Judge Brennan's Courtroom Described As Tense, Angry & Chaotic
October 3, 2018
More testimony will continue today as part of a hearing for Livingston County Judge Theresa Brennan.
Tuesday marked day two of the hearing in 16th District Court in Livonia that is expected to last several days. Retired Judge William Giovan is serving as special master over the evidentiary hearing. Once it concludes, he will issue an opinion to the JTC. That body can either dismiss the complaint or recommend the Michigan Supreme Court impose discipline.
Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission Executive Director Lynn Helland has been questioning Brennan and noted the case involves three main themes: abuse of power, conflict of interest and false statements. Helland plans to add additional complaints of destroying evidence and obstruction of justice. On Tuesday, he asked Brennan about how she treated staff and other people who appeared in court. Different video clips were played. In one instance, Helland asked if Brennan demeaned her former court reporter and referred to her as “brain-damaged”. That employee eventually took a two-level pay cut to transfer out of the district court in Brighton, where Brennan was the only judge. Brennan acknowledged “there were times where I didn’t act in a way I liked”.
Testimony will continue today from Livingston County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Shawn Ryan in regard to different social interactions between Brennan, law enforcement and Furlong. On Tuesday, Ryan talked about romantic shifts she noticed between Furlong and Brennan before Kowalski’s trial, and a kiss that happened in 2007. She also detailed various outings and how everyone got together at Brennan’s house and went skinny dipping, would go out for dinner or drinks, attend sporting events or visit a cottage Brennan owns.
Court employee Robbin Pott worked as a research assistant for Brennan and testified about how the judge would yell or shout almost daily and described it as a “very tense angry chaotic courtroom". She also offered testimony about a discussion in which Brennan asked how to destroy a phone and remove messages. Pott testified she felt targeted for not wanting to do certain tasks for Brennan and was retaliated against. Judge Giovan overruled Brennan’s attorney on a statement Pott made during questioning. Giovan said the case, if nothing else is about the character of the respondent and it actually goes to the heart of the matter.
On Monday, Brennan often said she couldn't recall when asked about details about her relationship with former Michigan State Police Detective Sean Furlong, who was the chief investigator in the 2013 double murder trial of Jerome Kowalski. Records show Brennan made three phone calls and dozens of text messages to him during the murder trial.
Kowalski’s son Jared has been attending the hearing and told WHMI there is no excuse as to why his father has not been granted a new trial, with all the evidence out there. He says it was all information Brennan lied about and never disclosed before his father’s trial. Kowalski said Tuesday was an interesting day and that the presiding judge is listening and being fair but also asking great questions. He says testimony was spot on in describing the way Brennan would act in court but also that Brennan would have cases decided before reading anything and cut off attorneys during hearings. He says Brennan further lied about phone calls and text messages – many of which occurred late at night during his father’s trial.
Kowalski said it appeared as though Brennan’s attorney was trying to attribute the condition of the courthouse and her pending divorce to her demeanor and how she treated people in her courtroom. He noted Brennan claimed she was a basket case because of her divorce but Pott testified that the day she was served divorce papers, nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Kowalski said it’s amazing watching all of the individuals who testified after Brennan, and that their memory is spot on and they don’t hesitate to answer questions but Brennan remembers nothing. He says they could all accurately remember things but yet Brennan’s responses were always “I don’t know” or “I don’t remember” or “I’m not relying on my memory…I’m over 60”. Kowalski says Brennan under oath twice testified that she has to be careful with her words. He added that when Brennan was finishing up her testimony, the judge questioned her about comment she made during conversations with Furlong and Brennan said they would talk about cases, although she never handled criminal cases.
Brennan technically remains on the bench but her docket has been removed and re-assigned, although she is still getting paid. The hearing continues today in 16th District Court in Livonia. (JM)