A retired local judge and an area attorney seeking a citizen’s grand jury are going all in and appealing rulings to the Michigan Supreme Court.

In July, former Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Burress and Howell attorney Tom Kizer filed separate appeals of a ruling by Livingston County Chief Judge Miriam Cavanaugh assigning an out-of-county judge to hear a request for a grand jury to investigate Judge Theresa Brennan. At issue is Brennan’s admitted relationship with former State Police Detective Sean Furlong, who served as the chief prosecution witness in the 2013 double-murder trial of Jerome Kowalski that she presided over and resulted in his conviction and life sentence. The chief reason cited by Judge Cavanaugh in her decision to send the case out of the county was Judge David Reader’s appointment of Kizer as the grand jury’s Special Prosecutor, questioning Kizer’s impartiality as he is a long-time critic of Judge Brennan and had served as the attorney for Brennan’s ex-husband in their 2017 divorce.

In an opinion issued October 12th, the judicial panel denied the leave to appeal, “for lack of merit in the grounds presented” and further denied a motion for reversal of Judge Cavanaugh’s order, “for failure to persuade the Court of the existence of manifest error requiring reversal and warranting peremptory relief.” At the time, both said they were surprised and concerned over the one sentence denial without any written analysis of the serious issues raised. Burress and Kizer have now filed applications for leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, which includes the same arguments made to the Court of Appeals. Issues are further raised about Cavanaugh’s social interactions with Judge Brennan and Det. Furlong during the time leading up to and beyond the trial of Mr. Kowalski, which they feel has not been adequately revealed.

Brennan’s conduct during the Kowalski trial is 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.” That complaint was heard over an eight-day period in October, with an additional day of testimony expected before a recommendation is made to the JTC about whether or not sanctions should be made against Brennan, which could include removal from the bench. (JM)