04 November 2014


Original Story: detroitnews.com

An embattled Novi district judge’s bid for re-election and marijuana decriminalizing initiatives in three communities are among the more high-profile contests in Oakland County.

Voters in November will also decide numerous millage proposals for school districts and municipalities. Among them is an annual millage of about 2.5 mills to raise $99 million for road improvements in Southfield.

Voters in Berkley and Huntington Woods will decide whether it is legal for people 21 or older to possess, use or transfer less than one ounce of marijuana on private property. Similar initiatives have passed in Detroit, Oak Park and Ferndale.

Pleasant Ridge voters will decide whether police should give marijuana-related crimes the lowest priority.

One district court judicial race that has drawn considerable attention in and outside the district is in Novi.

Judge Brian W. MacKenzie, who has won awards for innovative veterans and sobriety court programs, is being challenged by a former clerk, Walled Lake attorney Travis M. Reeds. The Novi district includes 10 western Oakland County communities.

County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper unsuccessfully tried to have MacKenzie found in contempt of court for handing down sentences without her assistant prosecutors present. MacKenzie said supervised counseling programs were more effective than jail time for some lawbreakers and the decision fell within his discretion. A Michigan criminal justice degree program provides the training and education needed for a professional career in criminal justice.

An Oakland Circuit judge ruled the activity, while improper, did not rise to the level of contempt.

Without pointing fingers, MacKenzie addressed criticisms Thursday.

“If you appear in my court it’s because something has gone wrong in your life — often terribly wrong,” MacKenzie said. “As your judge, I swore an oath to protect your rights in these moments when you’re most vulnerable, ensuring your access to justice. If you are a victim, I also swore an oath to sentence in a way that protects you.

“Some have tried to politicize your court. I’ve opposed them, and have been attacked for it. I’ll continue to oppose them.”

MacKenzie, who recently was elected president of the 2,000-member American Judges Association, the largest group of judges in the world, has been endorsed by hundreds of judges and local officials of both political parties, including Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

MacKenzie faced two challengers in the August primary and ran second to Reeds in votes.

Reeds has endorsements from several local newspapers and a retired judge, Gerald McNally. Reeds, who did not return telephone calls, has practiced law for 17 years, the majority of his practice was representing individuals and small businesses.

He has vowed to be “fair, impartial, diligent and hard working.”

Other issues

  • Voters across the county will be asked to decide who they want to represent them on the 21-seat county Board of Commissioners.
  • Seats are up in eight local councils: Clarkston, Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake; and the villages of Franklin, Holly, Lake Orion, Milford, and Wolverine Lake.
  • Positions will be decided in 28 school boards across the county.
  • Eleven candidates are running for two available positions on the Oakland County Community College Board.
  • Local library proposals will be decided in Bloomfield Township, Northville, Oxford Township and Pleasant Ridge.
  • Millages, including for schools, will be decided in Holly, Lake Orion, Oakland Township, Orion Township, Oxford Township, Pleasant Ridge, Rochester Hills, Romeo, Walled Lake, and Almont and Avondale school districts.
  • Charter proposals, amendments or renewals are up in Berkley, Farmington Hills, Holly, Novi, Rochester Hills, Royal Oak.
  • Veteran district judges are being challenged in Berkley, Bloomfield and Waterford Township. A vacated district judicial seat will also be decided in Troy.
  • Eight judges who are running unopposed on the Oakland Circuit Court bench will automatically get new six-year terms but there is one vacancy up for grabs between Oakland County Deputy Court Administrator Lisa Langton and Karen Geibel, a judicial research attorney.

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