Poulton runs as write-in amid rumors district judge will retire after election

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published November 3, 2014

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Royal Oak Mayor Pro Tem David Poulton is running as a write-in candidate for 44th District Court judge following recent news that incumbent Judge Terrance Brennan is no longer on the bench.

Poulton said he knew that Brennan had not been in the courthouse since early last month and was aware that the Michigan Supreme Court named Judge Derek Meinecke as the new 44th District chief judge.

“I’ve also heard rumors of other things at the court, and I’ve learned from (city) administration that the judge planned to resign if re-elected,” Poulton said.

Poulton said he decided to file as a write-in candidate because of his outrage that Brennan’s alleged resignation is being kept from the voters.

“That would result in the city losing the seat without the voters making the decision,” Poulton said. “Voters need to be informed what’s going on. I don’t even know the reason why you would even keep something like this secret.”

If Brennan decides to permanently step down from the bench following an election-night victory, it would impact 2013 legislation consolidating the 44th and 45A district courts.

Royal Oak City Attorney David Gillam said that as of January 2015, the 45A District Court in Berkley will be consolidated with the 44th District Court in Royal Oak. 

“Really, what it provides is as of Jan. 2, the 45A district court in Berkley no longer exists,” Gillam said. “Berkley and Royal Oak are both served at that point in time by the 44th District Court.”

This means the Royal Oak courthouse will be served by three judges — the two existing Royal Oak seats and the Berkley seat.

“As of Jan. 3 of next year, 2015, when any one of those three seats becomes vacant, then the seat is eliminated,” Gillam said. 

If Brennan wins the Nov. 4 election and retires from the bench, that seat would be eliminated by attrition and the courthouse would function with two judges – one from Royal Oak and one from Berkley through the remainder of their terms.

A Poulton victory means the district court would keep its two Royal Oak seats along with the Berkley seat until one of the three judges vacates the role as district judge.

Brennan could not be reached for comment, but court officials confirmed he is on leave.

“Judge Brennan is on administrative, personal leave until further notice,” said 44th District Court Administrator Kevin Sutherland. Sutherland said Brennan went on leave Oct. 7 and he has had no contact with Brennan since that time.

Brennan has been on the bench since 1991.

John Nevin, communications director at the Michigan Supreme Court, said the appointment of Meinecke is a permanent appointment, as Brennan stepped down as chief judge of the 44th District Court.

Nevin declined to comment on whether or not Brennan is or was under investigation. He said that is not the role of the State Court Administrative Office.

“When it comes to an investigation relating to the conduct of a judge, that’s the purview of the Judicial Tenure Commission,” Nevin said.

Paul Fischer, executive director of the Judicial Tenure Commission, said all investigations are conducted under the rule of confidentiality. He would not comment on whether or not there is or has been an investigation into Brennan’s behavior.

Fischer said if the Judicial Tenure Commission files a formal complaint, then an investigation becomes public record.

Rumors are circulating in Detroit media that Brennan was having a relationship with a staffer at the Royal Oak courthouse and will retire to avoid sanctions.

The deadline for residents who had already voted absentee to rescind their ballots was 4 p.m. Nov. 3.

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