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Posted on Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Connors vs. Woodyard: Judge looks to keep spot on Washtenaw County's 22nd Circuit Court bench

By Ryan J. Stanton


Washtenaw County Circuit Judge Tim Connors, left, and challenger Michael Woodyard, an assistant county prosecutor in Detroit, appear at a recent League of Women Voters debate in Ann Arbor.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Tim Connors says he has loved being a judge in Washtenaw County for the past 21 years and he hopes voters on Nov. 6 will give him a chance to continue serving.

He faces his first-ever political opponent in next month's election: Michael Woodyard, an Ann Arbor resident who works as an assistant county prosecutor in Detroit.

Woodyard, 46, a life-long Democrat, announced his candidacy in the incumbent race for the 22nd Circuit Court back in May, vowing to not give Connors a free pass this election.

"I've been very fortunate to be able to give back for the past 10 years in my position in Wayne County, but my home is here in Washtenaw County, and the opportunity to give back to the citizens of Washtenaw County has presented itself," Woodyard said.


Connors said his spot on the bench is a civil and family court position that involves conflicts between institutions, between businesses, between individuals and within families.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Connors, 58, was appointed to Ann Arbor's 15th District Court by Republican Gov. John Engler in 1991. Six years later, he was appointed to the 22nd Circuit Court, again by Engler.

He has been up for re-election in the past, but no one ever challenged him before. Now he must defeat Woodyard in a nonpartisan race if he wants to serve another six-year term.

Though he was appointed to the bench by a Republican, Connors has a reputation for being independent and bipartisan. He is liked by both Democrats and Republicans and is well respected in the legal community. His wife, Margaret, is an officer in the Ann Arbor Democratic Party.

Outside of the courtroom, Connors teaches law at the University of Michigan, Wayne State University and Thomas Cooley Law School in Ann Arbor.

He received a bachelor's degree from U-M in 1977 and went on to earn a law degree from Wayne State in 1980. Before he was a judge, he was a civil trial attorney.

Woodyard has spent the past decade working for the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, which he believes has prepared him to make the leap to the bench.

"As a prosecutor, you're in court almost every day of the week, and you're in court advocating for the rights of someone who has been injured through no fault of their own," he said.

Woodyard said he has found that a consistent, professional and respectful demeanor can go a long way in the court. He said it's important to make people feel like they're being heard.

He also said the court ultimately should be a place where people are held accountable for what they've done, whether that involves a crime or a divorce or something else.

"Whatever the controversy is that arises, when the court demonstrates an interest in holding people accountable, then the community understands that the court is a partner in the improvement of the community," Woodyard said. "My hope as judge is to demonstrate through my behavior and my conduct of the office that the court is an important partner in the community's improvement."

Woodyard earned a bachelor's degree in English from Eastern Michigan University in 1996 and a law degree from Wayne State in 2002.

He was a newspaper reporter between college and law school. While in law school, he interned for Gerald Rosen, chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. He now has worked in a variety of areas in the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office.

"I've worked in the child abuse unit," he said. "I've worked in the forfeiture unit where we handle civil matters and quasi-criminal matters. And I'm now assigned to the public integrity unit where we are charged with investigating and prosecuting those who violate the public trust."

Woodyard said he has prosecuted domestic violence, child abuse, infant homicide and public corruption cases. Before being assigned a criminal docket, he spent three years handling civil cases, including public nuisance abatement, environmental compliance and asset forfeiture.

Connors said his spot on the bench is a civil and family court position that involves conflicts between institutions, between businesses, between individuals and within families.

"This work that we do is important. It should be done quietly and respectfully," Connors said of his position. "I believe that family and civil courts should be healers of controversy."


During the course of his career as a prosecutor, Woodyard said he has appeared in front of at least 27 different circuit court judges.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Woodyard said it's true that Connors handles a civil docket, but he said the chief judge has the ability to take into account each judge's particular expertise and assign them cases.

"My hope is that were I to prevail in November that I would be able to offer that particular expertise in the criminal law, which I believe is really the heart of the Circuit Court," Woodyard said.

During the course of his career as a prosecutor, Woodyard said he has appeared in front of at least 27 different circuit court judges.

"So I've seen how directly the judge affects the ebb and flow of cases that appear before them," he said. "Clearly a judge's interest in fairness and a judge's interest in ensuring that the correct legal result is reached can't be put behind an interest in efficiency."

Connors said he has grappled with tight budgets.

"We just took a $1 million budget cut and we have a large amount of turnover with staff," he said. "This is a problem not only in our court, but it's across the state."

Whenever there is turnover, he said, that becomes a problem in terms of customer service. He said he tries to set a good example for other court employees through small actions like helping someone who is lost in the courthouse find their way.

"As a judge, you can set that tone," Connors said. "It's a very easy thing to do, and that's what I do every day."


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Connors said many people are either emotionally, financially or otherwise troubled when they walk into a courtroom. Too often, he said, a courtroom can come off feeling impersonal.

"I find too often that we become divisive in the law, we become divisive toward each other," he said, adding there should be no "them versus us" mentality. "It's us — we are all connected."

Connors has been endorsed by a long list of judges, as well as groups like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Huron Valley Central Labor Council, the Vanzetti Hamilton Bar Association and the Black Caucus of the Washtenaw County Democratic Party.

On receiving the endorsement of the United Auto Workers, he remarked: "I'm proud of people who get up every day and work hard and I believe in collective bargaining."

Connors also is endorsed by Michigan Supreme Court Justice Michael Cavanagh and retired Justice Alton Davis, both Democrats, and Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Mark Boonstra, who was chairman of the Washtenaw County GOP before Gov. Rick Snyder appointed him to the bench.

Woodyard has a smaller list of endorsements posted on his website. It includes judges, defense attorneys, police officers, prosecutors and others who know him, including Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, Judge James Callahan and state Rep. Andrew Kandrevas, D-Southgate.

The Washtenaw County Board of Commissioners appointed Woodyard to the county's Criminal Justice Collaborative Council last year. He also has served as an appointed member of the state of Michigan's Citizen Review Panel on Child Fatalities.

Connors has served by appointment as judge pro-tem for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians.

Related story: Fink vs. Kuhnke: Two attorneys compete for open seat on Washtenaw County's 22nd Circuit Court bench

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's email newsletters.


Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 12:44 a.m.

this shoulda been a new comment sted a reply, my bad. Snarf Oscar Boondoggle 1:58 PM on 11/4/2012 when you are so 'in' with the 'in crowd' --- and the crowd only serves itself --- hte only salvation is to start over with a new judge. we can do this in a day or so. btw, my opinion piece is dated from connors' shenanagins during FEBRUARY 2012, just so you know: from Judy: "Any judge that refuses to read or even look a Plaintiff's documents should not be a judge.. ." the REVERSE is equally true -- some recent contrast seems valuable: and "Your comment is awaiting moderation" it says at the bottom. we shall see, eh?


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 5:31 p.m.

In the case I saw the Plaintiff did not even have an attorney and the Defendant did not show up for the hearing! Judge Connors just ordered a "New Hearing" and he wants to be what??? Shoulding a Judge make "Judgements?"

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sun, Nov 4, 2012 : 6:36 p.m.

from Judy: "Any judge that refuses to read or even look a Plaintiff's documents should not be a judge and I have never been a plaintiff or a defenant in front of Judge Connor's." the reverse is equally true -- and since this is the ethics discussion, some recent contrast seems valuable:


Mon, Nov 5, 2012 : 5:27 p.m.

I agree with you 100%. Judge Connors, he maybe a decent and fine man but not as a Judge. Any judge who refuses to make a judgement because the "defendant" who received proper notice of the hearing does not show up to court is not a "Judge!" Anyone sitting on a bench as a Judge that refuses for the Plaintiff to show evidence, documents, letters and other proof against the Defendant is not a "Judge!" Why is it that after I purchase the DVD's of what when on in Judge Connors courtroom 4 times, I'm not able to share it with all of you? Thanks for sharing your transcript.


Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 4:30 p.m.

Look at Judge Connor's: Why are you running? Connor's answer: To finish the good work I have started. What good work? Even his answer is lazy! Just because someone has been on the bench for years does not make them the best chose. Let him work for the U of M and voter of a person who whats to be a full time judge.


Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 6:10 p.m.

Judge Conners laughed out loud when my foster baby's lawyer suggested that she had formed relationships with her foster family. Twice. He has no business deciding the futures of children for whom he shows a lack of compassion. Shame on you, Timothy Connors, for tearing a five month old child away from the only family she had ever known.

The Secret Team

Tue, Oct 23, 2012 : 7:41 p.m.

Exactly why we need Michael Woodyard on the bench to replace Timothy Connors.

David Cahill

Sun, Oct 21, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

A major problem for the Woodyard candidacy is that he is a prosecutor. While prosecutors talk about promoting justice, this claim is similar to that of the criminal defense bar that they defend the constitution. When the rubber hits the road in the courtroom, somehow prosecutors always try to convict. This is simply their professional role. Prosecutors always represent the executive branch of government, even in civil cases. A prosecutor who becomes a judge can't set aside this bias even with the best of intentions. Connors, on the other hand, rules against the government without batting an eye. He ruled in favor of abused women prisoners in a multimillion dollar case a couple of years ago. And just this past Friday he turned down Webster Township's attempt to shut down the staw maze without a trial. Judge Connors literally went the extra mile to personally inspect the maze. This is the kind of judge we want in Washtenaw County.

The Secret Team

Mon, Oct 22, 2012 : 3:38 a.m.

David: You should disclose that you are on Timothy Connors' re-election committee and that you appeared at the 9/15/12 Ann Arbor Democratic Party membership meeting to speak on behalf of Connors. Connors lost his bid for an AADP endorsement by a 47-8 vote. Your own wife, Sabra Briere, spoke against making an endorsement in that contested election. "...........[h]e ruled in favor of abused women prisoners in a multimillion dollar case a couple of years ago." If you are talking about the Neal case, Connors' wife's campaign committee for her failed District Court bid in 2008 accepted political contributions from some attorneys whose firms were representing the plaintiffs. One of the law firms, in the early part of last decade actually had their telephone number and law firm office registered with the Secretary of State as the campaign committee contact information for Timothy Connors' re-election organization. All this information is public record. Washtenaw County needs Michael Woodyard on the bench.

The Secret Team

Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 9:53 p.m.

"He (Connors) is liked by both Democrats and Republicans and is well-respected in the legal community." Heh. This is an editorial opinion, not journalistic reporting. If you said that about Jim Fink you would likely be accurate but not Connors. As stated above Connors failed in his bid for an Ann Arbor Democratic Party endorsement. Ask the County Prosecutor, County Clerk, Water Resources Commissioner, County Sheriff, and members of the County Board of Commissioners why they are not endorsing Judge Connors. Brian Mackie, Jan Bobrin and Jerry Clayton are all endorsing circuit court candidate Jim Fink. No one on the Ann Arbor City Council is endorsing Connors except Tony Derezinski, who serves on Connors' campaign committee - and he just lost his re-election bid in a landslide to someone who never ran for office previously. Mike Woodyard is a man of integrity who fights for the public interest. God bless you, Mr. Woodyard .Ann Arbor loves you!


Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

I noticed in Connors tv advertisement,it describes Connors as having integrity as well as experience. I beg to disagree with both terms First, lets look at integrity,1)Connors works for the U of M and rules on cases involving the university.2)Connord has ruled on cases involving his personal divorce attorney.3)Connors has ruled on cases involving his former law firm as well as law partners.4)Connors has listened and ruled on cases brought by attorneys making donations to his campaign.SO MUCH FOR INTEGRITY. As far as experience is concerned,sitting on the bench for 21 years doesn't make you a good or fair judge.I remember reading in about an attorney complaining that Connors never allowed him an opportunity to present his side of a case and went along with the city attorney proposal raising severe questions of "due process " violation Also Connors is trying to pull the wool over the public's eyes by pretending to be a "born again democrat".. Its time to replace Connors with someone who has true integrity and will grow in experience and truely become a judge that the citzens of Washtenaw County can sayTHERE'S ONE OF OUR BEST! God bless MIKE WOODYARD..

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sun, Nov 4, 2012 : 6:58 p.m.

when you are so 'in' with the 'in crowd' --- and the crowd only serves itself --- hte only salvation is to start over with a new judge. we can do this in a day or so. btw, my opinion piece is dated from connors' shenanagins during FEBRUARY 2012, just so you know: from Judy: "Any judge that refuses to read or even look a Plaintiff's documents should not be a judge and I have never been a plaintiff or a defenant in front of Judge Connor's." the REVERSE is equally true -- some recent contrast seems valuable: and "Your comment is awaiting moderation" it says at the bottom. we shall see, eh?

The Secret Team

Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 6:34 p.m.

Good point, Sam: Timothy Connors has drawn an aggregate $140,000 in salary since 2008 as an employee of the University of Michigan. His rate of pay exceeds $600,000.00 (assuming full-time employment) per annum and is a ".9 appointment". He earned $54,000 in his last year as an advocacy instructor for purely part-time and very limited hours. According to the U-M Law School faculty web page, his wife is now "co-teaching" his family law course effective Winter 2013 semester. The circuit court hears a heavy caseload of suits involving U-M and Connors in 2009 dismissed a long-running civil rights lawsuit by Catherine Wilkerson, MD she had against U-M Hospital. Incidentally, Judge Connors dad, Edward Connors served as president of University of Michigan Hospital from 1969 to 1974 and his wife Margaret Connors , as an assistant prosecuting attorney, unsuccessfully prosecuted Dr. Wilkerson for "attempted obstruction" of a police officer - Dr. Wilkerson was acquitted in December of 2007 after a sensational and highly-publicized jury trial. Several years earlier Connors denied a FOIA enforcement action request by a labor union trying to organize U-M workers by obtaining their address and phone info. Connors was reversed by the Michigan Court of Appeals and the appellate ruling was vacated in 2008 by the Michigan Supreme Court. Should Connors be hearing cases involving his employer?

The Secret Team

Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

Timothy Connors attempted to obtain an endorsement from the Ann Arbor Democratic Party at their Saturday, September 15, 2012 membership meeting and was voted down 47-8. He later went to a Washtenaw County Democratic Party meeting and dozens of unfamiliar faces and a parking lot crammed with vehicles sporting Judge Connors campaign bumper stickers showed up. John Hampton Bredell and Michael Vincent, Connors campaign committeemen, appeared. Connors tried to get an endorsement there also. Connors has been trying to reconstitute himself as a Democrat trying to get votes. Look at his contributions history at the Secretary of State Section of and you will see the bulk of his political contributions have gone to GOP-aligned interests. Why can't Connors simply run on his record? Answer: his record on the bench is poor and warrants a replacement.

The Secret Team

Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 3:35 p.m.

Check the "My Opponent's Record" subsection in the "In The News"of the Mike Woodyard campaign website at It cites numerous Michigan Court of Appeals reversals on appeal of Connor's decisions including some scathing criticisms. Thee is also reference to a Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission citation against Connors for deployment of court resources for campaign committee purposes. This election is chiefly about Connors poor record as a circuit judge.


Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 3:11 p.m.

Nice article! Michael Woodyard is still on the Michigan's Citizen Review Panel for Child Fatalities.

Ed Kimball

Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 1:42 p.m.

I am sorry that Mr. Hann has had bad experiences with Judge Connors. Based on this article, however, I would say we will have a good judge in place whoever wins. Both seem up to the job and well-respected.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Oct 20, 2012 : 12:08 p.m.

ed .... there is moer than just this article, to wit:!my-opponents-record/cwj7 for more detailed perceptoins from people with MUCH more qualified legal perspecties on the vagaries of someone who could easily be labled as a skirker. evidence shows that mr. hann and i are not the only victims of random (or not so ramdom) actions of neglect. btw, my appearance tape did NOT disappear even though connors professed "tell me what the law is."


Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 1:18 p.m.

Connors and other on the county circuit bench decisions have been overturned in the Court of Appeals numerous times. This results in more time and energy in trying the case once it gets back to trial court, not to mention the time and costs associted with the appeal process. Woodyard is certainly worthy of wearing a black robe in our County. I like Mike and he gets my vote this year.


Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 1:03 p.m.

you talk about a person whom is qualified and has a heart for the people that go in front of him. he has a great background and i hope he get reelected. i for one will vote for him.


Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 1:07 p.m.

You must be his golf partner not a plaintiff appearing in front of him. He had NO heart for the plaintiff I saw who wanted to show docments and be hear, Connor's refused to look at what the man had and refused to make a judgement because the "Defendant" did not show up. I hope and pray you are the only one who votes for him.

The Secret Team

Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 3:50 p.m.

@golfer: I take it you have not seen

Tom Wieder

Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 12:35 p.m.

Connors was appointed to fill a vacancy by Gov. John Engler. (It's been 21 years, and I can't remember how the vacancy came about.) All judge vacancies that occur during a term are filled by appointment by the Governor. The judge must run for election subsequently to stay in office. There has been no change in the law. In the other Circuit Court race this year, an "open" seat exists, because Judge Melinda Morris is retiring when her term expires at the end of the year. Such open seats are filled by election.

mike gatti

Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 8:29 p.m.

I can't remember if Judge Connors was appointed to replace Judge Alexander, Elden or Thomasson. He was a District Court Judge for a brief time and then was appointed to Circuit Court, I believe when Judge Wilder went to the Court of Appeals but don't hold me to it.


Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 4:19 p.m.

Thank you!

The Secret Team

Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 3:38 p.m.

Judge Alexander retired in Ypsilanti an Connors was appointed by Engler. Later Kurtis Wilder got appointed to the Court of Appeals and Engler appointed Connors to the vacancy created by Wilder's promotion. Connors has donated to the campaigns of John Engler as well as Clifford Taylor(in 1998 and 2008)


Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

Didn't he replace Curtis Wilder? I remember Wilder left about that time to work for Engler.


Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 11:56 a.m.

Quick history question: Why did Connors get his job by appointment, but now has to run for re-election? Did the state shift from appointed to elected judges? Thanks...

The Secret Team

Fri, Oct 19, 2012 : 3:29 p.m.

Connors was apponited by Governor Engler. His initial bench appointment was the same month he made a doantion of $1,000 to the Michihigan Republican Party.