April 2024 Newsletter - Third Judicial Circuit of Michigan

From the Chief’s Desk

Dear Third Circuit Team,

I hope that this April Newsletter finds you in good spirits and beautiful weather.

Our Court continues to increase in efficiencies and accessibility to our community. We have made great progress in strengthening our workforce and security. Our Court has made considerable strides in addressing backlogs caused by COVID and in bringing staff and Judges back on-site to open courtroom doors to those we serve.

It is encouraging to have had many of you reach out with ideas and concerns that help us to work together to make Third Circuit Court a wonderful supportive place to work and serve.

I look forward to continued dialogue on issues of importance to you and to have a great spring season with this team.



Honorable Patricia Perez Fresard

Margaret A. Cotant (Maggie) was sworn in as a Domestic Relations Referee for the Third Circuit Court - Family Division on March 19th by Chief Judge Patricia P. Fresard. Maggie earned her BA from MSU and her JD from WSU Law School. She was the Litigation Supervisor at Wayne County Neighborhood Legal Services Free Legal Aid Clinic in law school and went on to become a supervising attorney in the Domestic Violence Unit at Oakland Livingston Legal Aid. In the private sector, Maggie worked with several family law firms, eventually joining Chiamp & Associates. Throughout her career, Maggie concentrated her practice on representing women, including survivors of domestic violence, and their children. Maggie also acted as a court appointed guardian ad litem in high conflict family law cases and child protection cases and is a trained family law mediator. She has published in the Michigan Bar Journal, Michigan Family Law Journal, Laches, and many regional publications on the issues of domestic violence and serving client survivors. Maggie also has extensive civil litigation experience in premises liability defense.

Maggie has two sons, Simon, twenty-three, a physics student at Wayne State University, and Jacob, twenty-six, a glass artist who lives and works on a wolf sanctuary in New Mexico.

Honorable Patricia P. Fresard, Chief Judge, and Referee Margaret A. Cotant

Transforming Juvenile Justice: Legs for The Blueprint

The Transforming Juvenile Justice: Legs for The Blueprint Conference was held on March 14, 2024 at Grand Valley State University.

Training Purpose and Objectives: Focus on specific and fundamental probation practices set forth in the research-based guide, The Role of the Judge in Transforming Juvenile Probation: A Toolkit for Leadership.

Attendees: Judge Frank Szymanski, Judge Christopher Dingell, Chief Referee James Catchings, Deputy General Counsel Katy Allen, Director of Family Assessment Services Michelle Chiaravalli, Deputy Court Administrator- Juvenile ToieLynn Smith, and Judge Karen Braxton.

Kathleen Allen, Deputy General Counsel was published in the Oxford Handbook of Developmental Psychology and the law. Kathleen along with Dr. Ann Stacks and others co-wrote the chapter entitled, The relational context of Early Development: Consequences of Maltreatment in Infancy and Effective Early Intervention. Referee Allen has served the Juvenile Division as a referee for 24 years and presides over the Baby Court docket.

Dominique Peacock, Kimberly LePoudre, Chanell Rawls, Lee Ann Rutila, Alyce Haas, and Jonn Walinske attended the Prosecuting Attorney Association of Michigan’s Establishment of Support Conference on Wednesday, March 20, 2024, to Friday, March 22, 2024. The conference focused on initiating and processing IV-D cases to establish paternity and child support pursuant to the Paternity Statute, Family Support Act, and Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (UIFSA). 

Left to right: front row: Alyce, Chanell, Dominique, Kimberly

Back row: Jonn and Lee Ann

Mock Trials at Third Circuit Court

Ever wonder what goes on some weekends at the Third Circuit Court? Third Circuit Court opened its doors to students that are studying the great field of law! On Saturday March 23, 2024, the Director of Jury Services and the Director of Facilities hosted a mock trial for the Wayne State School of Law graduate students. The 30 students got a chance to try a case in a real courtroom setting. They are coached by volunteered judges that provide feedback to the students to help them prepare for a successful career in law.

On February 17, 2024, the Third Circuit Court also opened its doors to Michigan Center for Civic Education. There were 72 students and 12 teachers from the following schools came to compete in hopes to move on to national trial competition: Allen Park High School, Bedford High School, Early College Alliance at Eastern Michigan, Huron High School, Northville High School, and Saline High School

This year’s winner was Huron High School who will advance to the Nationals to compete! We thank all of our Third Circuit Judges that opened up their courtrooms so that the students could have this amazing experience.

The Annual Easter Basket Volunteer Day is organized by Love One Another, with an annual goal of donating 750 baskets to Wayne County children. 

Third Circuit Court Staff came together with a goal of making 250 Easter Baskets. This time together brought great fun and many laughs. The baskets will be provided for Juvenile Court, Foster Care, area churches and after school organizations as well as the shelters and food banks in Wayne County.


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.

APRIL 2024

April 1 – April Fool’s Day,

April 2 – World Autism Awareness Day

April 5 – Laylat al-Qadr (Muslim)

April 6 – National Tartan Day

April 7 – World Health Day 

April 9 – End of Ramadan

April 10 - Eid al-Fitr Celebration Begins

April 12 – National Day of Silence (LGBTQ+)

April 16 – National Stress Awareness Day

April 21 – Start of Ridvan (Baha’i)

April 22 – Start of Passover

April 22 – Earth Day

April 24 – Administrative Professionals’ Day

April 28 – World Day for Safety and Health at Work

April 30 – Passover ends

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