- NAME: Kelly Collins
- PHONE OR EMAIL WHERE CITIZENS CAN REACH YOU:
(248) 469-8281 and firstname.lastname@example.org
- Why are you running for 43rd District Court Judge?
My decision to seek your support for 43rd District Court Judge, after serving nearly 20 years as an Oakland County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney under two different elected prosecutors, is deeply personal. Historically, we have been fortunate to have incredibly strong judicial leadership serving Ferndale, Hazel Park and Madison Heights. Having handled thousands of criminal cases in my career, cases that brought me into every District Court in our county and every courtroom at the Oakland County Circuit Court, I know just how important experienced, compassionate judges are to maintain the integrity of our courts.
The responsibility of electing the best candidate is of the utmost importance because the voters are selecting the person who will serve them for the next 6 years. As the first female who would serve in this capacity, our District Court will benefit from my life experiences as well as my professional experiences within the courtroom and dealing with the same public safety and problem solving issues I have been called upon to address throughout my career. The District Court is truly our communities’ court in that it is not only the closest geographically to each of us but it has the most direct effect on our day to day lives and it is the court each of us is most likely to find ourselves in, whether as a litigant for a traffic ticket or minor offense, a civil dispute or jury service.
Having trained years ago at the 43rd District Court, the opportunity to come home to serve my community again is one I take seriously. You have my commitment to work every day to keep our court strong and focused on what matters most to all of us; strengthening and keeping our communities safe for every resident and for future generations. My vast experience with crimes involving the most vulnerable in our communities such as elder and child abuse, juvenile delinquency, domestic violence, violent sexual offense, human trafficking, and homicide, has provided me with the unique perspective and understanding of the skills and temperament needed to be a fair and effective judge.
Our communities deserve a candidate who brings with her the depth of experience and the legal and courtroom knowledge necessary to serve as their next District Court Judge. My compassion, experience and integrity make me the best candidate to serve in that capacity.
- What specific experience have you had that prepare you to serve as 43rd District Judge?
Having served our communities for more than 20 years in the courtroom on a daily basis, I have acquired the depth of knowledge and broad experience necessary to serve as our communities’ next District Court Judge. In my career, I have handled every type of criminal case that a District Court Judge would preside over, from civil infractions to Drunk Driving trials to First Degree Murder preliminary examinations. Thousands of court appearances have instilled in me traits to be ready day one to tackle the awesome responsibilities of a District Court Judge handling a criminal matter.
Along with my experience and knowledge in the law, I have worked diligently to succeed at managing the necessary balance of flexibility and firmness in dealing with parties and doling out justice with a temperament befitting a judge, and finally, I possess the ability to maintain the level of perspective and humility necessary to the service of our communities.
Along with the knowledge and experience I have gained is the awareness that I can never assume that I have all the answers. It has served me well throughout my career that in situations where I do not know the answer, I spend the time necessary to educate myself. I plan on utilizing this approach when it comes to handling the varied issues that will inevitably come before me as a District Court Judge. I possess the motivation and the work ethic to commit to serve our communities with compassion and integrity for the betterment of all.
- What is your approach to determining bail for criminal defendants?
The starting point is and must always be the guidance offered by the Michigan Court Rules. MCR 6.106 governs pretrial release and sets forth factors for the judge or magistrate to consider. There are certain crimes that dictate a strong response from the bench, even giving the court permission to remand a defendant while a case is pending.
Twenty years of experience in the court room has shaped my impression on the proper setting of bond amounts. I have prosecuted the most dangerous of defendants, the types of individuals having committed the types of crimes that call for high bond amounts or no bond at all. Because of that experience, I also realize that the vast majority of defendants do not fall into that category. Most defendants will show up for court. Most defendants do not pose a danger to the public. Therefore, most defendants should be on a personal recognizance bond, perhaps with conditions related to the alleged crime or the defendant’s criminal history. I am grateful to have that perspective, because too often I have seen judges and magistrates set bonds on individuals charged with low level offenses as if they were charged with a major assaultive crime. That approach is inconsistent with serving the ends of justice. I simply don’t agree with that method and would always seek to set bonds that are fair and appropriate.
- What is your position on alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders, such as drug rehabilitation programs?
Again, this is an area where my court room experience will be an asset. Jail is really a last resort for District Court cases. It represents the reality that there are no other solutions available than to separate an individual from society for a finite period of time. The most amount of time a District Court Judge can send someone to jail is for 365 days, and that is only in a select few cases. Most misdemeanors carry a maximum of 93 days. With good time credit at the Oakland County jail, a person sentenced to a 93 day maximum would be out in 78 days. What then? What has really been accomplished?
My approach would be to seek out any alternatives to incarceration before conceding that my only choice is to impose a jail sentence. I am familiar with the ATI program through Oakland County Community Corrections, where instead of someone serving thirty days in jail they spend thirty days in a drug/alcohol inpatient facility that is tax-payer funded. ATI also offers a dual diagnosis program to address co-occurring substance and mental health issues. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office offers a zero-tolerance program (ZTP) that allows an offender to be out of jail as long as they are testing negative for drugs and alcohol. The Oakland County Sheriff’s Office also offers a virtual work release program, that allows a candidate to be home on a tether or alcohol monitoring unit and still be able to work or go to school. This discussion does not even touch on the many private treatment facilities that I am aware of that also could be considered prior to imposing a jail sanction.
I whole-heartedly subscribe to the belief that, particularly when dealing with low-level offenders, jail should always be seen as the last, not first option for a judge.
- How can a District Court Judge contribute to creating a safer community?
The key is to remain vigilant in efforts to stay connected with and understanding the needs of the citizenry. By establishing lines of communication with community stakeholders, such as school and civic leaders, a judge can quickly respond to any community issues that arise that affect public safety.
For example, a well-established court-school program can bring a judge to the front lines of challenges facing students. By being a member of a community task force on such topics as substance abuse or domestic violence, a judge can be a force in prevention and education efforts. Being available as a speaker for service clubs in the community could enhance awareness efforts. Finally, a judge can certainly impact the safety of the community by the way in which she sentences and monitors a defendant on probation.
Ultimately, although a judge must be careful in taking public positions and must refrain from any conduct which could interfere with her ability to maintain impartiality, there are plenty of options at her disposal to stay engaged and present in the efforts to keep her community safe.
- Did you receive campaign contributions from donors in the bail bond industry?
- Can you describe an important case you worked on and the significance of the case?
People v Jeffrey Ziegler, involving the attempted murder of a young African American teen who had knocked on the defendant’s door to get directions after missing his bus to school and getting lost. I was sole counsel on behalf of the People of the State of Michigan through trial, conviction and sentencing on November 13, 2018. The victim had overslept and missed his bus to school on the morning that he was almost killed. He attempted to walk the route his bus took to school each day but got turned around in a confusing neighborhood. He approached the defendant’s house and knocked on the door to seek directions. The defendant was awakened by his wife who was screaming and presuming that the victim was attempting to break in, even though the victim had done nothing to suggest that. The defendant ran down the stairs and grabbed his shotgun, exited his house and took aim at the victim as the victim ran away. The defendant tried to fire but the safety was engaged, he released the safety and fired, luckily missing the victim. The entire incident is caught on the defendant’s home surveillance video, though he was slow to let law enforcement know the surveillance existed. His wife’s call to the police reported the victim was attempting to break in, even though the video shows otherwise. The defendant claimed he slipped and the gun “went off” even though the surveillance shows he clearly took aim and tried to shoot, then released the safety and actually shot as the victim continued to run away. This was a case that shook me to my core, as a mother and as an attorney. It highlighted both the different realities persons of color face in our society and the importance of good police officers. The victim did nothing wrong and yet, his life was in danger because of the color of his skin. The officers who responded were calm and professional and thorough in their investigation and discovered the home surveillance video showing what happened. It revealed the reality that the defendant tried to paint a much different picture of this young man and may have been believed had these officers not been diligent. And finally, what is significant and disturbing to me is the fact that despite the evidence in this case, the jury returned a verdict not of the original charge of Assault with Intent to Murder but of a lesser charge of Assault with Intent to do Great Bodily Harm, instead. I will never stop struggling with the belief that had the races of the individuals involved been reversed, there likely could have been a different verdict. The reality of all of these factors and their far-reaching implications hit me, both as an attorney and as a mom with a son of similar age at the time. It is a case and a family that will stay with me forever and helps shape how I approach issues now, both personally and professionally.