JULY/AUGUST  2020 
July/August 2020 Newsletter Headlines

Camera and Action - Virtual Courtrooms Up and Running!
Back in January 2020, which feels like a lifetime ago, the Third Circuit Court was embarking on a plan to methodically implement virtual hearings via Zoom, with the goal of piloting the program in a few courtrooms and then, with input from SCAO, gradually expanding it by the year's end.
Then along came COVID-19, and fast-tracking virtual courtrooms became a necessity for the continuation of the Court's mission to provide accessible and equal justice with timely dispute resolution. The Court quickly pulled together a team that included Mike Gruich of ITSB; Tamela Aikens of Court Administration; Richard Lynch of the Office of General Counsel; and Tammi Palmer of Case Processing/Court Reporting Services to develop the technology, procedures, and guidelines to enable virtual courtrooms via Zoom. Honorable Patricia Perez Fresard, Presiding Judge of the Civil Division and Pro Tem, was the first judge to receive Zoom training. Topics included use of the Zoom recording function, live streaming to the Court's YouTube channel, use of breakout rooms, and screen sharing. Within a matter of weeks, judges in every division had received training and begun conducting virtual proceedings, including motion and evidentiary hearings and settlement conferences.
Virtual proceedings have taken some adjustment - a few attorneys have required reminders to wear appropriate attire (no pajamas or baseball caps!). But everyone has progressed significantly since the early days of spending several minutes shouting, "You're muted!"  Now, we have pivoted to customized backgrounds and dozens of virtual motion hearings per week.  Attorneys also report satisfaction with virtual proceedings, suggesting virtual courtrooms may stay open for business even after the threat of COVID-19 has ended.

The Executive Court Administrative Team came up with these light and humorous reminders to encourage all Third Circuit Court Judges and Staff are wearing their masks.
  • Superheroes Wear Masks!
  • No Mask, No Shoes, No Service
  • No Mask, No Shoes, No Shirt, No Service
  • Wear a Mask, Be a Hero
  • Anti-Hero - Batman
  • Hero - Ironman
We want to ensure that each person stays healthy and safe.  So please, wear your mask.  If you need a mask, please let your supervisor or manager know. 

Michigan Safety Alert
To break the chain of infection, Michigan Department and Health and Human Services is calling anyone who has been exposed to COVID-19.  If you get a call from (866) 806-3447, MI COVID HELP or your local health department, please answer.


Now more than ever, taking care of yourself is essential.  During any given period, Court employees face a multitude of occupational stress situations daily. The stress level associated with coping with the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to work, and family is quite often immeasurable.  Our lives have been disrupted, and we are all dealing with facing each day not knowing what the next moment may bring.  Fear and anxiety can be devastating and cause unhealthy, harmful emotions.
That is why self-care at this time, more than ever, is so important.
Think of self-care as focusing on your well-being.
Ask yourself - what is the best thing that I can do for myself right now, during lunch, after work, this weekend, that will not cost me anything but time?
We all have reasonable and practical responses to this question - but we allow our work environment, our after-work routine, or our self-defeating thoughts to convince us that timeis too high a price to pay for our own spiritual, physical, and emotional wellness.
Beyond that, imagine the investment potential in committing the time necessary to not only take care of yourself, and care about yourself, but to be kind to yourself.  Self-care has many different meanings for most people, but most assuredly what self-care is NOT, is a selfish act. No matter how you define it, everyone can agree self-care is about stopping and taking the time to refuel your mind, body, and soul before you are on empty and can be of no service or assistance to anything or anyone - namely yourself.
Make the time. Take the time! Journal, take a walk, phone a friend, Zoom with family and friends, read a book, take a long bath, meditate, get in touch with nature, take a long nap, jam out to your favorite dance music, bake for the joy of it, sit on your deck and just be still.
Whatever you choose - it is important to do something rejuvenating, something that makes you feel better and restored.  Once you make this a daily commitment, no matter how big or small, you will wonder how you ever thrived without it.  You will crave it, and you will do everything in your power to commit to it.
Find at least one thing to feel grateful or appreciative about each day. All it will cost you is a few moments of your time.

The Third Circuit Court Diversity and Inclusion Team's Mission:
"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.

Labor Day   September 7
Hispanic Heritage Month  September 15-October 15
Rosh Hashanah   September 18-20
Yom Kippur  September 27, 28

Yellow Stripes

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We are in different times.

Our lives are different. Our business lives have extended into our personal lives; we expect to hear the family in the background, the dog barking, or the doorbell ringing during our Zoom meetings. We are alternating working remotely and coming into the office. We are social distancing from our cubicle colleagues instead of heading for our coffee klatches. Our family vacations are postponed or altered. We do not have a plan for the fall as we await to hear if schools will reopen for in-person or virtual sessions, and then we have to weigh the pros and cons of whatever that determination is for our individual families.

Life is different. The difference came swiftly and unexpectedly. We have been coping and adjusting. We have no idea how long it will take for this all to settle down and what it will even look like when it does. As we are finding our equilibrium and taking the next steps forward, we are filled with a measure of confidence and a double measure of hope and faith. Collectively, we walk into the new normal. Thank you for taking those brave steps.
Thank you for being patient, kind, creative, and courageous. Thank you for taking on the unplanned challenges of Zoom, YouTube, social distancing, and wearing protective equipment throughout the work day. It has not been easy. And, you continue to make it work. You continue to serve the citizens and provide judicial services in these different times. Thank you for all you do. Thank you for being the face and the heart of Third Circuit Court.

Congratulations Hon. Muriel D. Hughes
Recognized by the Alumnae Association for upholding the standards and ideals of Saint Mary's College and its mission, Judge Muriel Hughes has been honored as the 2020 Alumna Achievement Award recipient.  In 2006, Judge Hughes was appointed to the State of Michigan 3rd Judicial Circuit Court by the Governor and has been since re-elected by the people of Wayne County three times. Judge Hughes currently serves in the Civil and Business Divisions of the Court.
Welcome Our New Wayne County 
Friend of the Court Referees
The Wayne County Friend of the Court (FOC) Referee Department would like to welcome three new referees who started in June and began conducting hearings in August.  These referees join the Court at a unique time when training is being done virtually, in part, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Referee Michael Kwarcinski joined the department as a full-time referee and is assigned to Family Division-Domestic Relations Presiding Judge Kathleen M. McCarthy's docket.  Referee Kwarcinski will also provide coverage for other dockets as needed.  Referee Kwarcinski comes to FOC as a graduate of Wayne State University Law School where he developed a passion for family law at the Free Legal Aid Clinic.  Initially after law school, he was an assistant prosecuting attorney, then a legal aid attorney, followed by having served as the Legal Director for the Third Circuit Court's Personal Protection Order (PPO) and Domestic Violence Courtrooms.  Most recently, he was a career advisor at Michigan State University College of Law.   Referee Kwarcinski says he is "ecstatic to return to the Third Circuit and to serve the public alongside some of the most dedicated people he has ever known."
Referee Craig Feringa joined the department in a part-time capacity and conducts hearings exclusively on parenting time matters that come before the court.  Referee Feringa comes to FOC as a graduate of  Detroit College of Law, after which, he joined the law firm of Sommers, Schwartz, Silver & Schwartz in their medical malpractice division, followed by having started his own private practice in family law with an office in Mt. Clemens and practicing in Wayne, Macomb, Oakland, and St. Clair Counties.  Referee Feringa is also quickly becoming the department's newest unofficial technology guru!
Referee Gwendolyn Davis-Yancey also joined the department in a part-time capacity and conducts hearings exclusively on parenting time matters that come before the court.  Referee Davis-Yancey comes to FOC as a graduate of University of Detroit-Mercy School of Law.  She was previously a high school chemistry teacher for Detroit Public Schools before realizing her deep desire to help families in a different way, which is when she then began her quest to become an attorney.  Referee Davis-Yancey started her legal practice at Detroit's Legal Aid & Defender's Office and then opened her own practice where she specialized in family law, wills, trusts, and probate matters. She is also a Certified Master Life Coach and Certified Professional Coach.  Referee Davis-Yancey says that she was inspired to become a Friend of the Court Referee because of the important positive impact that Referees have on families and she understands the important role they have in providing assistance that help guide and stabilize family units.
In addition to our newest members, above, the FOC Referee Department is currently comprised of eleven additional full-time referees who have a combined total of more than 100 years of referee experience hearing matters primarily involving custody, parenting time, and child support related issues.  The FOC Referees care about the families who come before them and work tirelessly to resolve child-related issues in the best interest of the children and consistent with the law. 
Health and Safety are Priority One for Resuming Jury Trials
The Third Circuit Court has made health and safety the top priorities as Court leadership thoughtfully planned to resume jury trials.  The process has been informed by information and data from Governor Whitmer, the Michigan Supreme Court, and the Wayne County and City of Detroit Health Departments.  As a result, Personal Protective Equipment, contact tracing, and social distancing are established protocols.  The Chief Judge, along with the Presiding Judges and administrators have viewed and plan the jury trial experience from the various perspectives of the parties, witnesses, attorneys, jurors, courtroom staff, public, and judges.  They have consulted and sought input from judicial partners, private attorneys, and community partners.   The Judges and administrators will continue to work with and collaborate on all these fronts through bar associations and judicial partnership meetings.  The community partners represent various views and demographics.   Recent focus groups reviewed the jury service video and included representatives from Focus-Hope; The Children's Center; Team Wellness; Logical Choice; The National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs-Detroit, and recent graduates and students from Cristo Rey High School, Cass Tech High School, and Western Michigan University.  Health screenings, temperature checks, masks, plexi-shields, and touch-less hand sanitizing stations are some examples of the new protective measures in place to ensure the safety of all.  The video will be available on the Court's website and shared with various media outlets within the upcoming days to help spread the word "Health and Safety are priority one."

10 Safety Precautions to Keep Jurors Safe
Jury trials are a vital part of our democracy and court system.  The Jury Services Department coordinates jury operations which includes summoning jurors, jury assembly, and providing jury pools for court proceedings.  As the Third Circuit Court prepares to resume jury trials, the Jury Services Department has proactively implemented changes in the summoning, assembly, and juror pool processes to help ensure the health and safety of jurors.  For that purpose, the Jury Services Department has implemented 10 Key Safety Precautions to Keep Jurors Safe.   
  1. Everyone entering the courthouse is required to wear a mask and to keep the mask on while on the premises.
  2. Everyone entering the courthouse must pass the health screening.  The nursing staff is at the door to ensure everyone entering has a normal temperature and answers health screening questions.
  3. Jurors will be provided with Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits that will include masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes.
  4. The number of jurors called for service is reduced.
  5. The jury assembly rooms have chairs socially distanced (at least six feet apart) and there are social distancing markers on the floor.
  6. Clear plexi-shield partitions have been installed at check-in counters and in courtrooms. There are hand-sanitizing stations throughout the jury assembly room.
  7. Fewer documents change hands during check-in.
  8. In courtrooms, jurors will be socially distanced and wear face coverings. 
  9. There are jury service postponements available for medical reasons and hardships caused by the pandemic.
  10. Touch-points will be frequently cleaned in the jury assembly room and throughout the courthouse during business hours.  Each day after business hours, all of the areas of the courthouse will be cleaned and sanitized.

Jury trials are scheduled to resume at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in September 2020 and Coleman A. Municipal Center in October 2020.   The Third Circuit Court Jury Services Department will continue to communicate to the public about jury service. The Jury Services Department may be reached at (313) 224-2507 or

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