October 2023 Newsletter - Third Judicial Circuit of Michigan

From the Chief’s Desk


Happy Fall to all of you. This court is so very fortunate to be supported by the efforts of our hard working and much appreciated team members.  As we look forward to upcoming Holidays, may we have more time to enjoy each other’s company with much needed get-togethers and fun events that have been lacking during COVID’s isolation.

Please join me in thanking the Detroit Bar and their two top Pro Bono Service Hours Volunteers. Amanda Zack and Caroline Bermudez Jomaa have generously donated their time, expertise and kind support to court users, who seek Pro Bono services. Their efforts and those of all Attorneys participating in Pro Bono Services and volunteers supporting our Self-Help Center promote our reputation as exemplary of the finest in service to our community.

Hon. Patricia Perez Fresard

Chief Judge

Pictured from left to right: Fran Yturri, Amanda Zack, Chief Judge Patricia Perez Fresard, and Caroline Bermudez Jomaa

Please welcome Dolores Aguilera back to Third Circuit Court. Dolores is the Administrative Assistant to the General Counsel, Margaret Flanagan. Dolores comes to us from Domino’s Pizza where she supported the Marketing Department. She also worked for Trinity Health supporting the legal department.

She began her civil service career at the former Recorder’s Court at FMHJ. She worked in the Psychiatric Clinic, Bond Office, and Human Resources.  Her most recent assignment was at the juvenile section supporting the Chief Referee, and the Deputy Court Administrator.  She also played in the former Circuit Court Softball team.

Dolores is a native of southwest Detroit and avid sports fan. Go Blue! She enjoys spending time with her family, reading, gardening, and traveling. The General Counsel’s Office is so happy to have her skills and experience. Please stop by to say hello and welcome Dolores to the Court.

The Criminal Division is pleased to welcome Mr. Derrick Walker to the Court, he is a Pretrial Services Specialist in the Pretrial Services Department.  Mr. Walker has a background in mental health and substance abuse treatment. In his previous roles, he served as an investigator to ensure individuals on parole or probation, maintained complainant with orders, and also worked in Oakland County as a Court Clerk. We are excited to have Mr. Walker join our great team.  

The Criminal Division is pleased to welcome Mr. James Lewis to the Court, he is a Pretrial Services Specialist in the Pretrial Services Department.  Mr. Lewis has previously worked at the 37th District Court and the 18th District Court where he served in various roles including working as a Law Clerk.  He also worked for the Internal Revenue Service where he reviewed and processed various documents.  He received his Juris Doctor from Thomas Cooley Law School, and a Bachelors of Arts in Political Science from Kentucky State University. 

Free Child Support Help Program


On Saturday, October 14th, the Free Child Support Help Program, sponsored by the Salvation Army William Booth Legal Aid Clinic, was held at the Wayne County Community College District Northwest Campus. Third Circuit Court Executive Court Administrator, Frank Hardester, opened the event with welcoming remarks, Presiding Judge Melissa A. Cox personally thanked all of the volunteers, and William Booth Legal Aid Clinic Director Amy Roemer gave a short presentation on services the Clinic provides, as well as the Friend of the Court State Discharge of Arrears Program. 


Several community service providers were on site to offer their services, including The Children’s Center; the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS); Lakeshore Legal Aid; Michigan State University Extension – Health and Nutrition; and Natsarim of Life.


Twelve attorneys volunteered their time on a Saturday to help over 70 individuals with their child support, custody, and parenting time issues. The Friend of the Court received over 25 applications for the State Discharge of Arrears Program. The overwhelming turnout of parents demonstrated the need for this type of legal support in the community. 


A special thanks to the Friend of the Court staff and Call Center who helped organize and run the program and for whom this event would not have been possible – Michele Bradford, Alyce Haas, Lori Kaczmarek, Carl Meyer, Chernel Moore, Kenthia Morton, Leslie Murphy, Renee Nash, and Tom Smellie.

Attorney Volunteers, from left to right: Jason Tower, Kelly Schalte, 3L law student Lauren Peters, Ryan Kelly, Peter Alle, Matthew Catchick, Sean Blume, Myeshia Cole, Randi Glanz, Monique Sharpe

From left to right: Executive Court Administrator Frank Hardester, Friend of the Court Erin Lincoln, William Booth Legal Aid Clinic Director Amy Roemer, Presiding Judge of Family Domestic Melissa A. Cox.

The Veterans Of Foreigns Wars (VFW) Honors

Judge Deborah A. Thomas

At Their Michigan State Convention



On September 29, 2023, The VFW presented Third Judicial Circuit of Michigan Judge, Deborah A. Thomas with a certificate of recognition for her many years of service in the community and to the state’s Veterans.


A Detroit, Michigan native, Judge Thomas is a graduate of Detroit’s Cass Technical High School. After receiving her undergraduate degree in education and sociology from Western Michigan University, Judge Thomas went on to receive her M.A. in Criminal Justice and Family Counseling from the University of Detroit. She would then go on to receive her Juris Doctorate from Valparaiso University. She also studied real estate, public administration and urban planning.


Judge Thomas began her legal career in Oakland County (MI) as a National Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellow for Oakland County Legal Aid. She went on to assist in establishing the Family and Real Estate Divisions of the Chrysler Division of the UAW Legal Service Plan. After that, she became the Administrative Law Examiner for the Michigan Department of Labor. Judge Thomas was also the Assistant General Counsel for the Southeast Michigan Transportation Authority.


Judge Thomas has served on the Third Judicial Circuit of Michigan since 1995. During her years of service to the citizens of Wayne County, she has received honors for outstanding service from the American Bar Association, Michigan Women’s Foundation, and the Michigan Bar Association. In addition, she has been the recipient of many awards and honors that include: the 2010 “Torch Bearer of Justice” award from the Black Women Lawyers Association of Michigan; the 2009 “Champion of the Disabled” award from the National Lawyers Guild Michigan—Detroit Chapter, for working to protect the human rights of the disabled community, and the 2008 “Martin Luther King Spirit of Detroit” award, for outstanding leadership in protecting the civil rights of all citizens in the administration of justice.


Judge Thomas is an active member in her community belonging to numerous community organizations, including the Order of the Elks, A. Phillip Randolph Association of Detroit, Mary McCloud Bethune Association, The NAACP, the YWCA Board of Trustees, and as a founding member of the Black Women Lawyers Association of Michigan.


In 2013, Judge Thomas started the largest Veterans Treatment Court Program in the State of Michigan. She has supervised well over 100 Veterans Treatment Court cases, with over a 90% successful completion rate.


Judge David J. Allen Hilda Gage Award


Judge David J. Allen was recognized with the Hilda Gage Award for his outstanding work both on and off the bench at the 2023 Michigan Judges Association Conference. The Hilda Gage Award recognizes judges for their judicial excellence and contributions to the profession, legal scholarship and community involvement. Judge Allen was appointed to the Wayne County Circuit Court bench in 2003 by former Governor Jennifer Granholm. He has served in the Criminal Division, Civil Division and was appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court to the Business Court. Since joining the bench, Judge Allen has served on the Executive Committee, Security Committee and Strategic Planning Committee.

In addition to his work on the bench, Judge Allen serves on the boards of two of the largest provides of social services in Southeast Michigan, The YMCA of Metropolitan Detroit and Arab Community Center of Economic and Social Services (ACCESS).

Chief Judge Fresard, along with the Judges of the Wayne County Circuit Court and court staff, congratulated Judge Allen for receiving the Hilda Gage Award, for his outstanding work on bench, and for his dedication to the citizens of Wayne County.

Michigan Family Support Council

Eileen Nanna won the 2023 Friend of the Court Staff Award at the Fall Michigan Family Support Council. She was recognized for her exemplary contribution and service to the Michigan Child Support Program.

Mock Trial Event

On Saturday, September 30, 2023, the Jury Services and Facilities Departments hosted a Mock Trial Competition for the Wayne State Law School students. The students were given a case to study to come prepared to argue. There were attorneys from both Oakland and Wayne Counties as well as our very own Judge Kathleen McCarthy and Judge Annette J. Berry that served as judges for the competition. The Attorneys that were in attendance from Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office are Brandon Barlog, Sydney Sexton, Thea Barrak, Lydia Mikail, and Alec D’Annunzio; Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office are Elisabeth Moore and James Kehoe; and Kiana Franulic of the K.F. Legal Consulting, PLLC.

The students were able to experience a trial in a real courtroom setting providing a valuable experience. Our Judges really provided the students with positive feedback and constructive criticism that they will remember as they begin their careers at Attorneys. The event was round 1 of a series of competitions that the students will compete at various courthouses across the state. The next Mock Trial will occur on October 20, 2023 through October 22, 2023, which will include 110 students from colleges throughout the country presented by the National Trial Advocacy Competition (NTAC).

Veterans Treatment Court Celebrates

Two Marines During September

Graduation Ceremony


In September, Veterans Treatment Court celebrated the graduation of two participants. Both are members of the United States Marines. Dozens of court-wide and county-wide stakeholders attended the Ceremony which was conducted via Zoom. 


Judge Deborah A. Thomas is the Presiding Supervising Judge over Veterans Treatment Court. She was the catalyst for the Court beginning a Veterans Court Program; and has remained committed to the Program since 2013.


For those who may not know, The United States Marine Corps has a motto, “Once A Marine, ALWAYS a Marine.” That comes from Semper Fidelis, meaning always faithful. One of the graduates, Mr. Ward provided remarks during the graduation, and his words aptly embodied the Marine Corps’ core values.


Thank you to our Veterans for their service to our country. It is our honor to give back to you by aiding in your recovery given all of the sacrifices you have made for each of us.


Thank you to Chief Judge Timothy M. Kenny, Executive Court Administrator, Zenell Brown, Chief Financial Officer, Lyn Roberts and her team, General Counsel, Richard Lynch, Deputy Court Administrator, Alisa Shannon and Director of Criminal Court Services, Tamela Aikens for their continued support of the efforts within Specialty Court Services. A special thank you as well to the many community partners, without whom the success of the Veterans Treatment Court would not be possible.

Drug/DWI Court Program

During its Fall 2023 Commencement, the Criminal Division’s Drug/DWI Court Program celebrated 10 participants who successfully completed their 18-24 month program.


Dozens of invites guests participated virtually, but their excitement for the graduates and their positive energy were felt as if we were all in person.


The commencement was overseen by past Drug Court Supervising Judges, Judge Bridget Hathaway, Judge Chandra Baker-Robinson and current Supervising Judge Prentis Edwards, Jr. 


Congratulations to all of the graduates. Their commitment to change and fortitude during their time in the Program has led them to new opportunities to once again become productive members of their community.


Thank you to Chief Judge Patricia Fresard, Executive Court Administrator, Frank Hardester, Criminal Division Presiding Judge Don Knapp, Chief Financial Officer, Lyn Roberts and her team, General Counsel, Margaret Flanagan, Deputy Court Administrator, Alisa Shannon and Director of Criminal Court Services, Tamela Aikens for their continued support of the efforts within Specialty Court Services. As well as to our multitude of community partners, without whom we could not do the work we do as a team.

Michigan Family Support Council Fall Conference

The Michigan Family Support Council held its Annual Statewide Fall Conference Wednesday, October 4 through Friday, October 6, 2023, at Boyne Highlands Resort near Boyne City, MI. Ten Wayne County staff members from a wide variety of FOC Departments attended, including Terian Daily, Daniel Flanagan, Keila Harvey, Jared Hocker, David McPhail, Leslie Murphy, Saunda Poe-Wheeler, JaVonne Ransom, Jonn Walinske, and Catherine Warshay. 

The conference gave the attendees an opportunity to expand their knowledge in various areas related to child support issues. Sessions included topics on reviewing incomes to calculate child support, intergovernmental basics, systems and applications, recent legislative changes related to child support, enforcement issues and policy, among many others.

It also provided a chance to interact with peers from across the state and the central Office of Child Support. Several former Wayne County staff members were also in attendance, including Suzanne Hollyer, Director of the Oakland County Friend of the Court, and Derek Morris, Director of combined Friend of the Court operations for Houghton, Keweenaw, and Baraga counties.

The event featured a discussion among Federal Office of Child Support Services Commissioner Tangular Gray, State DHHS Title IV-D Director Erin Frisch, and State Court Administrative Office Friend of the Court Bureau Director Steve Capps.

Although not in attendance, Wayne County FOC Case Establishment Senior Domestic Relations Specialist Eileen Nanna received a statewide award for outstanding Friend of the Court staff worker. Congratulations Eileen on this well-deserved recognition!

Pictured left to right: Keila Harvey and Saundra Poe-Wheeler (Far left photo)

Pictured: Jared Hocker (Center photo)

Pictured left to right: Saundra Poe-Wheeler, Catherine Warshay, and Keila Harvey (Far right photo)


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.



World Vegan Day – November 1

Love your Lawyer Day – November 3

National Sandwich Day – November 3

National Day of Community Service -- November 4

Daylight Savings – November 5

USMC Day - November 10

Veteran's Day -  November 11

World Kindness Day – November 13

International Day for Tolerance – November 16

Transgender Day of Remembrance - November 20

       Thanksgiving - November 23

Small Business Saturday - November 25


Fun facts about November (courtesy of Wikipedia):

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