Monday Profile: Thomas E. Brennan Jr.

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The Hon. Thomas E. Brennan, Jr., served as a judge on the 55th District Court in Mason from January 1981 through December 2004 and retired after 26 years of public service. He served as Chief Judge of the Court from 1987 through 1990 and again from 1995 through 2004. He handled small claims, landlord-tenant matters, civil matters under $25,000, traffic citations, drunk driving, other misdemeanors and felony preliminary examinations among other duties both jurisdictional and administrative.

In 2002, he was a candidate for the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Prior to his judicial duties, Brennan practiced law as a partner in the firm of Klug & Brennan, P.C.

Brennan received his undergrad degree in criminal justice from Michigan State University, and his J.D. from Cooley Law School in Lansing.

He is currently conducting facilitations, mediations and arbitrations on a freelance basis. In addition, he selectively represents individuals and businesses in need of legal services.

He is the son of Justice Thomas E. Brennan, who was the founder of Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court.

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Why did you become a lawyer? I watched my father and met so many great lawyers through him. The aspiration seemed natural to me.

What other career path might you have chosen? In college, I once thought of going into radio and television.

What’s your proudest moment as a lawyer?
There have been so many moments, going all the way back to one of my first clients who showed his appreciation by buying me my first briefcase. And I still have it, tattered as it may be. But the top has to be speaking before the Michigan Supreme Court at my father’s portrait hanging ceremony.

What would surprise people about your job? The fact that I’m not really retired. I teach, facilitate mediations and take on clients.

What advice do you have for someone considering law school? Shadow a lawyer first. Law school is much too expensive and time consuming to do on a lark or a hunch. Develop a passion for learning the law before you go.

What’s the best advice you ever received?
My first job paid $12,000 per year. One night Leo Farhat told me a monkey could make $12,000 a year -- so I went out on my own and the rest is history.

What is the most unusual thing you have done? I married a couple in a hot air balloon. Upon taking their vows, they drifted away. Also I married a couple at center ice at Munn Arena by skating onto the ice fully robed. In fact, I played in one of the Legal Eagles Broomball games against MSU with my robe on!  

What’s your favorite law-related TV show, movie, and/or book?
I enjoy Grisham novels and watching Law and Order.  I grew up watching Perry Mason. And I love law related movies (e.g. The Verdict, A Few Good Men, And Justice for All, Anatomy of a Murder, etc.).

Who are your law role models – real and/or fictional? Well, definitely my father for obvious reasons. Also, for seven years, I served with Judge Tom Roberts, who was my mentor on the bench while I was a young judge. He was a true gentleman.

Favorite website: www.judgebrennan.com (My father’s blog)

What is something most people don't know about you? For six years, I organized the charity fundraising hockey game between the Red Wing Alumni Team and the MSU Alumni Team.  Twenty years ago, I convinced Gordie Howe and his wife Colleen to celebrate his 68th birthday by participating in the game.  At the post game party, Gordie, Colleen and I were the last to leave. It was special.

Favorite app: Facebook -- to see my daughter-in-law’s pictures of my grandsons.

Favorite music: James Taylor and a variety of music other than heavy metal and rap.

What is your happiest childhood memory? Collecting baseball cards. Playing sports. Summers at Grandma’s cottage at Rondeau Park in Canada. A brand new bike at Christmas when I was eight!  And then Mom and Dad taking me to Joe Muer’s Restaurant on my 13th birthday as a rite of passage.

What do you wish someone would invent? A time machine.

What is your most treasured material possession? My cellphone.

What has been your favorite year so far and why? The current year is always my favorite year. Why look back -- life is a gift full of favorites!

If you could trade places with someone for a day, who would that be?
Pope Francis.

What’s the most awe-inspiring place you’ve ever been? 
Whether it was the Cathedral in Cologne or the rim of the Grand Canyon, it’s been anywhere in God’s presence.

If you could have one super power, what would it be?
The power of healing.

What would you say to your 16-year-old self? “You can do it!”

What do you do to relax? Play golf alone. It’s like a walk in the park.

Favorite place to spend money: On vacations, wherever that may be.  

What is your motto? “Put first things first and you’ll never be a second rater.”

Which living persons do you most admire? My father, mother, spouse, two sons and my daughter-in-law.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement? Persuading Julie to marry me 40 years ago.

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