Last Saturday night, October 22, I had the honor and pleasure to attend LACASA's Black and White Masquerade Gala at Whispering Pines in Pinckney, Michigan. LACASA Center is our local domestic violence shelter. Along with seven others, I was given the Mission Possible award.
In 1975 I started work in the Livingston County Prosecutor's Office as a legal secretary. One of the first cases that came in to the office was a woman that had been killed by her husband. When I had worked in a private law firm, I used to deal with a lady that worked in an office that had to do with title work. I used to talk with her regularly. One day, we were sharing our life stories and I told her how I had been physically and mentally abused in my first marriage. She shared that her husband was a bad alcoholic and wanted to know if I knew where she could go to get help as he was being very abusive when he drank. I informed her of Alanon and discussed the purpose of an intervention, as it is now called. We never really talked after that as I changed jobs and went to work in the prosecutor's office.
The woman in the picture I saw at the Prosecutor's Office, was the woman that had been killed by her husband. The picture was of her laying in a pool of blood and I could not believe it was her. I felt so bad that I had not done more to help. I remembered the feeling of not being believed when I would tell my parents about the abuse I was going through in my first marriage. My parents liked my husband and could not believe he would hurt me. I felt alone and worthless and powerless. My daughter was one when I divorced him. The marriage had last only two years, but it was a lifetime for me. I learned about things I thought only happened in movies. Those feelings began to surface every time I talked with a victim of domestic assault or rape. I felt that helplessness again mainly because there was nowhere in this county that an abused spouse (male or female) could go. Many had children that were living through seeing one parent abuse the other. They had to be up rooted from their school and friends to go to a shelter in another county to be safe. So, I decided to take some action. In 1979 two other ladies, Attorney Nancy Ashley and Child Protective Services worker, Alice Greenwald began to talk about bringing a shelter to Livingston County.
There were several other shelters in nearby counties that we could use as a template. So, we gave many presentations to varying groups in the County to determine the need for a shelter. Finally, we put together Articles of Incorporation, signed them in 1981, and the Livingston Area Counsel Against Spouse Abuse, Inc. (LACASA, INC. )was formed. Then Prosecutor Frank Delvero, whom I was working for and his wife Jo supported all of us and believed in this movement. I thank him for being so forward thinking.
Robert Detweiler was an Assistant Prosecutor and his wife Bonnie worked at the Health Department. They were the first individuals to house an abused spouse. After that we scrapped enough money together, about $50 a month, to pay for a phone line and we rented a small office in Brighton, next to the Methodist Church. That building no longer stands. We had volunteers answer the phone either at the office or forwarded to someone's home; we acquired a volunteer counselor to work with the few victims we were able to help. About a year or so later, we moved into a house in Howell owned by Gene and Carol Chandlier. We had raised enough money to pay the rent and to have a director and we began training volunteers. The rest is history. The operation kept growing. Joyce Ewing was the director at that time. After we out grew the Chandlier home, the operation moved to a large Colonial home on Grand River in Howell. We remodeled the garage to make office space without changing any of the historic house and until a large amount of money was raised, we operated there. Once the organization was able to raise over 2 million dollars, thanks to generous benefactors, the present shelter was built and today, it is a highly successful organization, serving victims of assault and rape. There are children's programs, domestic violence counseling for men and women, and a large amount of love and caring given by the staff every day.
I stayed on the Board of Directors and acted as the Chairperson for several years, until I went to law school. I was working as a law clerk and found it to be a conflict of interest because my Judge handled domestic violence cases. Then I became a public defender and later a Judge, so the conflict has continued. I may have gotten off the board, but I have always considered LACASA my baby. I have watched it grow and mature. So, I was especially surprised and honored to be recognized by the agency for my efforts 35 years ago. H'm'm, now I know why I am so old.
Thank you again LACASA for providing, sadly, a much needed service. You have, over the years, affected many people's lives and you have helped educate thousands about the circle of abuse. I am very proud of my ability to start the humble beginnings and am so proud of all you continue to do. Thank you for the honor you bestowed on me, last Saturday.
A lot happened last week. We had two debates (one with an empty podium) and a lot of social media activity. Tuesday's debate (Oct. 11) in Hamburg was interesting. My opponent, Suzanne Geddis, decided it was not worth her time to engage voters and sent a stand-in to read a statement while she went to the Right to Life Dinner in Howell. It's pretty hard to "debate" an empty podium. While I appreciate Suzanne giving me the floor, I don't think it is fair to voters to stand them up in favor of a political endorsement.
In our debate on Thursday (Oct. 13) in Hartland, my opponent seemed to think I was being "nasty" and "hurtful" by discussing our different approaches as Judges and as attorneys. This just builds on her previous accusations that I was "greedy" for running against her. Look, elections are part of judicial life. No one likes to go through this process. It's expensive, risky from an employment view and it is a very public job review, which can be uncomfortable if you have not performed well. And yet, I've never heard such demonization against other candidates going through this process. It is not greedy to run for election. It is not hurtful or nasty to talk about demeanor and temperament on the bench or to contrast yourself from your opponent. I really object to the constant thread suggesting I am a bully because I am running against Suzanne. We are both being judged by the public for our past performance. My feeling is that we judge people who come into our courts every day, we should not whine when it is our turn to be responsible for our actions. Neither of us will be without a job if we don't sit on the bench. We are both lawyers, however, you will have to decide which of us should continue to be on the bench as in any election of judges.
Let's talk about some things that Judge Geddis and I agree on.
1) We both agree that specialty courts are a great innovation. They help people deal with the problems that land them in court. They are cost-effective and socially productive. Each of us has different views on the best way to run these courts and who is best to run them, but we both recognize the value of the programs.
2) We both support survivors of domestic violence. I was happy to see Suzanne post LACASA's candelight vigil on Oct. 4. As a founder of LACASA, I appreciate all the supporters to the organization.
Besides our great differences in style and approach to jurisprudence, we don't agree on one very important topic: the issues that surround having a husband that does divorces with children and a wife that is a Judge hearing cases involving divorces with children. First, Judge Geddis has never practiced in the field of family law. As she has said, she had to take a crash course to learn the law. As a result, there have been many appeals and Judge Geddis has been overturned many times. Family law is complicated and it affects kids and their parents very deeply. Judge Geddis and her husband were prosecutors for many years. In my opinion, it is a mind set that does not blend well with divorce work. Secondly, there have been a great number of cases where Judge's husband would take over a case that had been assigned to his wife creating a great number of disqualifications. Over 35 in 2015 and similar this year. Those cases had to be transferred to another Judge to handle. So, the saying around the attorney lounge was, if you don't want Judge Geddis to handle your divorce case, just hire her husband, Mr. McCrirrie. Many of the complaints against Judge Geddis seem to stem from this rather cozy arrangement.
I bring a completely unfettered view to my courtroom. My husband was a detective with the Michigan State Police but has been retired for many years from that position. He was also a private detective. When I took the bench, if he had a case come in that was already assigned to me, he would not take the case. I wonder why Mr. Crirrie couldn't have chosen to do that to prevent the transfer of cases.
The Judges worked for many years to establish a concurrent court and once it was formed, the assignment of cases changed to assist the Circuit Court with their volume of work. Judge Geddis was assigned one half of the divorces with children and I was assigned the whole District Court Criminal docket. Because of the many disqualifications, that assignment was changed at the end of 2015, to Judge Geddis and I splitting the District Court Criminal docket and her assigned divorces with children. The disqualifications have continued, therefore, divorce cases are now being assigned to Judge Brennan and Judge Geddis and I will split the entire District Court docket. In that way, it ends the divorce disqualifications and still assists the Circuit Court's docket. It, in essence, eliminates a District Judge and adds that eliminated District Judge to the Circuit Court bench. I assume that once I leave the bench and there is an open seat, my District Court Judgeship will be changed to a Circuit Court Judgeship and the District Court will continue with only two Judges, instead of the existing three.
My background is much different. I have worked in the prosecutor's office as a secretary, office manager, and paralegal investigator, private law firms doing probate, divorce and criminal law, and was a law clerk in the District Court, as well as, a public defender in District and Circuit Courts. I do not have any embedded views regarding defendants that appear in my courtroom, I empathize, but I do not sympathize. I can make fair and balanced judgments. I can also listen with a clear and open mind. I have been a victim of abuse in my first marriage and have had first hand knowledge of ravishes of mental illness to the family and to the person, because of one of my children. I hope these differences will be enough to earn the trust of the voters. If you have any questions for me, please post them on my Facebook page or you can ask them on my web page. If you would like to meet me in person, I will be attending the LACASA Masquerade on Oct. 22 or just leave me a message and I will answer. Thank you for your time.
I believe in making the best use of our public resources. I also believe the courts can be tough on criminals without criminalizing those in need of help. I have pioneered the successful expansion of specialty courts in Livingston County to save tax payer money and reduce recidivism while keeping the public safe.
I have more than 40 years of experience in the field of law including 15 years as a attorney in criminal law, divorce and family law. I have 10 years experience on the bench adjudicating Family Court, Divorces with Children, and Criminal Court cases. I co-founded LACASA in 1979, the Livingston County mental health intensive treatment (IT) court in 2009 and the veteran's court in 2013. I am a member of the Livingston County Bar, the Livingston Interdisciplinary Professional Association, the Michigan District Court Judges Association, the Michigan Mental Health Advisory Board and the Community Corrections Board.
In short, I bring more to the bench than my opponent. I have a broader background and more experience in various aspects of the law. I have also been more successful with new initiatives in the court. As your judge, I bring respect, integrity, ethics, transparency, honesty and dedication to YOUR bench.
You can watch the first debate/discussion moderated by Jim Totten of the Livingston Daily on Facebook.
(The scene is rotated..but only for the first 30seconds or so.)
Suzanne and I discussed many important issue including specialty courts. I look forward to the next discussions where we can get into more detail on the differences in our experience and approach.