Employee Highlight of the Month
Patricia Mitchell - Judicial Secretary
Q. How many years have you been employed with the Court?
A. Almost 13 years with the court and 23 years with Judge Frank Szymanski in private practice.
Q. Do you have any skills or talents that most people don't know about?
A. Not that I can think of. I'm pretty much an open book, so most people know my talents and skills.
Q. If you could be anywhere other than here right this minute, where would you be?
A. On our boat on Lake St. Clair.
Q. Who do you admire, and why?
A. My mother Char who passed away in 2013. She raised me on her own to be independent and kind and she always worked very hard and had a heart of gold. I now, as a mom of adult children, realize how much she sacrificed for me.
My husband John, who is smart, a wonderful husband and father, he is always patient and kind and has always worked very hard... and can fix anything.
Q. Finish this sentence. On Sunday mornings, you can usually find me...
A. At church or on our boat.
Q. What do you think are the best skills that you bring to your job?
A. Multitasking, empathy, professionalism, and willing to help anyone that crosses my path; and as a public servant that is priceless.
Q. Name three words that describe you.
A. A good heart.
Q. What are you happiest doing when you're not working?
A. Spending time with my husband and kids and being on our boat with family and friends.
Q. What is your personal motto?
A. If I leave this world tomorrow and I left my kids with a good heart, then I've done my job.
Also, you never have to wonder what I'm thinking because it will come right out of my mouth.
Q. What are some causes you care about?
A. St. Jude, bone cancer research, and The Salvation Army.
Q. What is an enjoyable part of your job?
A. When there are great outcomes like families reuniting or getting adopted. Helping others is truly the most enjoyable part of my job and knowing how much they appreciate it.
Q. What are some career highlights?
A. When I first started working for the court, there was a male neglect ward and I noticed his next hearing was on his 16th birthday and I bought him a birthday cake. He teared up and said he has never had a birthday cake in his life; truly heartwarming.
Also, there was a mother that came in and she was torn because her 12-year-old was domestically violent and she was scared for her and her daughter's life. I encouraged her to file an incorrigibility petition. She struggled with it and she ended up doing just that. He received services for years and I am happy to say he is doing well and a graduate of Eastern University with a degree in social work. Success stories are always the best.
Q. What is your dream job?
A. Being a travel agent.
Q. What college/university did you go to?
A. Macomb Community College with a degree in Accounting.
Q. What's a little known fact that you are willing to share?
A. I taught country line dancing for many years.
Four high school students from Detroit Cristo Rey High School: Dashanae Watts, Alicia Stanley, Lauren Jones: and Mikael Thornton have joined Third Judicial Court as interns for their work study program. Each student is assigned to one of the departments: Jury Services, Human Resources, General Counsel, or Court Administration. The Court is very pleased to have these students come and intern for the Court.
On October 10, 2019, the Honorable Edward J. Joseph swore in nine new CASA volunteers. Many Judges, Referees, and well-wishers were in attendance to witness this event. Our next "Court Appointed Special Advocates" class will begin in April 2020. If you know someone or think they may be interested in becoming a CASA volunteer, please contact CASA's office at (313) 833-3093. Making a difference in a child's life changes your life. For additional information please go to our website at www.casaforchildren.
Detroit Bar Association
Judges and attorneys had an opportunity to enjoy lunch, networking, and informative presentations at the Third Circuit Court-Detroit Bar Association Bench-Bar Luncheon on September 26. Long-time facilitator Robert Riley of Riley & Hurley, P.C. presented his insights on how attorneys and judges can maximize the benefits of facilitation. He shared valuable tips on preparing for facilitation, and pitfalls practitioners should avoid. Attendees also enjoyed a presentation by Ronald Sangster of The Law Offices of Ronald M. Sangster, PLLC, and Wayne Miller of Miller & Tischler, P.C. on recent amendments to the No-Fault Act. Their sharp analysis offered practical information on issues judges and attorneys will face as the amendments are implemented. Several attendees remarked that this was the best bench-bar luncheon yet. The Court's Bench-Bar Luncheons are a valuable means of enhancing communication between the bench and the bar - they offer attorneys the opportunity to network, share their ideas with the bench, and be the first to hear of updates to Court protocols and procedures.
The Family Division's Community Education Event
The Domestic Relations Section and Juvenile Section of the Third Circuit Court of Michigan Family Division hosted a "Community Education Event" on Monday, September 23, 2019 at the Federal Reserve Bank of Detroit. Leaders from various community agencies, partners, and organizations were invited to hear information about the Domestic Relations and Juvenile Sections in the hopes that those leaders could take that information back to the public which they serve. The forum provided a place for dialogue and questions and answers between the Court and these community partners in an effort to better provide services for the children and families in Wayne County. Participants were able to network during lunch and give feedback about things the Court can do to improve the services which the Court provides.
The event has grown in recent years. In 2017, in the inaugural year, there were 68 people in attendance. This year, there were over 130 who attended to provide the Court with feedback and to gather information.
The Family Division thanks all of its community partners who aid in the effort to strengthen Wayne County's families.
Melissa T. Parks, Art & Soul Dreams Executive Director/Founder
During the month of October, Third Circuit Court had on display throughout the 7th floor "Every Child is a Work of Art" Art & Soul Dreams. This is the Fourth Annual Traveling Portrait Exhibit of Michigan Children in Foster Care Waiting for Adoption.
Court employees and the public were able to view the portraits displayed in the various offices on the 7th floor. There were booklets available in each location with more information about the children and the program for anyone who was interested.
THE DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION CALENDAR
The Third Circuit Court Diversity and Inclusion Team's Mission Statement:
"We appreciate our common connection and respect our diverse and unique human experiences. We move forward as an inclusive organization as we provide accessible and equal justice."
The Court's Diversity & Inclusion Team strives to ensure the values of its diverse bench, staff, and court users are acknowledged and reflected in our delivery of service as well as our work environment.
In that spirit, the team creates and shares a monthly list of various holidays and observations along with some celebration suggestions. We invite our work community and the community at large to contribute.
Dia de los Muertos
November 1 & 2
Book Lovers Day
International Day of Peace
Transgender Day of Remembrance November 20
Small Business Saturday
Join our E-mail List and receive our monthly E-mail newsletter from the Third Judicial Circuit Court and stay informed.
Please send us your name and email address to -
On September 22, we experienced the Autumn Equinox. On this day, there was not a tilt to the earth's axis. The earth stood straight up and down so everyone on the planet received the equal amount of light and dark. Since then we have begun to notice the seasonal changes and to shift our focus at the Court to the new fiscal year. We celebrate the successes of the prior year and ready ourselves for the tasks ahead of us. Our Budget and Finance Department even has a Happy New Fiscal Year observation. One thing we need this year remains unchanging: we need employees who are committed to serving the public and working harmoniously with their fellow coworkers. We thank the 58 judges and the 500 employees - veterans and new hires of all generations - for all your work and for your commitment for all the work that lies ahead.
P.S. Thank you Rosemary Christian for sharing about the Autumn Equinox.
The Friend of the Court
Celebrates 100 Years of Public Service
This year, the Michigan Friend of the Court (FOC) celebrates its 100th Anniversary. In 1919, each county was required through Michigan legislation to develop a Friend of the Court office for the purpose of managing domestic relations cases. Additional legislation further defined the processes and services that the Friend of the Court must provide.
Wayne County Friend of the Court holds the title of being the first Friend of the Court in Michigan. On Friday, September 6, 2019, the FOC held a grand celebration for all of its FOC employees in the historic Penobscot Building, home of the current FOC offices. It was a 100th Birthday Party celebration complete with cake, ice cream, and birthday presents. All FOC employees received a cloth and leather "pad folio" embossed with the official 100th Year Anniversary of the FOC emblem, along with a personal letter from our current Friend of the Court - Deputy Court Administrator of the Family Domestic Division - Ms. Erin Lincoln.
The program included a warm welcome and congratulatory speech from the Chief Judge of the Third Circuit Court of Michigan, Hon. Timothy M. Kenny. Our Executive Court Administrator, Ms. Zenell Brown, was on hand to congratulate the staff and capture the memories on Facebook and Twitter for all to enjoy.
Wayne County Friend of the Court's Free Child Support Help Program
On October 12, 2019, the Wayne County Friend of the Court held its biannual Free Child Support Help Program at the Detroit Public Library's Woodward Branch. Sponsored by the Salvation Army's William Booth Legal Aid Clinic, the Program brings pro bono attorneys to those in need of legal assistance with their child support cases. Chief Judge Timothy M. Kenny was there to greet participants and encourage them to let others know that the Free Child Support Help Program is there to help them. Friend of the Court staff was also on hand to help those with child support arrears fill out applications for the Discharge of State Arrears Program. This year, over 10 service providers were also there to offer assistance to those with child support issues. Over 130 people needing assistance with their child support case were able to receive help.
This Program is held twice a year, in April and October. Please mark your calendars for the April event which will be held on Saturday, April 25, 2020.
Conflict Resolution Month
October is typically celebrated as Conflict Resolution Month. The Family Domestic Section of the Third Circuit Court's Family Division uses many different means to resolve conflicts. One of the most widely used is Alternative Dispute Resolution. According to Cornell Law School's Legal Information Institute, "Alternative Dispute Resolution ("ADR") refers to any means of settling disputes outside of the courtroom. ADR typically includes early neutral evaluation, negotiation, conciliation, mediation, and arbitration."
Third Circuit Court uses ADR extensively because it is more efficient, less expensive, and a faster way to resolve disputes. ADR is a rare win-win for both the Court and parents of Wayne County. The Court primarily uses ADR to address custody and parenting time issues. Mediation is one of the centerpieces to ADR services in the Court. Parents are offered several options to mediate their disagreements. Mediation is an informal alternative to litigation. Mediators are individuals trained in negotiation and family law. They are either attorneys or mental health professionals. Mediators bring parents together and attempt to work out an agreement that both parties accept or reject. Mediation is not binding. The mediation process is the parents' only opportunity, if they agree, to write their own court orders relating to custody and parenting plan for their children. Mediation is never appropriate when there is a power imbalance present. Domestic violence would be an example of that power imbalance, whether it is present or perceived. The Family Assessment, Mediation and Education (FAME) Department is staffed with state approved mediators. Together FAME and Wayne Mediation Center, a state approved community ADR program, offer high quality mediation services to assist the parents of Wayne County to find the solution that results in the best plan for their children.
Parents often take away valuable skills from the mediation process that will help them solve other future issues in their lives. Parenting is a fluid process from grade to grade and from house to house. If parents can learn how to focus communication toward a solution, they will be better parents and their children will be happier.
Third Circuit Court appreciates all of its mediators and celebrates Dispute Resolution Month.
Summer Intern Tour Series
The Court added a new site to the Summer Intern Tour series with the new addition of a visit to the United States Bankruptcy Court. Presiding Judge Phillip Shefferly welcomed the interns to his chambers and scheduled three motions for the interns to observe during the visit. In addition, Judge Shefferly shared his story which included practicing as a bankruptcy attorney for 14 years prior to being appointed as a judge in the Bankruptcy Court. Now on his second 14 year term, Judge Shefferly discussed the intersection between the Bankruptcy Code and the underlying disputes that lead a debtor to file for bankruptcy protection.
Prior to hearing the motions, Judge Shefferly graciously explained the background of the cases before the Court. Once the hearing concluded, he asked the interns about the motions. In particular, he asked the interns what they noticed about the cases and arguments and questioned them about why the cases failed to resolve at the motion hearing and what should occur prior to the next court date as the case advances toward a trial. Judge Shefferly left the interns with two nuggets at the end of the visit: "Preparation is Everything" and "Being a Good Listener is an important aspect to being a Good Lawyer."
The interns also met with Judge Shefferly's Law Clerk, Barbara Bailey who shared her career path. Beginning in an MBA program, Ms. Bailey became captivated by a business law course and switched to law school. While in law school, she worked as an intern with a Bankruptcy Judge, which led to a full-time position. Now a career law clerk, Ms. Bailey has worked in the Court for 26 years with Judge Shefferly and his predecessor. It appears that Ms. Bailey started a family tradition, as her nephew, Cameron MacCourt, an undergrad at CMU and aspiring lawyer, joined the interns during their visit.
Finally, thank you to all the Court Administrators and Staff volunteering their time, knowledge, and advice during the tour; Friend of Court, Erin Lincoln; Lori Kaczmarek, AA to FOC Erin Lincoln; Presiding Judge Kathleen McCarthy; Casey Stiteler, Judicial Assistant to Judge McCarthy; Referee Lauren Middleton; FOC Attorneys Ms. Dominique Peacock, Ms. Adrienne Scruggs, and Ms. Jamie Bissell; Attorney Alex Greene, from Mediation Tribunal; DCA Alisa Shannon; Karen Smith, AA to DCA Shannon; Judge Talon; Lynn Wade, Judicial Assistant to Judge Talon; William Predhomme, Judicial Assistant to Presiding Judge Prentis Edwards Jr.; General Counsel Criminal Division Attorneys, Josef Funchess, Sauda Ahmad, and Linda Sims; Shelly McLean, County Clerk Office; Ted White Case Initiation; Angelica Dortch-McKay, Court Reporting Services; Deputy Kerwin Gregory, DNA Office; Gina Jackson, Jury Services; Lee Brown, Pretrial Services; Yvonne Barnett-Greene, Specialty Court Services; Vedrice Moore, Trial Court Services and Deputy Milad Fadlallah, Wayne County Sheriff's Office; DCA Richard Smart; Katie Sanfilippo, AA to DCA Smart; Chief Referee James Catchings; Sheila O'Brien, AA to Chief Referee Catchings; Presiding Judge Edward Joseph; Judge Frank Szymanski; Roland Smith, Coordinator of CASA; Referee Anthony Crutchfield; Lynda McGhee and Esther Harris, Attorneys with the Michigan Children's Law Center and Court Attorney Reginald Thomas.
Special thanks to Chief Judge Phillip J. Shefferly, U.S. Bankruptcy Court; Janice Zielinski, and Barbara Bailey, Judicial Assistants to Judge Shefferly for joining the court program as a new tour experience for the interns.
Special thanks to Chief Judge Hood, U.S. District Court and Jim Carroll, Summer Intern Coordinator and Law Clerk to Chief Judge Hood, who welcomed our Interns to participate in their U.S. District Intern events for a second year; Lisa Stroud, AA to General Counsel Richard
Lynch, for coordinating the program. We look forward to next year's program, more collaborations with other Intern programs, and tour possibilities with other courts.
Strategic Plan Team Highlight
Develop Inventory/Approach for Operational Audits, Certifications, and Reports
The Develop Inventory/Approach for Operational Audits, Certifications, and Reports Strategic Planning Committee consists of (Left to Right) Richard Lynch, Kathryn Eckel, Kevin Martin, Lyn Roberts, Toby Horner, Tamela Aikens, Thomas Smellie, Tammi Palmer, Chris Magusin (not pictured), and Jeannette Heacox (not pictured).
This Courtwide Project is aligned with Strategic Focus Area (SFA) #4, Case Management and Operational Efficiencies. In accordance with SFA #4, the Project is focused on the Court's commitment to continuous improvement, and streamlining operations where appropriate. During its first year, the Committee focused on taking a full inventory of the various reports, audits, certifications/re-certifications, internal reporting, as well as external reports required for submission by the Court.
As the project carried forward into the 2018 - 2019 Operational Plan, it was identified to serve as a pilot project implemented out of the Executive Court Administrator's office.
The planned outcome from this Project is to complete an automation process for report and deadline date tracking and monitoring. During the pilot phase, the end-user will be the Executive Court Administrator, Zenell Brown. To date, an automation process flowchart has been drafted, and once the final automation process is approved, it will be submitted to ITSB for implementation.
As a part of its mandate to serve the families and children of Wayne County, the Friend of the Court has created an Outreach Team filled with dedicated staff and developed partnerships with several community agencies and organizations. Two of the primary goals in creating these partnerships are to make Friend of the Court services more accessible to the community and to encourage parties to be informed about their FOC cases.
Starfish Family Services, located at 26429 Michigan Ave., Inkster is one of those organizations who have opened the doors of its facility to provide all encompassing services to their families. While it offers a central location for families to interact with the Friend of the Court, Starfish also offers a host of other services for the children and families of Wayne County. Starfish Family Services has three central programs: Early Childhood Development, Behavioral Health Services, and Teen and Adolescent Programs.
Within the Early Childhood Development programs, the following services are offered: Early Head Start, Head Start, Starfish Early Learning Communities, Home-based Literacy Program (32P), Great Start Readiness Program, Partnering with Parents, and Baby Power Program.
The aim of Starfish's Behavioral Health Services is to help children and adults improve their relationships and overall wellbeing through counseling treatment via prevention, outpatient, and in-home therapy programs, specifically designed for the needs of each individual.
Lastly, the Teen and Adolescent Program has two programs, the Project-Regeneration, Inkster Youth Assistance Programs which is geared toward helping at-risk youth (up to age 17-years-old) avoid the juvenile justice system through group support and activities and the Parenthood Program which provides support for pregnant and parenting teens (up to age 21-years-old) through home visits, education, and referrals to other programs and services.
Another bonus for Starfish Family Services is that the MDHHS Inkster Service Center located at 26355 Michigan Ave., Inkster is within the same plaza and easy walking distance. Not only can families communicate with the Wayne County Friend of the Court Outreach Team Member to obtain motion forms and other information regarding their cases, they can take advantage of the numerous services offered by Starfish, and take a trip to the MDHHS office to seek benefits or obtain information regarding their benefits.
The Starfish Family Services Outreach event is held every first Tuesday of the month from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.
The Summer Intern Tour Program concluded with a visit to Lincoln Hall of Justice, which houses the Family Division Juvenile Section. Deputy Court Administrator, Richard Smart, greeted the interns and introduced Dr. Trudy Hale of Assured Family Services and Chief Referee James Catchings.
DCA Smart started the morning activities by sharing his career path and using a series of high profile cases, explained the processes for delinquency, abuse, and neglect cases in the Juvenile Court system. Mr. Smart compared the Juvenile Courts to an Emergency Room, explaining that families come to the courts, damaged and/or hurt and the Court attempts to repair and keep them together, similar to patients seeking treatment during a visit to an E.R.
Dr. Trudy Hale, from Assured Family Services, spoke about the Juvenile Court as a village for children in the court system. She discussed with the interns how her organization links specific services that fit within a family's needs. Dr. Hale explained that Assured Family Services is similar to a "Triage Unit" or the "Nosy Squad" as they are sometimes called within the court, as they try to assess what a youth or family needs through an interview process before they enter the court programs.
Chief Referee Catchings spoke about his experience as a new litigation lawyer working with Legal Aid. He knew nothing about the Juvenile Courts when he received a 30 day assignment. He still works with the Court 30 years later. His dedication is seen by his work in the Courts Aging Out Committee that assists foster children after aging out of the system. Referee Catchings told the interns that he stayed with the Court because of the people he encountered and that Juvenile Court is the "Cedar Point" of the Law. You deal with the ups and downs of law, like a roller coaster, while accepting the successes and failures.
As part of the tour, DCA Smart took the interns to observe the Court's absent without leave or AWOL docket hearings in Presiding Chief Judge Edward Joseph's courtroom. The AWOL docket oversees youth under the jurisdiction of the Court who are away from a placement without Court permission. After concluding the docket, the Judge graciously answered questions from the interns about the cases they observed and the challenges of teens dealing with homelessness, possible drug addiction, and aging out of the system. Judge Joseph then shared with the interns his background in Probate Court that introduced him to the Juvenile Courts, explaining that the Juvenile Courts provide a different perspective of the law, because of the focus on the best interests of children and their families.
The interns moved on to Judge Frank Szymanski's courtroom, whose nephew David was an intern in the summer program. Judge Szymanski spoke to the interns about the Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) study, that shows how trauma experienced as a child can affect the span of their life and explained how the Court uses this new research to screen children and assist them as they address the impacts of trauma and why they have entered the court system. One important item Judge Szymanski stressed to the interns was to "Not go into the Law Business, Go into the People Business" as attorneys, encouraging the interns to volunteer within their communities.
The interns then met "Tess", a mannequin on the first floor of the administrative wing of the Court that models some of the offerings from the Clothes Closet, a resource designed to help children and their families. The Clothes Closet is overseen by Roland Smith, Coordinator of the Court Appointed Special Advocates program (CASA), a program where CASA volunteers assist the Court in child protective proceedings by serving as special advocates for the child's best interests.
During lunch, the interns were joined by Attorneys Esther Harris, a former Social Worker, and Lynda McGhee, the Executive Director of Michigan Children's Law Center. The attorneys discussed what they do and who they represent in Court. They answered questions about what the interns observed during their courtroom visits. Judge Szymanski, Chief Referee Catchings, Referee Crutchfield, and Attorney Reginal Thomas also joined the interns for lunch and provided additional insights as they answered the interns' questions about their tour of the Juvenile Courts. Referee Catchings presented sample documents as reference points covering proceedings viewed by the interns. Finally, Referee Crutchfield touched on the S.T.A.N.D and Mental Health Court programs and how these specialty court programs impact the Juvenile cases.