State Sen. Lana Theis on Thursday, Jan. 30, 2020, introduced bipartisan legislation that would protect taxpayers by withholding the salary of a judge who has been charged with a felony and who is not hearing matters before the court or has been suspended.
“Our judges are called to live up to a higher standard, and when they break the law, they lose the public’s trust,” said Theis, R-Brighton, who introduced Senate Bill 764. “It doesn’t make sense that a judge who has been charged with a felony and who has lost their docket should continue to be paid their taxpayer-funded salary.
“Livingston County residents are all too familiar with this scenario after having dealt with the fallout from former (Livingston County District) Judge Theresa Brennan’s crimes, and it cost the county hundreds of thousands in additional and unnecessary salary costs. Let’s get this legislation passed so we can prevent anything like what happened here from happening elsewhere in our state.”
SBs 764-766 would apply, respectively, to any district, probate, or circuit court judge meeting the criteria, and the person’s salary would be withheld in escrow by the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO). If a judge is found guilty of a felony charge, the salary held in escrow would be remitted by the SCAO to the state and county or counties in which the salary originated. Should the judge be found not guilty or the charges dropped, he or she would receive the money held in escrow upon reinstatement.
The bills, which have broad bipartisan support with 25 co-sponsors, are expected to be referred to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee for consideration.