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.


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