A local attorney hopes a petition filed by a retired judge seeking to impanel a grand jury in the misconduct investigation of an embattled judge will finally spur some action.

Former Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Daniel Burress filed a petition on Monday seeking to impanel a citizen’s grand jury and appoint a special prosecutor to investigate 53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan. Howell Attorney Tom Kizer represented Brennan’s ex-husband in divorce proceedings, which revealed a sexual relationship between Brennan and Michigan State Police Detective Sean Furlong. Furlong was the lead detective and chief prosecution witness in the 2013 double murder trial of Jerome Kowalski, who was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Kizer advised Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt of the relationship between Brennan and Furlong prior to a jury being impaneled in the Kowalski trial. The defense sought to recuse Brennan from hearing the case but she refused, maintaining the two only had a friendship. The petition filed by Burress states in spite of widespread rumors in the legal community that Brennan had much more than a special relationship with Detective Furlong, the judge declared from the bench that it was a friendship and nothing more. The petition further says Brennan was the sole arbiter of the credibility of Furlong and other facts that critically impacted the guilt or innocence of the defendant.

Kizer applauded Burress for filing the recent petition, speculating it’s likely because it’s been more than a year since these revelations came to light and neither the Judicial Tenure Commission nor the Michigan State Police have acted to remove Brennan from the bench. Kizer says a man went to prison maybe not getting a fair trial because of a biased judge who he says lied about her relationship with the lead detective. Kizer says “The system has just run right off the rails.” He says Burress being a jurist, attorney and member of the community, probably feels like many do in that the entire judicial system has a black eye because of Brennan’s behavior. Kizer also thinks the prosecutor’s office will also have a black eye before everything is done, saying if it has done its job in 2013 or before and not been so interested in gaining a conviction, maybe things would be different.

Livingston County Prosecutor Bill Vailliencourt has defended his conduct in the case, pointing out that shortly after he filed his first request with the Judicial Tenure Commission regarding Judge Brennan in early February of 2017, he also requested that a separate criminal investigation be conducted by the Michigan State Police in order to determine what the facts are, as opposed to rumor, speculation, and innuendo. Vailliencourt says he wanted there to be no question about the independence and integrity of the investigation – adding he, like everyone else in this community, is anxiously awaiting answers from the State Police investigation as justice demands it.

Kizer says if a special prosecutor is appointed then testimony will be taken and there will be an airing and someday closure, saying the public has a right to have something done. He says hopefully this petition will do it and he doesn’t think it will interfere with any ongoing investigations. If anything, Kizer feels it should help get the criminal investigation completed and get some answers. Kizer feels the local prosecutor’s office has already established its true colors and said he would be highly critical if it was even considered for the case stemming from the petition. He hopes by impaneling people on a grand jury, appointing a special prosecutor or getting the Michigan attorney general involved, the truth will eventually come out. Kizer says if MSP haven’t completed the investigation by now, they’ll be called to testify before a grand jury if impaneled – meaning the public will be able to find out what’s going on and what they are doing or not doing. Kizer says they should not have to wait 16 months when sworn testimony is available and he would like to know the reasoning for letting this linger so long. If handled appropriately, he feels the petition could be a tool to bring the matter to closure.

Chief Livingston County Judge Miriam Cavanaugh has declined to comment on the petition filed by Burress, which is attached for viewing. The case has since been assigned to Judge David Reader. WHMI also reached out to Brennan’s attorney, who has yet to respond. (JM/JK)