The 47th District Court’s newest magistrate started her legal career in Cass Tech High School’s cooperative education program.
Farmington resident Brandy Hart replaces Magistrate Dennis Pheney, who retired in December after 35 years on the bench. She is the first African-American jurist in the Farmington-Farmington Hills court’s 52-year history.
As a student, Hart worked for an attorney who eventually encouraged her to take the Law School Admission Test. After graduating from Thomas Cooley Law School, she hung out a shingle in 2014.
That same year, Hart moved to Farmington. Born and raised in Detroit, she had lived in Novi and Commerce, but wanted a place with easier access to courts in downtown Detroit.
“When I saw the house and backyard, it was just perfect for raising a family,” she said.
Hart and her husband will welcome their third child this month.
As she “dabbled” to find sustainable work, Hart met 47th District Court Judge Marla Parker at an Oakland County Bar Association panel discussion. That led to her becoming one of 12 House Counsel lawyers; they represent local criminal defendants who can’t afford an attorney.
“I enjoyed it,” Hart said. “There are some cases where they expect you to move mountains, but in most cases, they’re so grateful for everything you do for them.”
Hart made a professional home with the local district court, but becoming a magistrate never crossed her mind. When Pheney announced his retirement, she said, “people started putting bugs in my ear about it.”
After Parker and Judge James Brady appointed her, Hart spent two months shadowing magistrates Michael Sawicky and Matthew Friedrich. Their duties include criminal arraignments, informal hearings on traffic matters, and small claims hearings. Magistrates also issue arrest and search warrants.
Hart believes her experience with indigent clients will serve her well.
“I think it gives me a little more heart and reasoning,” she said. “I do understand defendants… especially when it comes to setting bond, which protects the community.”