Thursday, May 31, 2012

The real Otis returns to his 'nest'

Otis Hopson, who recently celebrated his 94th birthday, was back in the courthouse lobby this week relating Bible tales, playing his harmonica and polishing the trekking leather of Macomb County's barristers -- what he's been doing for two decades.
Otis' shoeshine stand tucked beside an elevator wall in the courthouse lobby in Mount Clemens was oddly vacant for nearly two weeks recently because he was ill. But the beret-clad treasure returned to his post after the Memorial Day weekend and seems to be his same old self. Otis said he feels better after some treatment.
Coincidentally, while he was gone, he was honored by Executive Mark Hackel, who tagged the name "Otis" to one of the two peregrine falcon chicks born in early May to mother "Hathor" and nesting on the perch the 11th floor of the old County Building, an annual tradition since 2005. (I'm told a formal ceremony is coming June 10.)
It was great to see Otis back at his perch!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Judge Schwartz spry as ever

Retired Macomb County judge Michael Schwartz appears to have retained his feistiness and good nature, after talking with him last week outside a courtroom where his son, Grant, 39, was sentenced to two years in prison for prescription drug abuse and health care fraud convictions.
Schwartz, 82, was in a wheelchair, as he recovers from a broken femur bone in his left leg suffered in a fall on a sidewalk across Main Street from the county courthouse in Mount Clemens, where he spent nearly two decades on the bench. An 18-inch rod was implanted in his leg.
I expected to possibly encounter somebody in a foul mood or angry at a newspaper reporter because I  have penned stories about his son's plight in recent years as well as the ex-judge declaring bankruptcy four years ago due to some poor investments and the real estate market crash. He also can't be happy with his current physical limitations.
But I give the ole judge credit. Still displaying his trademark wavy hair and a twinkle in his eye, he was upbeat and talkative as I chatted with him in the fifth-floor hallway outside Judge David Viviano's courtroom. He boasted of the treatment he received at Fraser Villa Rehabilitation facility, where he spent several weeks while healing, and from his current caretaker, a woman who wheeled the judge around the courthouse.
Other than a vague reference, the judge declined to give his opinion about the legalities of his son's case, even though his body language and facial expression indicated he wanted to say something. In court, he also wanted to speak, but Grant told him not to.
He did say that he wished he "paid more attention" to Grant when his substance-abuse surfaced about nine years ago. He said in his many years on the bench, he tried to get drug addicts help, not just punish them.
Grant's attorney, Saleema Goodman-Sheikh, may have addressed the former judge's concerns -- that his son seems to be suffering the brunt of the criminal case, while his co-defendant, Dr. Alan Peter, only faces a single drug possession charge. Peter is scheduled to be sentenced Thursday, May 31.
Macomb prosecutors didn't respond to Goodman-Sheikh's comments last week.
Schwartz had been hearing cases as a visiting judge up to a couple of years. But if his condition last week was any indication, he could still serve.
And he would like to. He's a passionate jurist. After all, he was a plaintiff in a lawsuit years ago that challenged the Michigan law that bars a judge from seeking re-election once he or she hits 70.
Eighty is the new 70. Maybe that's a law that should be looked at.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

He zigged instead of zagged

A defendant's zig when he should have zagged drew some grins in a Macomb County courtroom on Tuesday, May 15.
Colin Olle, 20, of Warren, was being sentenced after pleading guilty to leaving the scene of a fatal crash in the death of William Ronne last September.
Caretti without a bat of an eye could have given Olle some time behind bars. But the judge told Olle as he stood in front of him that the young man was "fortunate" that Ronne's family wasn't demanding incarceration. So Caretti gave him probation, with the first 30 days on a tether.
But apparently Olle was expecting to be entering a cell that afternoon. After the sentencing was over, Olle took a couple of steps toward the mystery door in the back of the courtroom, gateway to the Macomb County Jail.
Caretti needled defense attorney Randy Rodnick.
"Does he want time, Mr. Rodnick?" Caretti asked, rhetorically, I presume.
Olle grinned as he made a quick turn toward the gallery to waiting family members.
Olle got a break, and knew it.