Brennan’s Attorney Says There’s No Proof Of Improper Relationship
March 5, 2019
The Judicial Tenure Commission heard objections Monday on its misconduct report of a Livingston County judge who is also facing criminal charges.
53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan is accused of ethics violations in how she ran her office as well as for a relationship with a state police detective during a murder trial. Brennan previously filed an objection to the findings of the JTC process, calling them, “blatantly sexist” and asserting that retired Judge William Giovan, who served as a special master over the hearing, “mischaracterized” and “exaggerated” testimony and other evidence.
At the hearing Monday in Detroit, Brennan’s attorney, Dennis Kolenda, and JTC Executive Director Lynn Helland, who is serving as the examiner in the case, were each given 30 minutes to present their argument to the seven-member panel of sitting judges, attorneys and civilians that is tasked with policing the state’s judiciary. Helland argued that Judge Giovan’s report correctly identified a myriad of ethics violations by Brennan, most especially her concealment of a relationship with former State Police Detective Sean Furlong during a murder trial she presided over and then lying about it under oath afterward. Furlong was the chief prosecution witness against Jerome Kowalski, who was charged with the 2008 murders of his brother and sister-in-law in their Oceola Township home. Kowalski’s conviction has since been vacated because of the revelation of the relationship and he is in the process of getting a new trial.
However, Kolenda downplayed the report’s findings, saying there is no proof Brennan and the detective were engaged in a personal relationship until after the 2013 trial. He said the other accusations did not amount to gross misconduct and there was no cause to permanently remove Brennan from the bench, as the JTC has recommended to the Michigan Supreme Court, which officially suspended Brennan last week, although it allowed her to retain her salary and benefits pending its decision on the report. A date for that hearing is not yet set.
But the JTC process is just one issue Brennan is dealing with. She’s also accused of perjury and destroying evidence in her divorce case, related to her alleged attempt to conceal her relationship with Furlong. She is due back in 67th District Court in Genesee County March 21st for a hearing on the three felony counts filed against her in December by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office. (JK)