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Judge upholds $15,000 fine paid by jailed Holland restaurant owner

Marlena Pavlos-Hackney was in court Friday where Judge Wanda Stokes denied both legal motions brought by her defense
Marlena Web Photo
Posted at 5:15 PM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 17:53:03-04

INGHAM COUNTY, Mich. — The attorney for Marlena Pavlos-Hackney, the Holland restaurant owner jailed for allegedly refusing to comply with local health orders, was back in court Friday regarding several legal motions they recently filed.

Friday's hearing was in regards to several issues brought up by Marlena's defense in the wake of her initial arraignment on March 19 in an Ingham County courtroom.

INTERACTIVE TIMELINE: Events leading up to Marlena Pavlos-Hackney's arrest

Her attorney, Robert Baker, tells FOX 17 that they are yet to receive an accurate transcript of that March 19 hearing, saying that the transcript provided by the court's shorthand stenographer contained nearly 40 discrepancies.

An updated transcript was eventually provided to the defense where many of those errors were corrected, but Baker says some remained.

On Friday, Baker asked the court to declare the transcripts erroneous, and requested audio and/or video of the hearing if it exists. He asked that if it does not exist that the hearing be considered void.

“Depending on how you rule today, appellate review is most likely in the future, so the transcript, as it sits, is still erroneous pursuant to my pleadings,” Baker told Judge Wanda Stokes Friday morning.

But Judge Stokes denied his request, saying in regards to the errors, “all of these are common kinds of corrections that you would expect to see and have corrected after a hearing, which is what court reporters do: they clean up the transcript after because they're taking shorthand.”

But Baker disagrees with her conclusion.

“She asked for me by name a couple of times; that wasn't in the transcript," Baker explained of Marlena's arraignment hearing.

"But evidently in that court, in Ingham County, that's not substantive.”

He also asked the court to return the $15,000 in fines that Marlena has so far paid. That request was denied as well.

“The $7,500 was the penalty for failure to comply prior to the hearing, and an additional $7,500 was assessed for being in violation that time that she was standing before the court, not in compliance with the court's order," Judge Stokes said in court Friday.

"All your client needed to do was to comply... Comply from the time that I issued the temporary restraining order, until the time that she gets an order that says she can open up her restaurant."

Baker told FOX 17 in an interview following the hearing that eventually he would like to test the constitutionality of the order Marlena was charged under—an order issued by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD).

“What I suspect we're heading to is federal court," Baker told FOX 17.

"And we're going to test all of the constitutionality of what the governor is doing, as far as the COVID restrictions, because they are, and this is just my humble opinion, unconstitutional, as were the executive orders.”

MDARD responded to FOX 17's request for a comment on Friday's hearing with the following statement:

"MDARD and the local health department have consistently been ready to work with Marlena’s to help them get their food license reinstated. MDARD needs to be assured that the establishment will not operate in a manner which continues to pose an imminent public health threat and will operate in compliance with the state Food Law.

MDARD remains ready to work with Marlena’s on a path toward resolution. Unfortunately, as of yet, the establishment has not agreed to work with MDARD to resolve the instant case or take the steps necessary for reinstatement of their food service establishment license.

Regardless, the Court has made clear that Marlena’s cannot re-open until the Court lifts its preliminary injunction and allows the establishment to open."
— Jennifer Holton, APR, MDARD Communications Director

Baker says that is a mischaracterization of the situation, though. He tells FOX 17 that in a recent phone conversation with the attorney general's office he was directed to start that process with Marlena's local health department. He says they have never declined to work with MDARD.

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