According to the American Bar Association, the role of a Judge in court proceedings is like umpires in baseball, or referees in football or basketball. Their role is to see that the rules of court procedures are followed by both sides. That means “without regard to which side is popular, without regard to who is “favored,” without regard for what the spectators want, and without regard to whether the judge agrees with the law.” The judge’s role includes things like smoothly running the courtroom, deciding many contested issues of fact as well as contested issues of law, and making court order that the court thinks are necessary and appropriate.
In other words, the job of the judge in Michigan is to make sure that the law is being followed, but not to be personally involved in a case. Which is what makes this case in Otsego County, Michigan such a strange one. An Osego County Family Court Judge chose to visit the home of a family involved in a termination of parental rights case, to see for himself how the family was handling the situation. The parents, whose daughter has a chronic kidney disease, are at risk of losing their parenting rights. The judge’s home visit during an ongoing CPS case is unprecedented.
The judge visited the family’s home before terminating their parental rights
Judge Michael Cooper showed up at the family’s trailer with attorneys from both sides – the lawyer for CPS and the lawyer for the parents – to investigate the situation personally. Although the agreement was that neither attorney was allowed to ask the family questions in the judge’s presence, or explain any aspect of their life or home, it turns out that the visit was not legal. Based in part on his impressions during the visit, Judge Cooper terminated the couple’s parental rights.
But because of his visit to their home, the entire case came under review, and ended up before the Michigan Supreme Court. This is a strange situation, which shows just how easy it is for a judge to step over the line and move from their position of neutrality. The Michigan Supreme Court was then forced to consider whether it’s appropriate for a judge to see the conditions of a family’s home before terminating the rights of the parents involved.
The Supreme Court reviewed the case to see if the visit was appropriate
Our own Attorney Chuck Kronzek, founder of The Kronzek Firm PLC and a CPS defense attorney with decades of experience, spoke with National Public Radio (NPR) on the subject, and explained why this is so concerning. “The judge took him or herself out of the role of being neutral.” Attorney Kronzek explained,” He made himself a witness and made that part of a decision without the ability of an accused parent to confront him, cross-examine him, and so on.”
As it turns out, the Michigan Supreme Court agrees that this was a bad move on the judge’s part. After they heard the case, the Supreme Court justices ruled that Judge Cooper’s home visit was NOT permissible. However, despite this decision, they still chose to uphold the termination of parental rights on other unrelated grounds. As a result, both parties are expected to file briefs for the Supreme Court within the month.
Battling CPS in Michigan is always full of challenging obstacles
Although the instance of a judge making an unlawful home visit is very rare, there are many other instances where CPS workers step over the line. Whether it’s their bullying tactics, or their frequent threats made to parents who are struggling to get their children back, we’ve seen it all! So if you need a highly skilled and experienced CPS defense attorney, who can handle both CPS allegations and the criminal charges that often accompany those claims, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245 today. We have helped thousands of clients across Michigan since the last century.