June 2023 Newsletter - Third Judicial Circuit of Michigan

Hello Summer!

The Grads, the Dads, the Sun and the Fun all make for some wonderful reasons to welcome June. Welcome June, I am glad you are here and with you comes excitement, laughter and a chance to make lasting memories. As Summer begins take some time to “smell the roses”, “take a dip in the pool”, “live in the sunshine” and “go with the flow”. 

In all that you do, you can only be your best self when you take care of yourself! “The very best thing you can do for the world is to make the most of yourself.” ~ Wallace D. Wattles


So, take some time to enjoy June as it brings the start of Summer with its infectious energy and I guarantee it will make you better fit to Serve!


Afterall, “[a] little bit of summer is what the whole year is all about.”~ John Mayer

Frank Hardester Joins Third Circuit Court as

Executive Court Administrator

The Third Circuit Court is pleased to announce Frank Hardester as the new Executive Court Administrator. Mr. Hardester brings over 27 years of public service experience, including 24 years working within various areas of the courts. We are confident that his expansive knowledge and experience will serve our court well.  

Mr. Hardester is from Western Michigan. After graduating as Valedictorian from Bloomingdale High School, he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree from Western Michigan University. He then worked as a social worker and later started his career in the courts. Mr. Hardester held the title of Domestic Investigator while he worked for the Berrien County Trial Court from 1998 to 2000. He then held management positions of Court Services Supervisor and Automation / Technology Deputy Administrator in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court from 2000 to 2014. Mr. Hardester then transitioned to Van Buren County as their Trial Court Administrator from 2014 to 2021. After working as the County Administrator for Van Buren County from 2021 to 2022, Mr. Hardester was eager to return to the judiciary and accepted a position with the Oregon Judicial Department in 2022.

Mr. Hardester has been active in promoting the profession of court administration. He served as Director on the board for the National Association of Court Management (NACM) from 2018 to 2020.

He served as President and Vice President on the board for Michigan’s Association of Circuit Court Administrators (2019 – 2021). He was also a member of the Michigan District Court Administrators Association (2017-2021).

Mr. Hardester enjoys giving back to his community. He served on the Board of Education for Bloomingdale Public Schools from 2016 to 2021 and as Treasurer from 2019 to 2021. He has also been active in volunteer efforts with the American Cancer Society and the Children’s Heart Foundation.

In his free time, Mr. Hardester enjoys hiking and traveling. He has a lifetime love of music that evolved into a successful DJ business. He is happiest spending time with his wife, four sons and two dogs.

New Friend of the Court Referee, Neal “Rick” Unger


Referee Neal “Rick” Unger was sworn in as the Third Circuit Court Family Domestic Division’s newest referee on June 12, 2023 by the Honorable Patricia P. Fresard, Chief Judge, before a packed courtroom including judges, court staff, and many family and friends who appeared to show support. Referee Unger is a graduate of Detroit College of Law. He began his legal career practicing business law at a mid-sized law firm for several years before gravitating toward family law. He then started his own law firm and went on to continue his family law practice (including juvenile and domestic relations) for 37 years before deciding to pursue a new career in public service at our Friend of the Court. He brings a wealth of knowledge and a passion for family law! Referee Unger has been married for 37 years and has 6 children. In his private life, he enjoys golf, travel, photography, music, and reading.


Referee Unger will be assigned to hear a part-time docket consisting of post-judgment parenting time enforcements and parenting time modification motions for all judges in the Family Domestic Division. Welcome Referee Unger!

Welcome Nicholas Butler to Third Circuit Court Criminal Division!

The Criminal Division is pleased to welcome Nicholas Butler to the Court, he is a Pretrial Services Specialist in the Pretrial Services Department. Nicholas graduated from Wane State University with a Bachelors in Criminal Justice and a minor in Business Administration. He was born and raised in Grosse Ile Township, a small island in the Detroit River, and is the youngest of four siblings. Nicholas grew up dreaming of working in law enforcement, but while working as a Dispatcher for the Wayne State University Police, Nicholas gained a new passion for the field of law. He aspires to attend law school and continue working for the courts. Nicholas is also the nephew of Michigan Appeals Court Judge Thomas Cameron, who has been a great mentor as Nicholas enters this new career.

Honorable Charise Anderson Receives

2022-2023 Hon. Kirsten Frank Kelly Award


The Honorable Charise L. Anderson received the 2022-2023 Hon. Kirsten Frank Kelly Award on May 24th at the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan (WLAM) Wayne Region Annual Meeting at The Loft at J’adore Detroit. The Hon. Kirsten Frank Kelly Award is awarded to a Region member in good standing who not only contributes to the Region but has exemplified dedication to leadership and actively champions justice in the Wayne County legal community. This award is named in honor and recognition of Honorable Kirsten Frank Kelly of the Michigan Court of Appeals for her unwavering support and dedication to the Region and the Wayne County legal community. 

Judge Anderson was elected to the Third Judicial Circuit in November 2022 and serves in the Criminal Division. Congratulations Judge Anderson on receiving this distinguished award!

Honorable Carla G. Testani Receives

2023 Mary S. Coleman Award

The Honorable Carla G. Testani received the 2023 Mary S. Coleman Award on June 2nd at the Women Lawyer’s Association of Michigan’s 105th Annual Meeting at The Graduate Hotel in East Lansing. The Mary S. Coleman Award is awarded to a current or former member of the Michigan federal, state, or tribal judiciary whose leadership, talent, and significant contributions to women provide a role model in the profession and women in general. Judge Testani has served in the Third Judicial Circuit’s Family-Domestic Division since 2018. She currently serves on the SBM Family Law Council and the Michigan Judges Association Executive Board. She also serves the legal community through presentations for continuing legal education programs and promotes the judicial system by volunteering in local schools and speaking to various community organizations. Congratulations to Judge Testani on receiving this prestigious award!

Friend of the Court Resumes In-Person Outreach at Two Partner Locations


The Friend of the Court resumes in-person outreach at the UAW Region 1A in May and at the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) in June. At these outreach locations, customers can meet one-on-one with a child support professional about their case. The child support professional will have access to your case file and be able to provide case specific information. Motion forms will also be available. 

The outreach at UAW Region 1A is on the first Friday of the month at 9650 S. Telegraph in Taylor from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The outreach at ACCESS is on the second Friday of the month at 6450 Maple Street in Dearborn from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Customers are served on a first come, first serve basis. No appointment needed.

Any changes to this schedule will be posted on our website at www.3rdcc.org.

Dominique Peacock Promoted to Chief Special Assistant Prosecuting Attorney – Assistant Friend of the Court


The Third Judicial Circuit is pleased to announce that Dominique Peacock has been promoted to Chief Special Assistant Prosecuting Attorney – Assistant Friend of the Court. Ms. Peacock will lead our Case Establishment Department. Friend of the Court, Erin Lincoln, has “full confidence that Dominique will be a tremendous asset to our Case Establishment Department and will make changes for the better!”

Ms. Peacock began her career at the Third Judicial Circuit as the Judicial Assistant for Judge Daphne Means Curtis and transitioned to the Wayne County Friend of the Court as an Associate Attorney in 2014. Ms. Peacock was a Senior Staff Attorney and Unit Chief in the FOC Legal Department prior to her promotion. 

Ms. Peacock received the Outstanding Assistant Prosecutor Award in March of 2022 at the PAAM Establishment of Support Conference. She graduated from the National Association of Child Support Enforcement Leadership Academy in 2022. 

Ms. Peacock is a Detroiter, graduating from Cass Tech; a proud Wolverine, graduating from The University of Michigan; and a University of Detroit Mercy School of Law alum.

William Booth Legal Aid Clinic Returning to In Person Walk In Clinics

Beginning Thursday, June 8, 2023, the William Booth Legal Aid Clinic will be returning to in person walk in clinics for those needing assistance with family law cases. Clinic staff will be able to assist with all types of family law issues, except for those needing assistance with default judgments. Clinics will be held on Thursdays (except for the first Thursday of the month) starting at 12:00 p.m. and are located in the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center, Floor 7, Training Room 784. Participants will be helped on a first come, first served basis. Spaces are limited.

Those parties needing assistance with preparing default judgments can attend the clinic on the first Thursday of the month, held at The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center, 3737 Lawton, Detroit, MI 48208. The doors to the default judgment clinic open at 11:30 a.m. and the clinic begins at 12:00 p.m. No late arrivals will be accepted.

Participants must bring valid photo identification, proof of income and all documents related to the case. The clinics DO NOT assist with Personal Protection Orders. Dates are subject to change and any changes will be noted on http://www.3rdcc.org/divisions/friend-of-the-court/events

Truancy Intervention Project (TIP)- Warrior Mentality

During the school year 2022-2023, Brownstown Middle School located in the Woodhaven-Brownstown School District participated in the Truancy Intervention Project (TIP). The TIP Program Coordinator, Beryl Fletcher and Assistant Principal, Erin Radtka met with over 20 students and parents as well as held approximately 40 informal meetings to address absenteeism. As a result of TIP services, over 15 students improved their attendance.  These students demonstrated that they have what it takes to be a Brownstown Warrior. Through the guidance of the TIP Program Coordinator it was instilled in the students the importance of showing up daily and what can happen when they are motivated to change. 

In recognition of the students’ improvement, Assistant Principal Radtka hosted an Ice Cream Social to acknowledge their successful participation in TIP. On June 12, 2023, Radtka invited the TIP Program Coordinator as well as Manager of Specialty Court Services, Sonya Ristic to attend this special occasion. Additionally, during the social, the TIP Program Coordinator provided students with certificates of improved attendance. These proud students shared their enthusiasm for ending the school year strong with attendance progress and spoke about participating in summer events. The afternoon was filled with ice cream, conversation, and smiling faces. TIP looks forward to continuing addressing school truancy concerns during the upcoming school year.

Referees Association of Michigan

39th Annual Conference


Eight referees from the Family Domestic and Juvenile Divisions of the Third Circuit Court attended the 39th Annual RAM (Referees Association of Michigan) Conference held May 24th – May 26th, 2023 at The H Hotel in Midland, MI. The last time this conference was held was in 2019, pre-COVID, so it was wonderful for referees from across the State of Michigan to gather, build relationships, and learn. The schedule of events included presentations by Holly Hale, PhD, Counseling and Resource Center of Dearborn who provided an overview of the different mental health treatments, when each is appropriate, the impacts and recommendations of each, and what should be considered when dealing with families, children, and adults in court; Hon. Lorie N. Savin, Oakland County Circuit Court Judge, who discussed contempt powers of judicial officers and the distinction between the various types of contempt in both juvenile and domestic relations cases; Hon. David M. Lawson, Eastern District of Michigan, who provided a practical “how to” approach on evidence including what it is, how it is introduced and admitted, and discussed ruling on objections and admissions; Jeffrey Guina, MD, FAPA, Chief Medical Officer/Easterseals MORC, accompanied by a resident in psychiatry in training from Corewell Health, formerly Beaumont Hospital, who presented on the rising issues of substance abuse, child abuse, domestic violence, suicides, etc., and the COVID Mental Health Crisis; Ryan O’Neal, Referee, Oakland County, who presented on court rule and case law updates for domestic and juvenile law; as well as a presentation on ADM File 2019-33-required adoption of Mandatory Continuing Judicial Education (MCJE) for all judicial officers and an entertaining game of “Ethics Jeopardy” to learn about ethics, judicial competence, demeanor, and integrity. 

The following referees are pictured from left to right:

Daniel Ferency (domestic)

Alicia Bianchi (domestic)

Tracey Martin (juvenile)

Diane Biggar (domestic)

Rosanne Hostnik (domestic)

Stephanie Witucki (domestic / RAM Board Member)

Lauren Wright Middleton (domestic)

Christine Rodriguez (domestic)


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.

JULY 2023

Canada Day  - July 1

Independence Day  - July 4

Venezuela Independence Day  - July 5

World Chocolate Day  - July 7

Global Forgiveness Day  - July 7

Bastille Day (France)  - July 14

National Ice Cream Day  - July 16

Nelson Mandela International Day - July 18

Islamic New Year / Hijra New Year - July 19

National Hot Dog Day  - July 19

Colombia Independence Day - July 20

National Parents Day  - July 23

Cousins Day  -  July 24

Tisha B'Av  - July 26-27

National Disability Independence Day  - July 26

Perú Independence Day -  July 28 & 29

International Day of Friendship  - July 30


Notable Dates:

  • July 2 – Thurgood Marshall’s Birthday: The day Associate Justice of the Supreme Court and civil rights activist Thurgood Marshall was born
  • July 6 – Dalai Lama’s Birthday: The day that Tibet’s leader in exile and Nobel Peace Prize recipient was born
  • July 6 – Frida Kahlo’s Birthday: A well-known Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, in the 20th century was born on this day
  • July 18 – Nelson Mandela’s Birthday: Nelson Mandela served as South Africa’s first black president and was a strong civil rights leader
  • July 26 – Americans with Disabilities Act: This law protects people with disabilities from being discriminated against
  • July 19 – Hijri New Year: this day marks the start of the Islamic New Year — beginning the prior evening

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