One of two local sitting judges have been dismissed from a federal lawsuit alleging retaliatory acts and conduct that violates First Amendment rights. 

A complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit by 53rd District Court Administrator Francine Zysk against 53rd District Court Judge Theresa Brennan and Livingston County Chief Judge Miriam Cavanaugh. In a recent order, Judge Cavanaugh only was dismissed from the case with prejudice and without costs of attorney fees to any party. When a case is dismissed with prejudice, it is determined to be on its merits and is considered final. Cavanaugh released a statement on the dismissal; "I am pleased that an agreement has been reached dismissing me as a defendant in the Zysk Lawsuit. The agreement did not contain any financial payment. With my dismissal, I will be able to again focus exclusively on the administration of the Court as the Chief Judge and, more importantly, the business of the Court and the litigants we serve.” 

The lawsuit is seeking damages in excess of $75,000 for damage to Zysk’s reputation in the community and economic loss, as well as emotional distress. Zysk alleges retaliation for her “subpoenaed, truthful testimony” during Brennan’s divorce proceedings in regard to what were described as “infidelities and other scandalous behavior.” The complaint refers to Brennan as a “bully of epic proportions” and alleged that Cavanaugh had retaliated against Zysk on Brennan’s behalf. It further stated Cavanaugh indulged Brennan’s “juvenile” refusal to communicate with Zysk regarding court business, which created more work for everyone. 

Attorney Jim Fett represents Zysk and says all of the retaliation is tied to her telling the truth in two subpoenaed depositions during Brennan’s divorce proceedings. Brennan is alleged to have engaged in extra-marital affairs with at least two individuals including now retired Michigan State Police Detective Sean Furlong. Furlong was the chief prosecution witness during the highly publicized double murder trial of Jerome Kowalski in January of 2013, for which Brennan was the judge. 

The Judicial Tenure Commission has acknowledged it is conducting an investigation into the allegations, although Brennan remains on the bench. (JM/JK)