Michigan judge reverses course, will restart YouTube livestream Monday

    St. Joseph County 3B District Court Chief Judge Jeffrey Middleton | Screenshot

    St. Joseph County 3B District Court Chief Judge Jeffrey Middleton announced Thursday morning in a video posted on YouTube that beginning Monday May 24, his courtroom hearings will once again run on a livestream on the video service.

    The move comes after State Court Administrator Tom Boyd called Middleton personally. Middleton said the former judge “encouraged” him to restart the stream. 

    Middleton said he consulted the county prosecuting attorney before making his decision. The prosecutor, he said, was supportive of using the YouTube livestream again, despite reticence both officials harbored related to the impact on victims and others with business before the court. 

    “It’s a fine line between entertainment and education,” he said. “People can be educated while being entertained.”

    As a result of concerns for litigants, there will be small changes to protect people’s privacy and then removing videos after seven days. 

    “This will allow people to perhaps gain some trust in the court system,” he said. 

    Earlier this week, Middleton announced he was ending his live streaming of court hearings, saying Region 5 Court Administrator Jill Booth had called and was “strongly suggesting” he do so. John Nevin, a spokesman for the Michigan Supreme Court, told the Advance the call from Booth had been a miscommunication and Boyd had personally called Middleton to encourage him to turn the camera back on. 

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    The move to shut the livestream down came after a month of unusual scrutiny on the judge’s YouTube channel by thousands of followers who noted bizarre moments in his court proceedings. Those incidents included a man appearing on a suspended license case while sitting in the driver’s seat of a car, catching an accused abuser in the same home as his victim and chastising a defendant who appeared with a profane user name. 

    Middleton also took the opportunity to post a follow up video to defend his long hair, a side effect of COVID shutdowns, he said. He told viewers he would only address the question of his hair once. It won’t change until he is ready for it to do so. 

    The commentary on his hair took up the majority of his video. 

    Todd A. Heywood
    Todd Heywood is an award-winning journalist with over 30 years of experience. He's worked in print, online, radio and television. His reporting has been cited by the U.S. House of Representatives as well as in the United Nations reports on HIV. He's an avid vintage Star Wars collector and lives in Lansing with his three dogs.