The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission has extended the deadline for an embattled local judge to respond to a formal complaint against her.

The complaint filed last month against 53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan alleges various counts involving what the commission called, “a pattern of improper conduct” regarding her failure to disclose various personal relationships and disqualify herself in several key cases. The complaint was filed June 12th and required Brennan to offer a written response to the allegations within two weeks. However, the JTC has extended that deadline indefinitely. Lynn Helland, the JTC’s Executive Director, tells WHMI that while he was not at liberty to say why the deadline had been extended, there was, “nothing unusual in this.”

The heart of the complaint alleges that Brennan did not disclose the full extent and nature of her relationship with former Michigan State Police Detective Sergeant Sean Furlong during the 2013 double murder trial of Jerome Kowalski, which she presided over and resulted in Kowalski’s conviction and life sentence. Furlong was the chief prosecution witness as he took Kowalski’s confession, which has since been disputed as coerced. While Brennan and Furlong admit an affair, they claim it began after the trial. However, testimony and documents from Brennan’s 2017 divorce seemingly dispute that and indicate it began long before the trial.

The JTC has requested that the Michigan Supreme Court appoint a master in relation to the formal proceeding. But the commission’s own website says a date for a hearing is not set until after the judge’s response to the allegations is filed.

Meanwhile, a request for a citizen’s grand jury investigation of Brennan is in limbo after it was assigned to an out-of-county judge following a ruling from Livingston County Chief Judge Miriam Cavanaugh that fellow Judge David Reader had improperly recused himself from hearing the matter after making several key decisions in the case, including appointing Howell attorney Tom Kizer as a Special Prosecutor. Kizer represented Brennan’s ex-husband in their divorce case and has been a long-time critic of Brennan. Cavanaugh ruled that Reader’s recusal in the matter should have come before any decisions were made, not after. (JK)