Thursday, December 22, 2011

12222011 - Judge Lynda Tolen - Berrien County [retired]

Retired Berrien County Judge Lynda Tolen:

2010: Arrested and charged for drunk driving. Placed on probation.

2010: Arrested for a second drunk driving charge while on probation for first DUI. Setenced to 20 days in jail.

November 30, 2010: State of Michigan suspended Tolen's license to practice law for 180 days [due to her DUI convictions].

December 22, 2011: Arrested for domestic violence.

Retired Judge Arrested

Joe Garber Reporting
Posted: Saturday, 31 December 2011 10:40AM

A former Berrien County judge with a troubled past is once again in trouble. Lynda Tolen faces a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence. Tolen was arrested December 22nd after a complaint was filed by a woman. The 60 year old Tolen served 20 days in jail last year for drunk driving offenses.

Former judge in front of bench again
Lynda Tolen arraigned on domestic violence charge
Posted: Friday, December 30, 2011 12:00 am
Herald Palladium

ST. JOSEPH - Retired Berrien County Trial Court Judge Lynda Tolen, who has faced drunk driving charges in the past, was back in court this week on charges of domestic violence.

Tolen, 60, of Stevensville, who retired in 2008 after 21 years as a judge, was arraigned Tuesday on the misdemeanor charge, according to a report from WNDU-TV.

The complaint, which Chief Assistant Prosecutor Michael Sepic showed to The Herald-Palladium, stated that Tolen had assaulted a woman named Lisa Brasseur.

The complaint lists Brasseur as a resident or former resident of the same household as Tolen.

Tolen was arrested Dec. 22 and released the next day on a $1,500 bond. On conviction, the charge carries a sentence of up to 93 days in jail and/or a $500,000 fine.

In 2010, while she was on probation for impaired driving in Leelanau County, Tolen was arrested in St. Joseph for drinking and driving.

Police reported she had a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit.

That case was moved to St. Joseph County, and Tolen served 20 days in jail after being convicted on the charge.

Sepic told WNDU-TV that he has petitioned the state attorney general's office to disqualify his office from the most recent case because of Tolen's previous position with the court.

Southwest Michigan Links:
Retired Berrien County judge back in court on domestic violence charges
Published: Friday, December 30, 2011, 2:51 PM
Updated: Friday, December 30, 2011, 2:51 PM
By Brad Devereaux
The Kalamazoo Gazette

Here's a look at some noteworthy stories from other media in southwest Michigan today:

• A retired Berrien County Trial Court judge who has been charged with drunk driving in the past was in court this week being charged with domestic violence. [Herald Palladium]

Former Berrien Co. judge arraigned on domestic violence charges
Posted: Wed 4:07 PM, Dec 28, 2011
Reporter: Newscenter 16
Updated: Wed 4:25 PM, Dec 28, 2011

A former Berrien County judge who has been in trouble with the law before, was on the other side of the bench again Tuesday.

Retired trial court judge Lynda Tolen was arraigned Tuesday on a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence.

Tolen was arrested December 22 and bonded out the next day.

A copy of the complaint against Tolen obtained by Newscenter 16 says there was an assault against a woman named Lisa Brasseur. The complaint also listed two witnesses.

Tolen was previously arrested and served 20 days behind bars for a 2010 drunk driving charge.

Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Mike Sepic told Newscenter 16 on Wednesday that he has petitioned the State Attorney General's office to disqualify Berrien County from the case because of Tolen's past affiliation with the court. If approved, another county will hear the case.

Judge Tolen was also married to former Prosecutor Jim Cherry, who died in 2007.

Warren attorney reprimanded, Stevensville attorney suspended
December 4, 2010
Margaret Lucas Agius

ADB Tri-County Hearing Panel #106 reprimanded Warren attorney Sophie Modelski effective Dec. 1, 2010, the State of Michigan Attorney Discipline Board reported this week.

Modelski, licensed to practice law in Michigan in 1982, entered a plea of no contest to allegations that she neglected a bankruptcy matter, failed to seek the lawful objectives of her client, failed to act with reasonable diligence and promptness, and failed to keep her client reasonably informed of the status of the matter. Based upon the stipulation of the parties, the panel reprimanded Modelski and assessed costs of $767.26.

In another recent Attorney Discipline Board action, Kalamazoo County Hearing Panel #4 suspended Stevensville attorney and former Fifth District Court Judge Lynda A. Tolen from the practice of law in Michigan for a period of 180 days effective Nov. 30, 2010.

Tolen’s misdemeanor conviction for operating while intoxicated formed the basis for the disciplinary action. Based upon the stipulation of the parties, the panel suspended Tolen for 180 days, imposed conditions relevant to the established misconduct, and assessed costs of $755.71.

Judicial Vacancy—5th District Court
July 28, 2008

Court: 5th District Court
Location: Berrien County
Judge Vacating: Hon. Lynda A. Tolen
Application Submission Deadline: August 8, 2008

Any State Bar member interested in applying for a judgeship in their area may refer to the Governor's website or contact Erik Wilford in the Governor's Appointments Office to receive a judicial application:

Office of the Governor
Appointments Division
George W. Romney Building
111 South Capitol Avenue
Lansing, MI 48909

Judicial trailblazer
Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2008 12:00 am
By SCOTT AIKEN, H-P Staff Writer
The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — For more than 21 years Judge Lynda Tolen has been an important part of a court system known around the state for breaking new ground.

During her years on the bench, Berrien County was a leader in trial court consolidation, first to form a Drug Court, and tried a fresh approach in dealing with domestic violence.

Tolen, who is retiring Aug. 1, has been the only presiding judge of the civil division of Berrien County Trial Court since its inception in 1996."We've always tried to be on the cutting edge of justice programs," she said.An attorney in a successful private practice before being appointed judge in 1987, Tolen said she has always preferred working on the civil side of the system over handling criminal matters.

"From a judge's standpoint, it's much broader," she said.While civil cases may not get the publicity of criminal cases, they sometimes involve matters that greatly affect communities.

Civil cases can range from property line issues to zoning disputes, utility fights between municipalities or disputes among businesses where tens of millions of dollars are at stake.

Lawyers who practice in Berrien County say Tolen is a quick study, able to get to the heart of complex matters.St. Joseph attorney Carl Burdick has served as a local counsel in Tolen's court with lawyers from around the state and nation. They have been "almost universally impressed with her ability to grasp intricacies," he said."There aren't a whole lot of judges like that."

Tolen also has the judicial demeanor to tame the hostility that lawyers sometimes bring into the courtroom, Burdick said.Attorney Leonard "Arnie" White said Tolen presided over a complicated commercial litigation case a few years ago that involved the theft of proprietary information from National Standard Co. of Niles.

Lawyers from Los Angeles and Chicago represented parties in the case. Tolen handled the complex legal issues and lawyers with aplomb, White said. The case was eventually settled."I'm sorry to see her retire," White said.

Trial Court Judge Thomas Nelson, who presides over the court's Family Division, said Tolen provided continuity in the civil division, carrying the case burden alone at times when vacancies occurred on the bench."She has a keen intellect and real drive to serve the citizens of Berrien County," Nelson said.

An avid runner and cyclist, the 57-year-old Tolen announced earlier this month she would step down to spend more time with her two daughters and other family members. She said she plans to divide her time between Michigan and Florida.

Last year, her husband of nearly 15 years, longtime Berrien County Prosecutor James Cherry, died after a long battle with cancer.

Tolen grew up in Detroit, obtained her bachelor's and law degrees at the University of Michigan and was in private practice for 10 years before being appointed by then-Gov. James Blanchard to fill a vacancy in Berrien County Fifth District Court.She was elected to six-year terms in 1988, 1994, 2000 and 2006.Tolen was the first woman to be appointed district judge in Berrien County. In 1994 she became the first woman president of the Berrien County Bar Association.Tolen was appointed presiding judge of the civil division of trial court at its inception in October 1996.

Initially a Michigan Supreme Court experiment, the trial court consolidated district, circuit and probate courts into a single entity.The new court was divided into civil, criminal and family divisions, and judges were allowed to work in any of the three. The arrangement gave the court a lot of flexibility in assigning judges where they were needed. Supporters said it improved efficiency.The arrangement allowed district court judges to hear cases that formerly would have been in circuit court, such as civil disputes with high damage claims.Tolen said the state Legislature later made the trial court permanent.The arrangement has led to a "high degree of collegiality," Tolen said, eliminating separate courts fighting for funding and other resources.

Also, with a separate civil division, civil cases no longer take a back seat to criminal cases. Under the old system, Tolen said, civil and family matters "got jettisoned when there was a big criminal trial."

In 1990, she helped former Judge Ronald Taylor form Berrien County Drug Court, set up to quickly adjudicate felony narcotics cases. People charged with drug offenses were placed on tracks on the basis of their involvement as users, small-time sellers or major traffickers. Drug users could then be sent into treatment programs while those convicted of selling were sentenced to jail or prison.

Tolen worked with Judge Scott Schofield to create the Domestic Violence Court in 1999. With Judge Paul Maloney, now a judge in U.S. District Court, she formed the Community Court in 2002.The next goal is forming a specialized problem-solving court to deal with people with mental health problems who end up in the court system. Active in a long list of community and professional organizations, Tolen said she had to let go of those affiliations while her husband fought cancer. She worked in the Benton Harbor Area Schools Host Mentor Program, the Literacy Council, Twin City NAACP, and served n the boards of Benton Harbor Salvation Army and the YMCA of St. Joseph-Benton Harbor.Contact Scott Aiken at:

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