Judge denies motion by Spranger’s attorney to withdraw as her counsel

By: Joshua Gordon | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published February 7, 2018

 A judge denied a motion by Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger’s attorney, Frank Cusumano Jr., to remove himself as her counsel in a lawsuit against the county.

A judge denied a motion by Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger’s attorney, Frank Cusumano Jr., to remove himself as her counsel in a lawsuit against the county.

File photo by Deb Jacques

MACOMB COUNTY — A judge has denied a motion by Macomb County Clerk Karen Spranger’s attorney to remove himself as her counsel in a lawsuit and countersuit between Spranger and the county.

Frank Cusumano Jr., who has been representing Spranger since she filed a lawsuit last summer against Macomb County, said Judge Daniel Kelly in the St. Clair County Circuit Court denied his request during a hearing Jan. 29.

Cusumano filed the motion Jan. 10 in the Macomb County Circuit Court, but it was transferred to Kelly, as that is where Spranger’s lawsuit and the county’s countersuit are being heard.

In an email, Cusumano said Kelly did not enter an order, as the one Cusumano prepared assumed the motion would be granted. Cusumano said it is unusual for this motion to be denied, but Kelly appeared to be concerned about Spranger’s case going forward if Cusumano withdraw.

One reason for the original motion was Spranger had outstanding legal fees with Cusumano’s office.

“Judge Kelly’s ruling from the bench seemed concerned about the efficacy of Ms. Spranger representing herself, irrespective of the burden it placed on my practice and the undisputed fact that there has been a breakdown in attorney-client relationship,” Cusumano stated in an email. “The ruling places my office in a burdensome financial position, especially given the travel time to the St. Clair County Court in Port Huron.”

Cusumano said he will be filing a motion for reconsideration based on case law that deals with an attorney’s responsibility to their client when they may not get paid.

In her original lawsuit, Spranger is looking for the court to pass judgement as it pertains to her duties as a clerk, among other things. Spranger was elected as clerk in November 2016.

The lawsuit was moved out of the Macomb County Circuit Court after all the judges there recused themselves because Spranger also serves as clerk for the court. It was then moved to Kelly in Port Huron.

In September, Macomb County was granted the right by Kelly to file a countersuit against Spranger that questions her residency on her election affidavit in 2016. The county alleges that Spranger lied on her affidavit about living on Hudson Avenue in Warren, therefore she was illegitimately elected and should be removed from office.

According to Warren city records, water services has been turned off at the home owned by Spranger since April 2014. In the countersuit, the county also alleges Spranger used her Michigan Bridge Card in western Wayne County exclusively between November 2011 and the end of 2016.

Spranger has also had issues with other sectors in the Macomb County government. In November, she met with the Board of Commissioners following a letter sent from Macomb County Circuit Court about a backlog of reports in her office.

In December, Kelly ordered Spranger not interfere with the county’s human resources department in filling 14 vacancies in her office.

In early January, Spranger filed a federal lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit, alleging a conspiracy between county officials, a union representative and two local journalists to stop her from doing her job.

Spranger asked the federal court to dissolve the county’s countersuit, among other things. Macomb County filed a motion that will be heard at the end of February to dismiss the case. 

Cusumano is not listed as Spranger’s attorney on that lawsuit.