Michigan Judge Brian MacKenzie keeps drawing attention to himself for all the wrong reasons.
In February, Oakland County Circuit Judge Colleen O’Brien started supervising MacKenzie’s court after numerous attorneys accused the judge of running a rogue operation. The attorneys told stories of illegal sentences and questionable backroom deals.
Next, MacKenzie came under fire after it was revealed he was running a non-profit group with corporate partners that MacKenzie would routinely employ via his judicial orders. His organization was sponsored by the same drug and alcohol testing corporations that MacKenzie would order his offenders to buy tests from.
Judge MacKenzie is now under the watchful eye of the FBI. The latest scandal finds MacKenzie tried to make a deal with the defense attorney of Marquin Stanley, a man convicted of drunk driving and resisting and obstructing a police officer. Stanley and his attorney Timothy Corr cry foul on the resisting and obstructing charge, citing video evidence that shows Stanley never resisted the demands of police during his DUI arrest.
Stanley filed a civil lawsuit appealing the resisting charge. Secret audio from MacKenzie’s chamber reveals the judge said he would only agree to drop Stanley’s resisting charge if he agreed to drop the civil lawsuit in exchange. Legal experts who’ve heard the tape say MacKenzie’s attempted negotiation violates a judge’s proper role as an impartial decider.
Here is an excerpt from the recording, courtesy of Click on Detroit:
MacKenzie: Give up the civil suit.
Corr: He didn't and he paid the price you gave him which was 90 days.
MacKenzie: Give up the civil suit and I can get you something decent ... If they're willing to drop the (resisting and obstructing). Do you really think that you're going to become rich with the (resisting and obstructing) given no injuries?
Corr: That doesn't have anything to do with it. Don't you think it's a little maybe unethical to do that to somebody?
MacKenzie: I don't. I actually don't, I do it all the time here.
Corr says he recorded the conversation after multiple previous backroom negotiations in which MacKenzie’s behavior alarmed him.
"This is an example of a judge putting his own personal agenda into a legal case that involves somebody else's life," said Corr. "You can't do that."
Michael Martin, a professor at Fordham Law School, agrees.
“I think the judge’s pitching the prosecution’s offer is too close to the line for me,” said Martin. “I think judges should avoid the appearance of partiality and err on relying on the defense lawyer to counsel the client properly without such a heavy judicial hand.”
MacKenzie’s actions are made even more troubling by the fact that Stanley seems to have very legitimate reason for his lawsuit. Surveillance video shows Walled Lake, Michigan police needlessly dropping him to the ground and tasing him following his DUI arrest. He is never seen resisting the officers on the video, which supports his claim that the felony resisting and obstructing an officer charge leveled against him is bogus.
Here’s the surveillance video from the incident: