DUI Cases in Warren and Centerline – the 37th District Court

In this 7th of my 9-part series about DUI Cases in local, Macomb County District Courts, we'll turn our attention to the County's largest District Court, the 37th District Court in Warren. We'll also include a look at the 37th District Court's "outpost" in the City of Centerline. Because the same Judges as the Warren Court staffs it, the Centerline Court is basically the same thing in a smaller, different building. Any discussion of the Warren Court must begin by noting how busy it is. While every other Court in Macomb County has a parking lot, the Warren Court has a parking structure. Usually, the busier a place, the less efficient it is. Not so in Warren. Despite its huge caseload, this Court maintains the feel, at least for those of us local, Macomb County Attorneys, of a much smaller community Court. There are 4 Judges in Warren, and despite being rather diverse in personality type, they are, as a group, amongst the nicest around. You will not find a Macomb County DUI Lawyer who has a bad thing to say about handling DUI Cases in Warren. Except for the fact that, because of the large caseload, things can, understandably, get bogged down a bit (someone has to be first, and someone last…), this Court is always amongst every Lawyer's favorite. But it's also a great place to be, if you have to be anywhere, to deal with a DUI. And as I've noted before, my ratings in this series is based upon how I'd feel as a DUI Defendant, and not as a Lawyer, if I had to face a DUI in any particular Court. In other words, there are Courts I can deal with that are efficient and pleasant and prompt, but aren't so easy on the Client. That's great for me, but I'm paid to take care of the Client, so it's how easy or tough things are for them that is the measure of my ratings. Anyone facing a DUI, whether in Warren, Centerline, or anywhere else, should scroll through the Drunk Driving section of my Blog, past the Local Court information, and read the articles that are relevant to them. Let's take a look at the 4 Judges of the 37th District Court: Judge Dawn Gruenberg is an engaging, friendly and kind personality unlike any other on the Bench. She often displays a vivid sense of humor from the Bench, and the best part about that is that's its no act. She's genuinely upbeat because she's genuinely nice. But there's a lot more to her than just being a nice lady. She started the 37th District Court's "Drug Court," which trail-blazed the whole Drug Court concept in Macomb County. She has a fundamental, working knowledge of the nuances and process of Alcoholism, Addiction, Cross-Addiction and Recovery. There is no Judge anywhere who understand the subtleties of alcoholism and addiction like Judge Gruenberg. When she speaks to someone who appears to have either an alcohol, drug, or cross-addiction problem, they immediately realize that she really knows this stuff. While her experience and pedigree are impressive, the scope of this short article is about DUI Cases. In that regard, Judge Gruenberg, like Judge Linda Davis of the 41B District Court in Clinton Township, is not likely to miss anything in a DUI case. This means that, with proper preparation and Legal work, and if the circumstances of the case merit it, a person can walk out of her Court in a 1st Offense DUI with little more than the payment of Fines and Costs. If, however, the circumstances dictate otherwise, such as a 2nd Offense DUI, then Judge Gruenberg will put the person through whatever it takes to get them to address their problem. Even with that, she's far from a "Jail-happy" Judge. This means that with proper preparation and Representation, a person can be kept out of Jail in a 2nd Offense case. Across the hall sits Judge Jennifer Faunce. A former Macomb County Prosecutor and a former State Legislator, Judge Faunce is a dignified and industrious presence on the Bench. Extremely even-tempered, she could fairly be described as "low-key." Her intellectual ability is clear, but her down-to-earth disposition means that she talks to people like people, and not as mere objects. Highly efficient, she moves along a crowded docket as fast as one could imagine in the circumstances. For a 1st Offense DUI Defendant, this means leaving her Court, if all is handled correctly, with little, or even no Probation. In 2nd Offense DUI's, if things are done correctly, a person can not only avoid Jail, but also a miserable term of "Probation from Hell." Judge John Chmura is a personality not easily forgotten. I don't know how he'd appreciate my revealing his secrets here, but truth be told, his bark is far worse than his bite. An obviously highly intelligent man, Judge Chmura uses his role as a Judge to try and make people think about their actions. He requires a person to speak up clearly (a few of his favorite lines are "Speak up!" and "I can't hear you!") and intelligently when addressing the Court. This tends to have an effect when a person is asked to explain what they were thinking when they did something stupid, and the point is really driven home when the Judge won't be satisfied with a mumbled "I dunno." For all of that, he is also a kind and compassionate man. Although he's about the last Judge you'd want to face if you Violate his Probation, especially by testing positive for alcohol or drugs, or getting charge with a new Criminal Offense, a 1st Offense DUI Defendant can emerge from his Court, if they've been properly Represented, with either minimal, or even no Probation. 2nd Offense DUI Cases present a different situation. This is a Judge for whom proper steps must be taken well beforehand in order to avoid getting a stint in Jail. That said, Judge Chmura will want to make an impression that will last long after the case has been closed, so anyone facing him for a DUI 2nd Offense can expect to pay lot of money and work real hard in place of a trip to Jail. And that, of course, is limited to those cases where the proper planning and Representation has been undertaken from the very start of things. The newest member of the Bench is Judge Matthew Sabaugh. Appointed in 2008, Judge Sabaugh was working as a Macomb County Prosecutor at the time. In that capacity, he had day-to-day contact with pretty much all of the Judges and Lawyers in the County, and you could not find anyone with an unkind word to say about him. His intelligence is, fortunately, equaled by his patience. He is kind to a fault, and his disposition is very similar that of Judge Douglas Shepherd in the 41A Shelby Court. Underneath that kindness, however, is a guy who knows about the dark side, having Prosecuted all kinds of cases. As a Judge Hearing a DUI 1st Offense Case, Judge Sabaugh is inclined, like most Judges in the County, to accept, if the circumstances dictate, that a person simply made a mistake. Whatever the facts, it is possible to leave his Court with either Non-Reporting Probation or even no Probation if things are handled properly. In a 2nd Offense DUI, proper Case handling can avoid any kind of Jail Sentence, but the length and severity of any Probationary term will be the direct result of how well or poorly a person performs on their legally-required Alcohol Assessment test. As with the 39th District Court in Roseville, the 37th District Court tends to produce outcomes in DUI Cases that are more or less the function of a cooperative relationship between the Judges and the Probation Department. As you might imagine, this Court's Probation Department handles a lot of cases. Run by a supremely intelligent and energetic retired State Parole Officer name Greg Wilczynski, this Department, like that in the 41A District Court in Sterling Heights and the 39th District Court in Roseville and Fraser has an optimistic attitude about human nature that is marvelous. To be clear, this means they're decent and fair, and not out to ruin anyone's life, or make it more complicated that staying out of trouble has to be. They'll give anyone a chance, and at their core, want to see people succeed and do well. Sure, in this Court you've got to be tough, and tougher perhaps than in any other Court, but tough doesn't have anything to do with unfair. In terms of Fines and Costs, this Court is about "middle of the road," being neither cheap, nor expensive. Another god thing about this Court is that it doesn't forget where it is, and that down-to-earth approach extends to the imposition of Fines and Costs. That's not to say that anyone is walking out of here on a 1st or 2nd Offense DUI for the el-cheapo price of a Happy Meal, but it does mean that no one will be donating plasma to the blood bank just to stay out of Jail. The Centerline Division of this Court is unique. Since Centerline is a City completely within the geographic borders of Warren, the Court is staffed by the same Judges, like the 39th District Court in Roseville and Fraser, except it does operate a separate Court building. Located on 10 Mile Rd., each weekly session of the Court is overseen by a rotation of the Warren Judges, meaning that each Judge presides over the Court for one week, followed by another Warren Judge the next, and so on. All in all, the 37th District Court in Warren is as good a Court as any to have to deal with a DUI. In 1st Offense DUI Cases, it's possible, with the proper steps taken, to either have minimal, Non-Reporting Probation, or no Probation at all. In 2nd Offense DUI Cases, it can be worked out, if the Client is willing to undertake the necessary work (and who isn't?) to avoid Jail altogether, and to avoid the kind of difficult Probation that's worse than wrestling a flaming cactus plant. Final Verdict: Also one of the 2 or 3 Best Macomb County Courts in which to face a DUI If I was facing a DUI, and knowing what I know, here's how I'd rate the 37th District Court (Warren and Centerline) from 1 to 5, with 1 being the worst, and 5 being the best: 4.7 for a First Offense. 4.5 for a Second Offense.

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