Judge's Record Cleared After First-Ever Use Of Mediation In A Criminal Case In Michigan

In the Media:

Description of the Case:

    Lapeer County Circuit Court Judge Byron Konschuh was facing 5 felony counts, and of course the destruction of his professional career as a judge in Lapeer County. This case was hotly contested. Konschuh's defense team, special trial attorney, Tom R. Pabst, and criminal law expert, Mike Sharkey, believed so strongly in Judge Konschuh's innocence that they represented him.  Tom R. Pabst even provided his time and services for free (pro bono). The case, however, seemed headed for an expensive and time-consuming trial.

    In an effort to break the impasse, Attorney Tom R. Pabst suggested to Special Prosecuting Attorney, Deanna Finnegan, something unprecedented in Michigan – the use of a mediator. The opposing sides chose the Honorable Robert Ransom, a retired judge with over 40 years experience. With his knowledge and experience, the parties hammered out an agreement fair to everyone concerned under the circumstances. The felony charges were dropped. Judge Konschuh would instead plead "no contest" to an arguable accounting misdemeanor which will be dismissed in its entirety on July 1, 2016, pursuant to the terms of the plea agreement, which was approved by Circuit Court Judge Geoffrey Neithercut, such that Judge Konschuh will have no record whatsoever.

    Requests for restitution from SPA Deanna Finnegan were denied. Importantly, Judge Neithercut pointed out that Judge Konschuh used approximately $7,000+ of his own monies to run his office, whereupon he ruled – "I don't think Lapeer County was denied the money".

    Moreover, SPA Finnegan's request for Judge Konschuh to have to write "letters of apology" to various Lapeer County officials was also denied by Judge Neithercut.

    Special trial attorney Tom R. Pabst praised SPA Finnegan for having the courage to think outside the box and consider mediation in a criminal case:

    "It's a really good deal, and it saves the taxpayers money", said Tom Pabst. "Finnegan was really smart and good, did her job, and I think she realized that the felony charges were just not warranted."

    The importance of what happened in this case should go beyond its immediate effect of saving the career of Judge Konschuh. Specifically, the use of a mediator in criminal cases should become an option utilized by our criminal justice system. The savings in time and money to the taxpayers would be enormous, as the cost of a mediator pales in comparison to the cost of a lengthy criminal trial.

 

Overview of Case:

Type of Action: 5 felony counts

Injuries Alleged: Embezzlement of public monies

Name of Case: People v. Konschuh

Court: Genesee County Circuit Court (special venue)

Case No: 14-36353-FH

Date: Case settled on 3/8/16

Tried Before: N/A

Name of Judge: Geoffrey Neithercut

Name of mediator: retired Judge Robert Ransom

Most Helpful Advice: Defense Counsel, Tom R. Pabst and Special Prosecutor Deanna Finnegan thought "outside the box" and decided to use the mediation process that has been so successful for civil cases in this criminal case.

Attorneys for Defendant: Tom R. Pabst, Michael Sharkey

Attorneys for the People: Special Prosecutor Deanna Finnegan

Key(s) to winning: Having a seasoned and knowledgeable retired Judge mediate this matter to resolution

Related Articles: "Felony charges dismissed as judge pleads no contest to misdeanor" – The Flint Journal