‘U’ faculty member and Ann Arbor city attorney announce candidacy for Washtenaw County prosecutor

Friday, June 7, 2019 - 5:58pm

Eli Savit, University of Michigan Law School adjunct professor, announced he will be running for Washtenaw County prosecutor in 2020.

Eli Savit, University of Michigan Law School adjunct professor, announced he will be running for Washtenaw County prosecutor in 2020. Buy this photo
File Photo/Daily

UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect Washtenaw County prosecutor Brian Mackie's announcement to retire after his current term.

On May 28, Eli Savit, University of Michigan Law School adjunct professor, announced he will be running for Washtenaw County prosecutor in 2020. Savit also works as a senior attorney in the office of Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. In addition, Savit served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Arianne Slay, Ann Arbor senior assistant city attorney, announced her candidacy Thursday. Slay worked as an assistant county prosecutor for almost a decade until she took a job with the city of Ann Arbor in 2017.

Savit and Slay are challenging incumbent Brian Mackie who has held the position since 1993 and is now in his seventh term. Mackie was most recently re-elected in 2016, having won 97.4 percent of the vote.

In an email to The Daily on May 30, Mackie said Savit’s candidacy will not affect his decision on whether to run again in 2020. Mackie said he does not get rattled easily, and he made up his mind a while ago.

Mackie announced on June 3 he will not be running for re-election in 2020.

“Mr. Savit is right to run for the office if he believes he can do a better job,” Mackie wrote. “He has an interesting background, though no experience as a prosecutor or defense attorney.”

In the email, Mackie also took issue with criticisms Savit waged against Mackie’s handling of alleged police brutality on Ann Arbor resident Aura Rosser in 2014. Rosser was fatally shot by police officer David Ried in what Ried called an act of self-defense. Mackie, in office as county prosecutor, elected not to charge or try Ried for the incident.

“(Savit’s) criticism of my decision is, at best, disingenuous,” Mackie wrote. “He knows the officer did not commit a crime. He knows it would be unethical to charge him.”

During her time as an assistant county prosecutor, Slay worked closely with Mackie.

Slay told MLive she believes she and Savit hold similar views on many issues, such as criminal justice reform, according to MLive. Savit pledged extensive criminal justice reforms in the press release declaring his candidacy.

"I'm running to build a fairer, smarter and cost-effective justice system that prioritizes rehabilitation over punishment,” Savit said. “Here in Washtenaw, we can build a prosecutor’s office that can serve as a model for the rest of Michigan.”

Savit said he is aiming to make the Washtenaw County prosecutor’s office more progressive.

"For too long, our justice system has failed all of us,” Savit said in a press release.  “When we don’t address the root causes of crime, we see the same people get involved in the justice system, repeatedly. That costs money, and it makes all of us less safe.”

Slay told MLive she can bring balance to the prosecutor’s office. Slay said she admires Mackie’s work and would like to maintain the experience and integrity he carries, but she intends to look into more individualized cases rather than Mackie’s approach of addressing blanket policies.

“I will not be the same prosecutor as Mr. Mackie,” Slay said.

Mackie said he anticipates 2020 will be another difficult election for the candidates involved.

“I believe in our system of government,” Mackie wrote. “Running for office is a difficult, nerve-wracking, exhausting and exhilarating process. It is a necessary part of a thriving democracy.”