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Posted on Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Judge didn't have conflict of interest but violated ethics code in Jenny's Market ruling, opponent alleges

By Kyle Feldscher

This story has been corrected to show judicial candidates cannot solicit donations of more than $100 from attorneys, but can accept donations of up to $3,400.

When Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge Timothy Connors made a ruling last week in a lawsuit filed against a popular farm market, he was ruling in favor of a lawyer who serves on his re-election committee.

Nothing in the Michigan Court Rules and Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct addresses the issue of judges hearing cases in which one of the parties or his or her lawyer is a campaign supporter. But least one area lawyer, who supports Connor's opponent in the upcoming election, says it could be considered a conflict of interest.

More troubling, alleges Michael Woodyard, Connors' opponent in the Nov. 6 election, is that the judge appeared to violate a section of the Michigan Judicial Code of Conduct by asking his wife's opinion.

Mark Koroi, a lawyer from Plymouth, said the judicial code is vague in the conflict of interest area and leaves it up to the judge's discretion in matters such as the one that came before Connors last week. Most judges would recuse themselves, he said.

A representative from Connors’ office said he would not comment on the matter because judges are prohibited from speaking about pending cases. But other lawyers said there's no problem with Connors handling the case, at least as far as conflict of interest rules go.


Judge Timothy Connors

Ryan J. Stanton |

Connors made headlines Friday when he decided to personally inspect a straw maze at Jenny’s Farm Market west of Dexter to determine if it was safe. Connors ruled against Webster Township’s request for a preliminary injunction to shut the maze down immediately. Township officials contended the maze was not safe in a lawsuit filed earlier this month.

John Bredell, the lawyer representing Jenny's Market and operator Burton Hoey, also serves on Connors' re-election committee.The court case seeking to close down the maze continues and Connors urged the two sides to reach a settlement. Hoey is also suing the township because it has refused to grant him a permit for a bathroom.

Bredell, who is listed as one of several vice-chairmen of the committee, said he’s only been to one meeting of the committee and often faces off against other lawyers who are on Connors’ committee. He said any implication that Connors favors attorneys who support him politically is false.

“Both sides are very interested in having the rules applied fairly,” he said. “There are no defense attorneys complaining about the process in front of Judge Connors.”

A review of the Michigan Court Rules and Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct showed no specific rules on how judges should handle hearing arguments from an attorney who is also political supporter. Judicial candidates may not solicit donations of more than $100 from attorneys. However, they are allowed to accept donations of up to $3,400 from their lawyer supporters.

The committee to re-elect Connors filed for a waiver from reporting campaign finances to the state of Michigan because the campaign expects to raise and spend less than $1,000.

Many area lawyers are listed on the committee’s website as members.

“I’ve certainly lost numerous case in front of Judge Connors,” Bredell said. “Statistically, I have to. The inference that if you’re John Bredell, you’ll win in front of Judge Connors, is false.”

Bredell and Connors worked together at a law firm more than 20 years ago. Michigan court rules prohibit a judge from taking a case involving an attorney who has been a colleague any time during the previous two years.

An attorney who recently lost a case to Bredell in Connors’ court said he never thought the judge was anything but fair to both parties.

Mike Daniels, an Auburn Hills-based attorney, said Connors ruled in favor of him on a number of different motions in the case and he never felt that Bredell’s relationship to Connors affected the proceedings.

“I’d be stunned if, in a circumstance like that, Tim Connors made a decision based off his relationship with John Bredell or a relationship like that,” he said.

He added it’s not unusual for lawyers to be supporters of judges’ political campaigns. The majority of donors to judicial campaigns are attorneys and the diversity of the contributors makes it hard for judges to have biases toward one lawyer against another, Daniels said.

“My general experience with the judiciary in Michigan is I don’t worry and never really worry whether my opponent gave the judge money or support in their last campaign,” he said.

Officials from the State of Michigan Bar Association declined to comment on the case. A call to Webster Township’s representative at the hearing was not returned.

Woodyard, who's seeking to unseat Connors in the Nov. 6 election, didn't see much of a problem with Connors' ruling on a case that involves a lawyer on his re-election committee. Woodyard said Washtenaw County's law community is like a small town. Everyone knows everyone, he said.

What Woodyard was more concerned about was Connors’ statement that he consulted his wife’s opinion on whether the maze was safe. He called that a violation of Canon 3 of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct, which bans ex parte conversations.

The code reads: "A judge shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications, or consider other communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties concerning a pending or impending proceeding."

Woodyard said that prohibits the judge seeking that type of advice from his wife.

“A person who’s not party to a lawsuit and is not called as a witness has the judge’s ear and offers their perspective,” he said. “I don’t think it’s appropriate. I think practicing lawyers … would be justified in questioning why the judge is seeking his wife’s perspective,” Woodyard said.

Koroi agreed and said Connors consulting his wife is "outrageous."

Kyle Feldscher covers cops and courts for He can be reached at or you can follow him on Twitter.


Bill Wilson

Fri, Mar 29, 2013 : 11:15 p.m.

@ Kyle, I think the problem those attempting to enforce this 'conflict' will face is that there was no controlling legal authority while the Judge was in the presence of his wife. No controlling legal authority = no issue Got anything else?


Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 5:15 p.m.

earsofjustice: I have nothing do do with the "The Secret Team" or Woodyard, but I have sat in Judge Connor's courtroom and ordered DVD's of his hearings. As I have stated in other post any Judge who refuses to make a judgement when a Defendant refueses to show up for a hearing should not be a judge. 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.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 2:24 p.m.

response posted in new thread .... thankxx forthis ... judy, yo are right particularily "Any judge that refuses to read or even look a Plaintiff's documents should not be a judge" teh same applies to Defendant, eh?


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 12:07 p.m.

Its really nice that Judge Connors has so many who say he is above board kind of Judge. However, in this instance it appears that he violated the ethics code, on a hot button topic in our community (Jenny's issues are not just the corn maze). Being as such, you would expect (require) that he handle such a case in a manner that is beyond scrutiny, he didn't do that. So we can reference other cases from here to eternity, what matters in this instance is his connection to the legal parties before him. He should have declared it, passed the case to another judge, and been done with it.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:02 p.m.

"Jenny's issues are not just the corn maze" Judge Connors did NOT have any other "issues" before him!

James Socrates

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 2:48 a.m.

I think there is a need to keep these accusations in perspective. The intent of canon three is to prevent bribery, promote transparency, and ensure due process. Whats more, Connors remark was made in front of both attorneys, during the proceedings and entered on the record to which either attorney could have objected, and which neither did. Was it the wisest thing to say? Of course not but hardly something meriting professional investigations. If canon three was to be applied verbatum , nearly every judge in the state of Michigan would be facing sanctions for discussing cases with their law clerks and judicial attorneys. Just a bit of perspective


Mon, Oct 29, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

YOU are wrong:earsofjustice I have nothing do do with the "The Secret Team" or Woodyard, but I have sat in Judge Connor's courtroom and ordered DVD's of his hearings. As I have stated in other post any Judge who refuses to make a judgement when a Defendant refueses to show up for a hearing should not be a judge. 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 Secret Team

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 5:41 p.m.

@earsofjustice: "The judge drove out with his wife." That specific fact was not in the original story. How do you know this? Were you in the vehicle? Did the opposing attorneys have access to all conversations between Judge Connors and his wife, Margaret, relative to her "perspective"? Why do you equate "The Secret Team" with "Koroi and other Woodyard supporters"?


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 12:53 p.m.

Mark In your dreams!

The Secret Team

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 5:44 a.m.

@James: Not true; judge's staffs are exempt from the operation of this ethical rule. Judge Connors "stepped into it" big time. He will likely lose votes over this on Election Day.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 4:06 a.m.

And, how about putting the controversy in perspective? The question as posed in the original article was whether the straw maze posed a danger to children. No one wanted money. No one was trying to get rich. The township and county wanted immediate relief. So, the judge drove out to Dexter with his wife, the same day, in the presence of the Township officials and the attorneys and looked at the maze. Wow. If all government officials where that hands on and sensible, wouldn't the world be a better place? The only people complaining are the secret team, aka, Koroi and otherWoodyard supporters.


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 3:43 a.m.

Thanks for the voice of reason. But then "The Secret Team" ( not a secret anymore) has no interest in reason.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:23 p.m.

Connors is a great judge, a local boy, and we are lucky to have him. He did nothing wrong here and I like his hands on approach to decision-making. Why is it wrong to talk about a case with your wife again? I see nothing here but Woodyard and his handful of supporters grasping at straws. Why this self indulgent upstart did not seek the open judgeship, or better yet run as a prosecutor against Mackie, seems to show me at least this is a challenge to this judge, and not a call to public service. Connors should and will remain on the bench until he retires and that is good for this town.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:49 p.m.

The Connors era is over.....


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:26 p.m.

Are we hell bent on running off all the good people from public service? You'd think so by reading this article. Woodyard is trying to manufacture an October surprise. I think he should spend his time on cleaning up the public right of ways littered with all his political signs. Bet we see some of his signs buried in the snow come December.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:21 p.m.

Social Media, you can keep the signs....Go Blue!


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:23 p.m.

That there are no rules regarding Judge Connors behavior is evidence that he violated no rules. The Supreme Court is not bashful about saying what is and is not acceptable conduct. The assertion that Judge Connors did something wrong here is absurd. From the beginning of time lawyers have been the primary source of support in judicial elections. This is not a new problem. It is not new and it's not a prolem. Judge Connors is a fine judge and this community is privileged to have had his service for these many years.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 3:49 p.m.

fine service, perhaps for a while. now, not so:

John Whitman

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

I don't often comment on things like this. I practice law for a living so I get enough public argument. I have argued before Judge Connors for a long time. More often than not, he rules against my clients. That however is not the same as saying that he is unfair or unethical. He is neither. He happens to be a good judge. I was stunned to see that one of the lawyers quoted in this article, was Mark Koroi. I had a case before Judge Connors with Mr. Koroi. Mr. Koroi took over the case from a very well respected local lawyer who had helped the injured plaintiff prevail at trial. When Mr. Koroi became involved, there was a dispute over several hundred thousand dollars. The money was for medical care provided to an injured man. Judge Connors awarded the money to the health care provider who actually provided the service, rather than Mr. Koroi and his client. The next time our case came before the Court, Mr. Koroi was trying to recover $80,000 in conservator fees. After a hearing in which Mr. Koroi failed to justify his fee, he became very upset with the Court and complained that Judge Connors was unfair. Mr. Koroi is hardly an objective source. He tried to obtain $80,000 in fees and Judge Connors shut him down. I am a defense lawyer. Judge Connors has a history of representing people who bring claims against their insurance company. He certainly views these case different than I do. I have never felt as though he was unfair, unprofessional or unethical.

The Secret Team

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

John, I just noticed that the Garan Lucow Miller PAC just gave the Judge Connors re-election campaign the statutory maximum of $3,400.00.

The Secret Team

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 5:47 p.m.

John, maybe you should run for judge next election. All those insurance company political action committees, in addition to the Garan Lucow Miller PAC could give you a real edge in fundraising. You would likely make a better jurist than Timothy Connors.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:50 p.m.

now this sounds like someone knows him for what he is. good or bad but knows him.

The Secret Team

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:47 p.m.

@John Whitman: You should disclose that per public records downloadable at the State of Michigan website you donated $100.00 to Judge Timothy Connors' campaign committee on May 7, 2002; this was despite the fact no one had filed to oppose Connors as of that juncture. Why donate to someone who more often than not rules against your clients? Why donate to a judicial campaign committee when no opposition exists? It seems that many of the people who post favorably about Judge Connors are litigation attorneys who are pumping funds into his or his wife's campaign coffers. I, for one, am happy that Michael Woodyard is exposing these types of shenanigans.

The Secret Team

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:19 p.m.

@John Whitman: You are a partner in the Garan Lucow Miller PC law firm. Isn't it a fact that one of your law partners in Garan Lucow Miller, PC , Judy Moskus, is on Judge Connors' campaign committee, per the campaign committee website? Isn't it a fact that your law firm's political action committee donated $400.00 received on 8/15/08 to the campaign committee of Margaret Connors, per Secretary of State records downloadable at - despite the fact that she had been already defeated in the August 5, 2008 primary and state records show her committee received $600.00 to that point during that campaign cycle. Why is it necessary for a judicial candidate to receive contributions AFTER she has already been defeated in the primary election. Also, why was your law firm's PAC donating to someone who worked in the office of County Prosecutor and was running to be a District Court Judge when the vast majority of lawsuits your firm defends are in the circuit court? Isn't it a fact that Judge Connors once worked for the insurance defense firm of Conlin McKenney & Philbrick law firm. Do you have any comment on the Judicial Tenure Commission citation referenced on Michael Woodyard's campaign website against Judge Connors for deploying court resources for campaign committee purposes? Maybe that will change your mind as to whether or not he was "unfair, unprofessional or unethical." Please respond to these points, Mr. Whitman.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:58 p.m.

As the hit team said "It does not take a rocket scientist to understand what's going on here." The secret team is out to do nothing more than dig up dirt. No doubt relatives of Woodyard!

Laura Jones

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

When you elect judges, this is what you get.

The Secret Team

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 6:12 p.m.

John Bredell and his wife, Lynn, per state records downloadable on the Secretary of State section of the website have made 145 discrete donations to committees cognizable by that agency; these aggregately run well into five figures. This does not include campaign contibutions cognizable by the Federal Election Commission or County Clerk. John and Lynn Bredell endorsed Timothy Connors' wife in her failed 2008 bid for a District Court judicial seat and Lynn Bredell gave two separate $500.00 contributions to Margaret Connors' campaign committee. John Bredell appeared at the Elk's Club in May 2012 for a politcial function with Judge Connors and also appeared at the 9/15/12 Ann Arbor Democratic Party membership meeting when Judge Connors sought an endorsement from that group and was denied by a 47-8 vote. Bredell was also at a Washtenaw County Democratic Party meeting with Connors to get an endorsement from that body as well. John Bredell gave the legal maximum of $3,400.00 to one judicial candidate committee in a single election cycle. This is public record on the Secretary of State section of the State of Michigan website. There is an "insider network" of local attorneys who pump thousands and thousands of dollars of contributions to judicial campaign committees each election cycle. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand what's going on here.

The Secret Team

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 5:50 p.m.

There is a recent interview of Michael Woodyard on that contains a thread of comments which goes over several conflict of issues and other ethics issues relative to Judge Connors. That article is the "most read" for in the last three months. It is very interesting reading and explains why Timothy Connors has a challenger and numerous locals opposing his re-election.

Snarf Oscar Boondoggle

Sat, Nov 3, 2012 : 3:48 p.m.

and another opinion here: i AM a local who opposes his candidacy .. adn i don;t know any of you.

The Secret Team

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 5:12 p.m.

I thank Kyle Feldscher for running this important story. I agree with Michael Woodyard's analysis. I also don't understand the "reporting waiver" for less than $1,000 in expenditures. Who is paying for the Connors ESPN commercials? A Super PAC or some other fund raising device to shield the contributors' identities?

The Secret Team

Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 5:20 p.m.

The voters did not put Conors in office - he got appointed in 1991 by John Engler the same month he donated $1,000.00 to the Michigan Republican Party.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:46 p.m.

WOW did we think you would not agree with woodyard. how about all those student voters you are saying is for woodyard. come on no one could guess whom you are pushing. i think anything with THE SECRET TEAM would not say one good word about connors. gee wounder why? any way i think 20 years experience is worth something. like the voters put him in office for that long! i think when posting you should not have alternative motives.

Big Bad Wolf

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

Judge Connors is an exemplary judge - one of the best. This is not a political statement, but an opinion of having watched this gentleman handle a difficult case. Very respectful to all parties, diligent and responsible.

The Secret Team

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:19 p.m.

@Brad: See if you think Connors is such a great guy - it may change your mind.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:53 p.m.

Wow - a firsthand juror's report of the judge's performance gets down-voted.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:28 p.m.

I was a juror in Judge Connors' court on a complex civil case and I would echo what @Wolf said. He was everything that you would hope a judge would be.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 6:37 p.m.

S. Postema


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

eyes of something Time for full disclosure! Have you ever been before Judge Connors? I have not.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 3:20 p.m.

U most be joking....


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:39 p.m.



Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 1:29 p.m.

You kids at home! Pay attention! This story proves that no matter how many times adults tell you to grow up, you can play silly games all your life and get paid good money to do it.

The Secret Team

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:37 p.m.

And Timothy Connors is the best example of this......... Gets $139,000.00 as a judicial salary and moonlights as an employee for U-M along with his wife. These litigation attorneys are big donors to local judicial campaign committees.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

Woodyard is grasping at straws!(no pun intended) If Judge Connors was wrong. Bring him up on charges. Otherwise, lets see Woodyard's qualifications. I say once again. Google WHO endorses each candidate.

The Secret Team

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:14 p.m.

@jcj: When I look at Tim Connors endorsements, I see: No endorsement from any member of the County Board of Commissioners; No endorsement from the County Prosecutor; No endorsement from the County Sheriff; No endorsement from the Mayor of A2; No endorsement from the County Clerk; No endorsement from the Water Resources Commissioner. Many if not most of Connors' endorsers or campaign committeepersons are the litigation attorneys who appear before him.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 7:55 p.m.

Do you get your information ANYWHERE else? I put my faith in the list that endorses Judge Connors. Not Kym Worthy

The Secret Team

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 5:38 p.m.

Judge Connors, per the Woodyard campaign website, has been previously cited by the Judicial Tenure Commission for deploying court resources for campaign purposes. I have a feling this matter here will eventually find its way for JTC consideration.

Cameron Getto

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

Kyle: You have the donation limit part wrong. Judges cannot solicit donations in excess of $100 from lawyers, but lawyers appropriately and legally can, and often do, contribute more if they want to. See:

Kyle Feldscher

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 2:42 p.m.

Cameron Getto - Thanks for pointing that out. I've made that correction and noted it at the top of the story. My apologies for the mistake.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

WOW for while now whenever Jenny's is in the news, there a people who claim its that Mr. Burton is being bullied. (insert nausea here) Now it appears that it could actually be the other way around. Now wonder all the times Mr. Burton is told he has to comply with standard sanitary conditions, treatment of animals, or safety of the public, he thumbs his nose at those basic minimal requirements. Makes much more sense now! Judge Connors has to know what a hot button topic this is within our community and to remain above board, should have passed this case on to another judge, just to have all hands clean so to speak!


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 1:23 p.m.

Bogie I also find it hilarious that Ruralmom likes to portray herself as knowledgeable and can't get a simple name right! Ruralmom Most businesses that are sloppy and poorly run do NOT stay in business long. If Mr HOEY thumbs his nose then it's on those who are charged with enforcing the law. r


Fri, Oct 26, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

Bogie, you want have a fit over his last name? He cannot get a permit for the bathrooms due to where he wants to put them, AND he wanted to put in Porta Potties at one time, not permanent bathrooms with running water (you know so employees can wash their hands between caring for animals and dishing out FOOD). If you go by there on weekends its busy, but look at the buses of people that come in, from OUT OF TOWN, such as the Bus from Dundee about 3 weeks ago. Its not the business, its the way the business is conducted and the flagrant disregard for rules & sanitary regulations. The business nearby have to abide by those rules, but Jenny's gets a pass? Already had an employee paralyzed, animals neglected & confiscated, and no compliance to any local or state regulation for this type of outfit. I know your one of those who turns a blind eye, then when something even worse happens, wonders why something wasn't done about years prior. I get it, arm chair quarterbacking!

The Secret Team

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:42 p.m.

Judge Connors needed to recuse himself and he did not. He may suffer political fallout at the polls over this.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 9:31 p.m.

WOW! You seem to know Mr. BURTON, and the his former legal cases quite well.......that's funny.......because BURTON IS HIS FIRST NAME. Jenny's market sure is busy place, to be so dangerous and filthy. Maybe you can explain, why Mr. Hoey can not get a permit to build a bathroom? Also, why every fall, he finds himself before a judge? I will leave you with that, so you may go drink your "I'M HELPLESS, PLEASE GOVERNMENT TELL ME WHAT TO DO; HOW TO DO IT; AND PICK WHO CAN BE SUCCESSFUL." KOOL AID!


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:20 p.m.

Is it too late to take the hay maze to the Supreme Court?

Unusual Suspect

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:07 p.m.

Maybe it's not *officially* a conflict of interest, but it doesn't take a mental heavyweight can see that it really is.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 10:42 p.m.

once again bet you are strong for his opponent. might even be on his committee?


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:24 a.m.

This was actually some good journalism on behalf of AAnews and appeared objective something they often lack.


Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 11:13 a.m.

Everyone else in the public sector (except perhaps state legislators) is either urged or required to recuse themselves if there is a conflict of interest, and ethically is required to at least disclose the appearance of impropriety. I find it appalling, frankly, that it's ethically OK for practicing lawyers to donate to judicial candidates. While they probably know better than the general public who are the better or more effective judges, I think this puts the judges in a difficult position and taints the fairness of the decision making process for the actual defendants and plaintiffs. Of course, as long as judges are elected, SOMEONE has to help provide funds for their runs for office, and while I'm not a big fan of appointed judges, eliminating the need to run for office is the strongest argument for moving in that direction.

music to my ear

Thu, Oct 25, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

I agree its the same thing happening in the kwame trial like favors begot favors. maybe in this case it is different, if they did stop this practice. the donating lawyer will just have someone else donate his money and let the judge know this is really from blank blank, so there is really no way to stop this practice. it will go on. .