At about 5:00-5:30 a.m., I awake, grab a cup of coffee and scan the headlines for interesting stories. Today, I found one that disappointed me. The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office apparently filed some sort of complaint against the Hon. Brian MacKenzie, a judge in the 52-1 District Court. According to the American Bar Association, a prosecutor’s job is to do justice. Is it justice when a judge rules, nearly exclusively with the prosecutor? Is it is justice when a judge’s track record of rulings suggests a pattern of siding with the government? Is it justice when a prosecutor has unique access to the back chamber’s area of the courthouse when other lawyers do not? Rather than file a complaint against the judges who routinely rule in favor of the Prosecutor’s Office and side with the government, even when common sense, logic and reason compel against doing so, or choosing to attack the judges in the Court of Appeals who repeatedly attempt to dismantle the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, the Prosecutors chose to pursue Judge MacKenzie, an independent thinker and an independent minded judge who is beholden to no one and certainly not the prosecution. Of the thousands of cases that he has presided over, according to the article, they point to four (4) cases.
I cannot comment on the specific allegations in the complaint. However, having practiced for 20 years in the criminal courts in Oakland County, I can offer this observation: Judge MacKenzie is a valuable member of the bench. In an era when too many judges are purely ex-prosecutors using their prosecutor mentality while wearing a black robe or are political appointees with an eye on either the philosophy of the person that appointed them or on some other higher job within the judiciary, Judge MacKenzie is unique. He caters to neither side. He does not favor one side or the other. He cannot be bullied or pushed around and as a defense lawyer, I am thankful that there some judges like him before whom I can plead my case. I recognize that he is a polarizing figure but what public figure worth his/her salt, is not?
The complaint suggests that Judge MacKenzie scheduled hearings and sentencings without the prosecutor present. Having practiced in that court, I can tell you that Judge MacKenzie does not conduct meetings with lawyers without a prosecutor being present and that often times in that courtroom, prosecutors instruct the judge and defense lawyers that they do not wish to participate in the sentencing hearing or even appear at the sentencing hearing. While I cannot speak to the specific cases involved, I have found that Judge MacKenzie includes the prosecutors unless they choose not to participate. I suspect that there is more to the story.
Two individuals who were the subject of one of Judge MacKenzie’s rulings at issue have already spoken up in support of the judge. A married couple who were the subject of a criminal case went public and voiced their approval of the way that MacKenzie saved their marriage.
In Wayne County, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office went after the Hon. Bruce Morrow, an independent minded judge who didn’t hesitate to dismiss a case if it warranted it. Judge MacKenzie is similarly minded. He is independent, not beholden to anyone and has ruled against defendant’s and the prosecution equally.
I look forward to hearing his response and seeing how this plays out.