Judge opens up lines of communication with students

By: Maria Allard | Warren Weekly | Published April 30, 2014

WARREN — After the Court in School program cases finished up April 23, Judge Matthew Sabaugh opened up dialogue with the Lincoln Middle School students gathered at Lincoln High School’s Auditorium. They talked about his judgeship and his courtroom experiences since becoming a judge in 2008.

Sabaugh attended Macomb Community College, earned a degree in environmental science from Michigan State University and then attended law school. He worked as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Macomb County prior to becoming a judge. The magistrate said Warren’s 37th District Court is the third busiest in Michigan.

“As judges, we have the responsibility to make sure when someone commits a crime, they are held accountable. I have to look at the law and at the evidence. For me, it’s a rewarding job. I get to see people and help them,” Sabaugh said. “The worst cases are no doubt murder cases because someone’s life is taken. The family members will come in the courtroom and observe.”

Students also asked a number of questions. Some wanted to know about cellphones in court and the attire the defendants wear.

“Cellphones are one of the biggest issues we have in the courtroom. You wouldn’t believe some of the thing people wear to court. Hats and low pants are not allowed,” the judge said. “How you present yourself matters. It’s important to dress up, speak politely and properly. Some people don’t do that.”

One student wanted to know if someone he sentenced ever sought revenge.

“I get that question a lot,” Sabaugh said. “I had one episode (that) was handled by the police. It was a concern. It’s part of my job.”

Repeat offenders are common in Sabaugh’s courtroom. It’s “frustrating” for him to see people stuck in one spot, he said.

“I know a lot of people that have been before me many times,” he said. “Sometimes, I think I failed because they don’t get the help they needed. Ultimately, it’s their choice. You’ll see me harder on that person.”

Seventh-grader Bryanna Cook appreciated Sabaugh speaking his mind in front of the accused.

For eighth-grader Jordan Singleton, attending the court proceedings showed what can happen when a “bad decision” is made.

“It can have a drastic change in their life when it comes to family and having kids and stuff,” Singleton said.

Eighth-grader Derick Lancaster said he believes peer pressure is the reason so many people get in trouble with the law.

Some students, including eighth-grader Neveen Sarkees, were surprised to find Sabaugh to be so cordial with the defendants.

“The judges on TV are mean,” sixth-grader Treyvon Passmore said. “He was nice. He was calm. Judge Judy, she’d be yelling.”

“I thought the judge would be mean,” sixth-grader Elijah Eubanks said. “It turns out, he was really nice. I think he wanted (the defendants) to succeed.”

“I think he was just being himself,” seventh-grade student Madison Mackinnon said.

“He wasn’t as harsh as the TV shows,” seventh-grader Jade Swoner said. “He didn’t give them a beatdown. He wasn’t as dramatic. I like his style.”