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July 19, 2002 - Image 44

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2002-07-19

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

Community

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big loss to the district," said Oak
Park City Prosecutor Eugene
Lumberg.
He handles about 150 to 200 cases
a week before the judges, covering
everything from traffic tickets, zon-
ing violations, barking dogs and
other misdemeanors to felony
arraignments. Lumberg, who also has
a private law practice, has been city
prosecutor for as long as the judges
have been on the bench.
Judge Friedman's daughter, Michelle
Friedman Appel, is one of nine local
attorneys, including seven Jews, who
will run in the August primary for a
chance to replace the retiring veterans.
The four top vote getters on Tuesday,
Aug. 6, will vie for the two seats in the
Nov. 5 general election.
The two who win the race for the
$134,000-a-year posts will inherit
cramped quarters and a dire need for a
new court building, the subject of
three unsuccessful millage votes in •
recent years. The judges' courtrooms
and offices, which have undergone one
major renovation since 1951, are
crammed into a corner of the Oak
Park City Hall. Court business is con-
ducted in 3,300 square feet of space.
The state recommendation is 11,000
square feet.
But Judges Friedman and Frankel
have made the most of their situation
over the past three decades, earning the
plaudits of many law-enforcement offi-
cials.

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"I don't think the age-restriction rule
is fair because judges in higher courts
can serve for life," Judge Friedman
asserted. "Also, these two judicial posi-
tions really should have staggered
terms. Now that we're both leaving,
there'll be no continuity. On the other
hand, at my age, I probably wouldn't
have run again anyway when my term
ended.
"I can't think of anything I would
have rather done in my life," he added.
"It really fulfilled my dreams to be a
judge all of these years. And I'm proud
that I'm the oldest-serving Jewish judge
in the state."
Judge Friedman's post-retirement
plans are uncertain. But he won't miss
some of the vandalism and threats he
has received over the years. Shortly
after he found someone guilty in a
case, the windows were shot out in the
judge's car parked at home. Another
time, when he jailed a reputed Mafia
"hit" man, the judge's family received
threats over the phone to "let him out,

or else," and police took his children
out of school to guard them.
"That was very scary," he recalled.
Judge Frankel dislikes the political
process in general and said he "certain-
ly won't miss campaigning [for re-elec-
tion] ... and I won't miss being the tar-
get of animosity by people who lose
their cases in my court.
"After retiring from here," Judge
Frankel said, "I'll do something else to
take advantage of the knowledge I've
gained from all my years on the bench.
I'm happy to have served the people."
Both judges had opportunities to
run for circuit judge or other judicial
positions during their careers, but pre-
ferred to serve the community with
which they are most familiar.
"The district court is less formal and
it's easier to enjoy the people and the
shticklach they come up with," Judge
Frankel mused.
"Most of the defendants come in
here without lawyers and we can inter-
act more with them," he said. "Some
people claim they got traffic tickets
from police officers because (the driv-
ers) are Jewish, then they come here
and expect leniency because the judges
are Jewish. Neither premise is correct."
Since 1969, the judges have handled
thousands of cases, ranging from sim-
ple parking tickets to preliminary
examinations for murder. They hold
brief trials for city ordinance violations
but, in murder cases, the defendant •
either is released or bound over for trial
in Oakland County Circuit Court.
In one case, a witness in a trial in -
Judge Frankel's court could speak only
Yiddish, so Judge Friedman came in to
be the interpreter. "Then a Jewish juror
stood up and disagreed with my
Yiddish," Judge Friedman said with a
laugh. "He gave the literal Yiddish
interpretation, which was a bit pro-
fane."
Judge Friedman belongs to
Congregation Beth Shalom, and he
and his wife, Annie, were the syna-
gogue's honorees one year for the
annual Jewish Theological Seminary of
America fund-raiser. He has been
active in the Zionist Organization of
America and served as president of the
Oakland County Judges Association.
Judge Friedman grew up in Detroit,
attending Brady Elementary School,
Hutchins Intermediate, Central High
School (1948) and Wayne State
University Law School (1960) —
interrupted by his U.S. Air Force serv-
ice during the Korean War. His wife is
a retired teacher, school principal and
education director at Temple Beth El.
They have four children — two of

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