e-Journal Summary

e-Journal Number : 54022
Opinion Date : 02/21/2013
e-Journal Date : 03/18/2013
Court : Michigan Court of Appeals
Case Name : Lopucki v. Scott
Practice Area(s) : Personal Protection Orders
Judge(s) : Memorandum - Whitbeck, Saad, and Shapiro
Full Text Opinion

Request for disqualification of the trial court issuing the PPO based on judicial bias; MCR 2.003(C)(1)(a); In re MMK; Hayford v. Hayford; MCL 600.2950a(1); MCL 750.411h(1)


The court heldĀ that the record clearly demonstrated the trial court did not abuse its discretion and properly denied the respondent's motion to set aside the PPO, especially in light of his direct and knowing violation of the trial court's orders. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court's denial of respondent's motion to set aside the PPO. Respondent, a felon, argued that the trial court was biased and initially sought disqualify the trial judge on the ground that all other judges in the circuit court had disqualified themselves from hearing his claims and thus, this judge should do so as well. The trial court correctly ruled that his claim did not constitute proper grounds for disqualification. Respondent requested review by the Chief Judge, but because he also disqualified himself from hearing matters brought by respondent, the motion was heard by a judge in another circuit. During the hearing on the motion, respondent raised another claim that the trial judge was biased because the judge issued the PPO on the basis of information she learned during a child protection proceeding and on the basis of information from an assistant prosecutor that respondent was violent, dangerous, and threatened the lives of judges. Respondent met the petitioner's ex-husband while they were both in jail. In the child protection proceeding involving alleged abusive conduct toward the children of petitioner's ex-husband, the trial court was attempting to protect the petitioner's minor children from her ex-husband, also a felon. Respondent's claim of bias lacked merit and the court rejected it because the trial court's efforts to protect the safety and well being of the petitioner's minor children properly included court orders to avoid any contact with any felon, including petitioner's ex-husband and his friend, respondent. Further, the judge testified at length at the disqualification hearing and the reviewing judge found no evidence of prejudice. The record clearly reflected that respondent failed to show actual bias or antagonism by the trial court toward him and failed to overcome the presumption of impartiality. The trial court also found that respondent acted as an agent for his friend and co-felon, petitioner's ex-husband, and that the orders should be maintained for the safety of the minor children and their mother, petitioner, who had no relationship with respondent and felt nervous and uncomfortable about his uninvited contacts.

Full Text Opinion