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Judge's Illegal Disposition of Cases Leads to Docket Seizure

By William Peacock, Esq. | Last updated on

How does an award-winning judge, who is ironically the elected head of the American Judges Association (an organization that promotes best practices on the bench), lose total control of his docket?

No big deal. He just, allegedly, ignored the law, handed out illegal sentences, hid or sealed case files, and tweaked court transcripts.

Now, Novi District Judge Brian MacKenzie has been bench-slapped to extent rarely seen, with the Circuit Court seizing control of his docket, ordering him to provide records of all delayed or suspended sentences since 2004, and more. We're not sure what's worse: this neutered and publicly-reprimanded judge, or the one who was chased off the bench and had his case referred to the Department of Justice.

Separation of Powers? Meh. This Court is Too Busy for That.

Judge MacKenzie got the proverbial bench-slap due to his hilariously informal disposition of domestic violence cases. The Circuit Court's opinion recounts case after case where he'd suspend a sentence without the prosecutor or victim's consent (which are required by law), or he'd sentence defendants without a prosecutor present (occasionally noting, in the transcripts, that there was a prosecutor present).

His response to the prosecutors' allegations was usually that the case was successfully appealed or that the prosecutor had access to court records and could've appealed any of his seemingly-illegal sentences.

In one true stroke of genius, the record showed that he sentenced a 46-year-old man to a youthful diversion program, reserved for 17 to 21-year-olds. No prosecutor was present, of course, but the matter was eventually appealed. Judge MacKenzie claimed administrative error.

The Detroit Free Press has more on his past sentences, and the Circuit Court's remedy.

Shout-Out for a Terribly-Written Opinion

I don't know if Judge Colleen O'Brien farmed this one off on an intern or what, but our schadenfreude was tempered by the terribly-written opinion. Here's an example:

"Judge MacKenzie's pleadings in this matter do not deny the circumstances surrounding the Bandavar case. Judge MacKenzie responds that this case was successfully appealed and that the defendant has not been charged with a repeat offense since sentencing. Judge Mackenzie responds that the Prosecutor clearly had notice of defendant's sentence in order to appeal it. Furthermore, defendant has not been charged with a repeat offense since sentencing."

Wait, so what she's trying to say is that the defendant has not been charged with a repeat offense since sentencing? Oh, and he hasn't been charged with a repeat offense. Got it. Watch the copy-and-paste.

Also, protip: proofread the opinion before you hit print -- I don't know if it's MacKenzie or Mackenzie, but at least be consistent.

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