and then placing them on probation, a violation of state law.
“The problems are far worse than we could have imagined,” Cooper wrote in her Aug. 6 filing. Her review of the files uncovered conduct on criminal cases “that ranges from outright dismissals of valid criminal convictions to the falsification of official judicial records; issues that compromise the very integrity of the criminal justice process of that court.”
Her office found cases in which defendants were kept on probation after more than two years, a violation of Michigan statutes, she said.
Timmis said there was no evidence of doctored files, and the defendants who were on probation for more than two years were serving “protracted” jail sentences or had violated MacKenzie’s probation and faced new charges.
If Cooper’s allegations are true, it could spell trouble not just for MacKenzie, but for Oakland County, which funds his court.
“This may be much more than bringing a case in front of the judicial tenure commission, this could have a criminal aspect along with civil claims,” said Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and expert on criminal procedure, judicial ethics and the legal profession.
Defendants kept on probation longer than two years could sue the county because their rights had been violated, he said.
“It would not be a defense even if the probationer agreed to it,” he said. “You’re not agreeing to anything when you’re standing in front of a judge. You’re accepting what the judge does.”
In charging that documents have been altered, Cooper cites a 2010 case in which a defendant was charged with assault and battery following a domestic assault. Cooper’s staff obtained a copy of the original 2010 court docket showing the man pleaded no contest, and that MacKenzie took his plea “under advisement” meaning the case would be dropped if the man stayed out of trouble. The file read “Plea Advisement Spouse Act Bench Trial.”
The defendant, though, was not eligible for such a deal because he had five prior arrests.
The case was closed in April 2012.
But when MacKenzie’s staff handed the file over to Cooper’s office on July 11 on orders of O’Brien, the records had changed, Cooper said.
There was no mention of spousal abuse or a no-contest plea. Instead, it showed the man had pleaded guilty to a minor drug charge — although there were no drugs involved, and that MacKenzie had again taken the case “under advisement.”
“If records have been altered, that could be a criminal violation for anyone involved,” Henning said.
Cooper, in her filing, says, “It requires little speculation to guess why the entries on an illegally dismissed case would be subsequently changed to delete references to the (Spousal Abuse Act).”
Timmis denied that the original involved a domestic assault and that the current records provided to the prosecutors are accurate. “There was never any attempt to falsify documents related to this matter” and questioned the accuracy of the prosecutor’s records.
O’Brien, should she find MacKenzie in contempt, has several options, including ordering him to appear before her, sanctioning him in writing or jailing him.
Cooper has forwarded a copy of her complaint to the Michigan State Court Administrative which can refer it to the tenure commission for sanctions as well.
MacKenzie’s troubles come as he faces his first challenge since he took the bench in 1988. He faced off against two challengers in the Aug. 5 primary and came in second, with 7,727 votes, behind attorney Travis Reeds, who garnered 8,003. Attorney Scott Powers finished third with 5,559 votes.
Aug 20, 2014 – Novi Judge Brian MacKenzie has provided “falsified” court documents to prosecutors to hide his practice of improperly handling domestic …
Brian W. MacKenzie 52nd District Court Judge Judge Brian MacKenzie has served as a Judge of the 52nd District Court, located in Novi Michigan, since 1988.
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