A retired local judge and an attorney have taken their quest for a citizen’s grand jury to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Former Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Burress and Howell attorney Tom Kizer have filed separate appeals of a ruling assigning an out-of-county judge to hear a request for a grand jury to investigate Judge Theresa Brennan. Livingston County Chief Judge Miriam Cavanaugh last month asked the State Court Administrative Office to assign a judge from another county to hear the request, saying rulings from fellow Circuit Court Judge David Reader were improper once he recused himself from hearing the case. It has since been assigned to Eaton County Circuit Judge John Maurer.

But Judge Burress says that by assigning the case to a visiting judge, the remaining qualified Livingston County judges were “summarily deprived of their opportunity to take the case” and that it could lead to “justified suspicion and calls of corrupt ‘judge shopping.’”

Burress requested a grand jury look into issues surrounding Brennan’s admitted relationship with former State Police Detective Sean Furlong, who served as the chief prosecution witness in a 2013 double-murder trial that she presided over and resulted in the conviction and life sentence of Jerome Kowalski. Those actions are currently the subject of a Michigan State Police criminal investigation and a complaint by the Judicial Tenure Commission, which charged Brennan with “a pattern of improper conduct.”

The chief reason cited by Judge Cavanaugh in her decision to send the case out of the county was Judge Reader’s appointment of Kizer as Special Prosecutor, noting that Kizer had served as the attorney for Brennan’s ex-husband in their 2017 divorce. Kizer has also been a long-time critic of Judge Brennan. No dates have been set to hear the appeals.

Judge Brennan’s caseload has since been reassigned, leaving her off the bench while still being paid pending the outcome of the Judicial Tenure Commission complaint, which potentially could remove her from the bench. (JK)