An Oakland County judge has rejected an appeal by one of the defendants in the so-called “Tea Party” case who requested that Circuit Court Judge James Alexander recuse himself from the legal proceedings due to his past involvement with the Republican Party.
In a written opinion released Monday, May 2, Chief Circuit Court Judge Nanci J. Grant called the motion to disqualify Alexander from the trial of former Oakland County Democratic Party Director of Operations Jason Bauer — who is facing charges of forgery, perjury and violating provisions of Michigan’s Notary Public Act — “entirely unwarranted.”
She also questioned whether defense attorney Michael Deszi’s observations about Alexander’s past political involvement instead convey that Alexander may not have “any meaningful interest in the outcome of the case in the first place, much less an ‘interest’ that ‘under a realistic appraisal of psychological tendencies and human weakness’ could be said to pose ‘a risk of actual bias or prejudgment.’”
In his motion seeking recusal, Dezsi cited Alexander’s past chairmanship of the Oakland County Republican Party, which ended in 1994; his past role as director of former Republican Gov. John Engler’s Southeastern Michigan Office; and his former status as shareholder of Foster, Swift, Collins & Smith, a law firm that Dezsi said employs attorney Eric Doster, who the motion says “is the ‘longest-serving General Counsel in the history of the Michigan Republican Party’” and who “retained private investigators to look into the allegations underlying the instant indictment.”
Alexander denied the motion for recusal last month, saying in part:
“Initially, Defendant’s (Bauer’s) motion, as filed, is based on the assumption that this case concerns partisan politics. It does not. The matter was investigated by a Republican Sheriff and is being prosecuted by a Democratic County Prosecutor. The indictment was issued by a non-partisan grand juror. The defendant is not charged with being a member of a particular political party. The defendant is charged with attempting to subvert the political process. It matters not what political party or persuasion he is.”
“The defendant quotes extensively from local political figures in an apparent attempt to attribute their comments to the Court. Defendant, however, fails to establish any connection between these third-party comments and the Court. This failure is not surprising. There is no connection.”
Former Oakland County Democratic Party Chairman Michael McGuinness is also facing six counts of forgery and perjury for his alleged role in the political dust-up.
The alleged scheme McGuinness and Bauer are accused of perpetrating involved so-called “Tea Party” candidates the pair reportedly sought to sign up for 2010 elections to siphon away conservative votes from Republican candidates in closely contested races.
The pretrial date for both McGuinness and Bauer has been set for Wednesday, May 18 at 1 p.m.
Deszi could not be reached for comment prior to press time on Monday, May 2.