Tough Judges in the Oakland County District Courts

As Michigan criminal lawyers who practice statewide, I, along with the other members of our firm, have handled cases in nearly every District Court in the Lower Peninsula.  It has been our experience from our various cases that the toughest District Courts in Michigan are located in the northern half of Oakland County.  These District Courts include the Rochester Court, the Novi Court, and the Bloomfield Hills Court.

When I say that these courts are tough, it is an understatement.  For example, in the 48th District Court, Judge Kimberly Small routinely throws defendants in jail for first offense drinking and driving convictions.  The amount of time that she gives depends on the circumstances of each case, but even if your client has a low blood alcohol score, she will likely give a sentence of at least one week in the county jail.  I have also seen Judge Diane D’Agostini impose jail sentences for first time dui offenders, and Judge Marc Barron generally will impose major probationary terms.

Another example is the sentences given for minor in possession of alcohol cases in the 52-3 District Court in Rochester.  Judges Carniak, Asadoorian, and Nicholson are extremely tough when it comes to sentencing mip first offenders.  My experience is that a young person who pleads guilty to a first offense mip will likely receive a probationary sentence of at least one year, which will include 50 hours of community service, random alcohol and drug testing, counseling, court created programs, heavy fines, and other punishments.  To put this in perspective, the Judges of the 15th District Court in Ann Arbor  generally will sentence a first time minor in possession of alcohol offender to a minor fine and a short probationary period with little to no actual probationary supervision.

Ultimately, when I inform my misdemeanor clients about the potential penalties in these courts, the reaction is usually shock.  I always refer to an experience I had sitting in Judge Small’s court.  As I waited for my case to be called, I watched a middle-aged man approach the bench with his attorney.  From the discussion, I found out that he was being sentenced for a drunk driving plea in which his blood alcohol level was a 0.09, a mere 0.01 over the legal limit.  As I listened, it became clear that he had no prior criminal history and he was driving home from a work party after having a couple of beers.  Judge Small chastised this man and then gave him two weeks in jail.  I just shook my head, asking myself why his lawyer didn’t advise him to have a trial on his drunk driving case.

The District Courts of Northern Oakland County are very difficult places to practice law.  Many great Michigan criminal defense attorneys will refuse to take cases in these courts as practicing in these courts is extremely upsetting, difficult, and generally unpleasant.  Further, many of the attorneys who do practice criminal law in these courts allow these judges to get away with this type of behavior. 

I have built a reputation for fighting against this injustice.  I have sued these courts for illegally incarcerating minors for mip probation violations.  I have had to suffer through many difficult arguments against these judges as they do not like attorneys zealously advocating for their clients and speaking ill against the nonsensical practices of tough punishments found in these courts.  At the end of the day though, I feel that the courts treat me with a different type of respect as I repeatedly challenge any of these court’s unfair practices.

Being a criminal defense attorney requires the passion and drive to fight against unfair and unjust judicial practices.  I just wish more people fought against the extreme sentences of the Northern Oakland County District Court Judges.  Maybe one day the public will realize that having extreme judges does not benefit our communities and instead creates devastation in the lives of our citizens who find themselves appearing before a tough District Court Judge.


Jim Amberg is a partner at the lawfirm of Amberg & Amberg, PLLC.  Jim has tried and won misdemeanor, felony, and federal jury trials and routinely handles everything from Major Narcotics Conspiracy to Murder cases.  He argued and won the legally significant case of United States v Presley in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Jim also has sued courts to stop the practice of illegally incarcerating minors.  Jim is an active member of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan, the Michigan Association for Justice, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  He has been named a Superlawyer by Superlawyer Magazine, a Top Lawyer by DBusiness Magazine, AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell, and has a rating of Superb by

If you have any legal questions regarding your case, please feel free to contact Jim at (248) 681-6255 or email at