Oakland County Prosecutor

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    Steve Afton

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    Jessica R. Cooper

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    Mike Goetz

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Biographical Information

What professional experiences/accomplishments have most prepared you to assume the responsibilities of the prosecutors’ office?

What are the most significant challenges the prosecutors faces in working with police agencies in your jurisdiction? How do you plan to address them?

With what sort of offenders is the criminal justice system least effective? How have/would you improve its effectiveness?

Which victims of crime does the criminal justice system serve least effectively? How have/would you improve its effectiveness?

If the county added five full-time prosecutors to your payroll, how would you deploy them?

If the county reduced your payroll by five full-time prosecutors, how would you absorb the reduction?

Michigan has experimented with specialty courts for drug offenders, veterans and offenders with mental health issues. Which of these specialty courts, if any, should be expanded in your county?

In what circumstances should the prosecutor offer to reduce charges or recommend a more lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea?

Can the prosecutor’s office play a role in reducing the number of offenders in Michigan’s prisons and jails? How?

Can the prosecutor’s office play a role in reducing recidivism? How?

The U.S. Supreme Court has decreed that juvenile lifers should be permitted to petition for reduced sentences. Do you believe that some of the juvenile lifers convicted in your jurisdiction qualify for such a reduction?

Should offenders who meet the criteria for reduced sentences be released even if their victims or their victims’ survivors object?

What steps should be taken to attract and retain highly qualified assistant prosecutors?

If you could enact or amend one statute to make your office more effective, what would you do?

Do you support and will you appear at campaign events with your party’s presidential nominee?

Have you ever been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor? If so, explain.

Have you ever filed for personal bankruptcy? If so, explain.

City of residence Rochester Hills
Education 1) B.S., Psychology, Michigan State University; 2) Law degree, Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
Professional Experience Licensed attorney since 2001; worked at Wayne Co. Prosecutor’s office, and as a criminal defense attorney where I saw the damage caused by the “war on drugs” and laws against vice-related "crimes." Have worked for other law firms and insurance companies over the years.
Campaign Website
I worked in the forfeiture department of the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, and later as a lawyer defending criminal cases, many involving drug and other non-violent, vice-type "crimes." I witnessed first-hand the injustice caused to the community by unfair laws that punish people for their unhealthy or undesirable behavior, like drug use or prostitution, the same as if they were violent crimes perpetrated against real victims--like rape, murder, or burglary. But mere vices should be dealt with as health or behavioral issues, not crimes. Let's stop arresting and caging people for deplorable behavior that doesn't contain any element of violence or aggression against people or property.
Currently, the majority of arrests, prosecutions, and asset forfeitures involve bogus victimless "crimes" not involving any element of aggression or violence against people or their property (e.g., drug possession, prostitution, gambling, etc.). Because I promise never to prosecute any such victimless "crime" or forfeiture, the challenge will be to gain cooperation from police agencies which profit greatly from the proceeds of civil asset forfeiture and the war on drugs in general. But when it becomes apparent that I will end forfeiture and refuse to prosecute victimless crimes, police agencies will soon readopt their true role of protecting the People from violence and aggression.
The criminal justice system is least effective with peaceful, non-violent "offenders" who never committed any element of violence against any person or property (i.e., where there is no victim). The System is unjustly set up now so that anyone can be arrested and prosecuted as a "victim" of his/her own poor choices or vices, such as putting the wrong substance in his/her body (like drug use), or engaging in repugnant but non-violent behavior (like prostitution). The System should never have been utilized in the first place against such "victimless" vice crime offenders. Such "crimes" are better treated as health problems, so that scarce resources can be used to combat real crime.
If the System is targeting the wrong element of society as "criminals"--i.e., non-violent "victimless crime" offenders--then those peaceful people are themselves victims and poorly served by the system. "Justice" is not only apprehending and punishing the correct perpetrator of a crime, but also ensuring that the wrongly accused or those accused of violating stupid laws are NOT punished for actions not rising to the level of being "criminal." To the extent we can have the courage to refuse to cage peaceful, non-violent people for their arguably bad habits/choices and instead target the truly violent, aggressive criminals, then the justice system's effectiveness will be improved.
Incarcerations for victimless "vice" type crimes constitutes an estimated 86% of the federal prison population alone. As County Prosecutor, I would end such prosecutions and, therefore, there would be no need for five additional prosecutors; in fact, the current level of staffing would find their workloads slashed, and could instead direct their time and resources towards prosecuting truly violent crimes, like rape, murder, assault, burglary, fraud, etc.
See my answer above. Because I would only be directing scarce time and resources towards the prosecution of truly violent criminals, and not those merely accused of vice/victimless crimes (which currently comprises the majority of arrests/prosecutions), workloads would decrease for the remaining prosecutors even if five prosecutors were let go.
If victimless crimes were no longer prosecuted, then the current courts could easily handle whatever cases remain, whether those concerned violent offenders, veterans, etc. I believe there should be no expansion of specialty courts. The current drug war / victimless crime / forfeiture racket only serves to incentivize, benefit, and sustain countless industries, careers, and agencies at the expense of peaceful, non-violent people. Countless police, judges, towing companies, politicians, prosecutors, bail bondsmen, private prisons, and even defense attorneys have a perverse incentive and a vested interest in the current unjust system of wealth transfer and incarceration continues unabated.
Because I would only allow my staff to prosecute crimes involving the initiation of aggression against people or property (e.g., rape, murder, burglary, fraud, etc.) and not victimless crimes (e.g., drug possession/use, prostitution, gambling), then the only circumstances I can envision allowing such plea bargains would be if the likelihood of a conviction seemed low--for example, a key witness refused to testify, or other evidence was weak, or the chance of prevailing at trial was not certain. On a case-by-case basis, such weighing of evidence and chances of success can often make sense to ensure justice for the victims.
Thanks to the drug war, the U.S. has only 5% of the world's population yet imprisons 25% of its own population--more than Russia or Iran. Incarcerations for victimless crimes constitutes 86% of the federal prison population alone. Because I will end all prosecutions of victimless crimes, the numbers of those incarcerated will plummet, with the added benefit of knowing such drop was NOT from a failure to aggressively prosecute true crime, but instead was from refusing to prosecute illusory "crimes" not involving the initiation of aggression against persons or property. Vices are best addressed through social pressures and traditional methods of therapy and treatment, not coercion.
Because the "drug war" and other wars against vice crimes and peaceful behavior not involving the initiation of violence are really wars against people and their property, the recidivism rate for such should be treated as a health problem and not as crime. Vices are best addressed through social pressures and traditional methods of therapy and treatment, not coercion. On the other hand, the recidivism rate of truly violent criminals (rape, murder, robbery, etc.) is always a major concern. To the extent my staff and I successfully prosecute those accused of violent crimes, I advocate harsh sentences to both protect the public and to encourage future compliance with criminal statutes.
Absolutely. The greater justice is found in avoiding injustice---and no doubt some juveniles are unjustly imprisoned for life. It bears repeating, that children and non-adults are NOT adults. As such, they lack the same awareness, comprehension, and mens rea (“guilty mind”) as an adult, and therefore should be held to a different standard of accountability, no matter what the crime. The distinction between “juvenile offender” and “adult offender” is rendered meaningless if we are, in the end, treating them the same, especially with regard to sentencing. I am not advocating no punishment for convicted juveniles--just that they be incarcerated as juveniles and not adults.
Yes. While I have great sympathy for the feelings of crime victims, there needs to be balance and proportionality even as regards the issue of punishment. For example, hypothetically speaking, it defies all sense of proportionality and compassion to sentence a first-time pickpocket to life in prison with no opportunity for parole, despite how his victim may feel. If there are objections with the criteria for reduced sentences, then the means of rectifying such is through the legislature, and the means of pressuring the legislature is through campaigning, voting, picketing, writing editorials, etc.
We should divert vast resources away from ferreting out and prosecuting “victimless crimes” and unconscionable civil asset forfeiture, and instead use the money to generously compensate good, honest prosecutors who are as dedicated to avoiding injustice as in effecting justice; and who zealously yet ethically prosecute crimes involving only the initiation of violence against people or property. Rather than hiring prosecutors who value a "win" at all costs over promoting justice, we should instead hire and reward prosecutors who promote justice, even if it involves the more courageous act of avoiding injustice by declining to prosecute or to over-charge.
Repeal drug prohibition at all government levels: It is a shameful, money-making racket and jobs program with the aim of generating “revenue” for the government and keeping police, judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, and countless others employed; It undermines fighting real crimes such as rape, murder, theft, fraud, corruption, assault, etc. Also, I advocate repealing criminal and civil immunity so often abused by police and prosecutors. Allowing them to evade personal responsibility is a moral hazard which only encourages more irresponsible or criminal behavior. The Rule of Law demands that government and its agents/employees get no favorable treatment under the law.
Probably, time permitting.
Candidate did not provide a response.
Candidate did not provide a response.
City of residence Beverly Hills
Age Age 70
Family None
Education Cass Tech High School, 1964 Wayne State University BA, 1970 Wayne State University JD, 1973 National Institute of Trial Advocacy – Certified trainer 1987 Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University- Judicial Program 1983
Vehicles owned Leased 2014 Cadillac CTS
Professional Experience State Appellate Defender 1973 -1975 Private practice of law 1975 to 1978 –specializing in Civil Rights Litigation 46th District Court Judge 1979- 1986 Oakland County Circuit Court Judge 1987- 2000 Adjunct professor of Law MSU 1995 – 1999 Judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals 2001 -2007 Adjunct Professor of Law U of M 2004 -2005 Emory Law – Instructor Kessler Trial Practice Program 2000 – 2010 Private mediation 2007 -2009 (MESC- fact finder, AAA labor Arbitrator) Oakland County Prosecutor, 2008 to present
Political Experience Elected District Judge 1978 non partisan Elected Oakland Circuit Judge 1986 non partisan Candidate Michigan Supreme Court –1996 Independent Elected Judge of Michigan Court of Appeals 2000 non partisan Elected Oakland County Prosecutor 2008 –Democrat Re-elected Oakland County Prosecutor – Democrat
Race/ethnicity Caucasian
Campaign Website
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I have successfully served as the Elected Prosecutor for the past 8 years. My judicial and teaching experience gave me the unrivaled foundation to meet the demands of an office that serves 1,200,000 people. The role of the prosecutor is to do justice. My experience as a trial judge has taught me to be fair and measured. My experience as an adjunct professor has helped me create renown-training programs. My experience as an appellate judge has been invaluable in analyzing cases. My experience as a chief judge in Southfield, as well as my years on charitable boards has taught me how to read and understand a spreadsheet and manage a budget of over $18 million.
In this time of dash-cams and body-cams and other recordings that store data/ evidence electronically, technology becomes a challenge. In our county, we have over 47 different investigative agencies using different recording systems. To effectively review and prosecute a case, this data must be quickly available for review on our county equipment. Unfortunately, standardization is not currently available. I address these issues through continued discussions with our police chiefs and the Sheriff as well as the county Information Technology Dept.
It has been my experience, both as a judge and as the elected prosecutor, that the criminal justice system is least effective with certain sex offenders, particularly those who prey upon children (pedophiles). Even after conviction, the prison files show that many are likely to serve their maximum as opposed to minimum sentence because they do not accept their behavior as wrong. With such offenders, we cannot change their thinking, but we can modify their behavior. I would like to see post incarceration: intense monitoring, aggressive treatment and a tether so that they will not find another victim.
The legal process, many times does not effectively serve the victims of criminal sexual assault and domestic abuse. For these victims, coming into a courtroom means testifying to traumatic and intensely personal matters. In domestic situations there is frequently pressure placed upon victims by perpetrators and even family members to prevent the victim from testifying. My office has a Victim Rights Section with specially trained counselors to make sure that these vulnerable victims have advocates to help guide them through this difficult trial process.
The county eliminated 5 prosecutor positions when I took office in 2008. We have been very lean. I would put 2 of the prosecutors in warrants that has seen an influx of white collar and computer crimes. These cases are fact intensive and require detailed and lengthy review. I would put 2 more in our appellate section that is inundated with post conviction challenges. And I would place the 5th prosecutor in district court to ease the pressure of some of the prosecutors who carry two dockets in front of two separate judges on the same day. The judges are not always happy about allowing them to run back and forth between the courtrooms. We have been short there for quite a while.
The simple truth is that a prosecutor cannot be in two places at one time. Our chiefs and leaders and the two of us in administration are all involved in litigation in both the trial court and the appellate courts. If I were required to absorb the loss of 5 additional prosecutors from an office that has already been cut to the bone. I would continue with my efforts with the district judges to establish integrated dockets, to consolidate the days that they handle criminal cases. There are 33 district judges scattered throughout the county. Getting district judges, most of whom who are not funded by the county, to make such an accommodation is and would continue to be no easy task.
Specialty courts fall under the province of the sentencing courts, and are run by the judges. These courts are not on record and are not subject to FOIA, consequently it is difficult to identify which programs are effective or would survive a cost benefit analysis. When I became Prosecutor in 2008, the Circuit Court asked for my voluntary participation. I had no personnel to “volunteer”. Later I discovered that, in 8 years, they had graduated only 2 minorities. That became the impetus for founding The Prosecutors’ Foundation for Kids. For the past 8 years I have been fortunate to have an abundance of volunteers who take the time to help the diverse population of kids at Mandy’s place.
When the justice of the case demands it. Our charges are based upon what we believe we can prove in a court of law. Sometimes in cases where the victim is a child or a senior or a vulnerable adult and traumatized by the process, it can be a reasonable alternative. Sometimes there is newly discovered evidence that requires a second look. Regardless, my APA’s have an obligation to consult with the victim before a plea is offered. However, the vast majority of the pleas come from sentence bargains made by the judges with defendants, who are interested solely in the sentence to be imposed by the court. The judges are extremely active in this process and over 90% of defendants plea as charged.
The role of the prosecutor is to do justice- to charge fairly – to try cases fairly and to work in the community to prevent crime. The role of sentencing is the prerogative of the judge. But as a former judge, I can tell you that prison is always the last resort. There are treatment programs and probation and tether and perhaps county jail. 80% of the prison population in Michigan is composed of people convicted of violent crimes. The rest are sometimes double digit repeat offenders. The FBI reports that Michigan has the highest number of violent crimes in the midwest.
The prosecutor can play a role in preventing crime. That is why I am constantly in the schools, the senior centers and before community groups. The other end of the spectrum – recidivism is dependent upon a society that provides meaningful employment, education and safety to all of its citizens.
There were several in my county, three who were convicted of aiding and abetting, who were in the car when a robbery turned into a felony murder. And two who made an effort to turn their life around. Looking back over 50 years, most of the less culpable were culled in the juvenile system or charged with lesser felonies by the prosecutor. What we had left is what one prosecutor described as the “worst of the worst.” These were murderers who executed, stabbed, shot, strangled, or bludgeoned another human being. Several of the victims were children; many were picked at random. There is a huge factual difference between reckless transient immaturity and goal oriented cold-blooded murder.
The state statute MCL 769.25a guarantees the right of the victim’s family to voice their opinion at these resentencings. The Michigan Supreme Court has yet to decide whether such a proceeding will be before a judge or a jury. These family members lived through the devastation of the sudden brutal death of a loved one; they lived through the hearings and the trial and the multiple appeals and finally thought that justice prevailed. Now, sometimes decades later, the wound is opened again.
With limited funds, we only hire entry-level prosecutors and turn them into highly qualified prosecutors through our extensive training programs. Applicants come from law schools all over the country because of our reputation. Most of our chiefs, leaders and major crime prosecutors have been with our office for 20+ years. We are the 2nd largest law firm in the county, with less than a 7% a year turnover rate. Yet, I cannot come close to the salaries of private firms or even the US Attorney. During my tenure as Prosecutor, only 4 major crimes prosecutors left the office. Two retired, one left because of a 3 hour round trip commute, and 1 went to the US Attorney and is now a judge.
Several years ago there was a house bill introduced to change the office of the Prosecutor as well as the Sheriff to non-partisan positions; it never got out of committee. This is a professional office not a stepping-stone to higher office. Political rhetoric and posturing has no place here. To say that we work across the aisle is somewhat inaccurate because there is no aisle in law enforcement. To do justice, to do the job effectively, the priority is always public safety within the bounds of ethics and fairness.
Yes, I will if she is in town and I can afford the ticket. But that is my personal choice as a citizen.
City of residence Lake Orion
Mailing Address PO Box 113
Novi, MI 48376
Age 55
Family Lin -wife John - son Joan - mom I am one of five siblings.
Education Brother Rice High School. 1979 Michigan State University. BA. 1983 Detroit College of Law. JD. 1988
Vehicles owned Cadillac Escalade Chevrolet Corvette Pick up for work (fire/emt)
Professional Experience Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division (2103-present), Orion Township Fire Department (2014-present), Assistant Prosecuting Attorney (Major Crimes), Oakland County Circuit Court Criminal Division (2002-2013), Shiawassee County Assistant Prosecutor (1995-2002), more upon request.
Political Experience While my wife and I have been involved in various campaigns before, this is my first campaign for office.
Race/ethnicity Caucasian
Campaign Website
I have been a courtroom prosecutor fighting for victims for nearly 30 years, and have personally tried, in front of juries, hundreds of cases (Incumbent has not). L. Brooks Patterson, Oakland County Executive, said, "Mike Goetz is a courtroom warrior who will fight for you!" I have actual experience, having looked into victim's eyes, heard their pain, and argued in the courtroom to make sure their voices were heard. I am respected by the defense bar, and I am seen as a man of integrity, sincerity and professionalism. I am trained in homicide prosecutions, computer forensics, arson cases, National safe streets gang training, DNA, gang eradications, OWI, NCDA trial techniques.
Trust is a huge issue. Officers need to know the prosecutor will stand with them when they have done their job properly. Oakland County law enforcement knows that I am fair, honest, and will be there. Communication and collaboration are critical. I will work to ensure unimpeded communication, while protecting the personal information of individuals and respecting confidentiality in ongoing investigations. Politics will not be a factor in case issuance. Cases will be evaluated based upon the evidence, and not for political bragging statistics. Tough cases will not be ignored. Law enforcement for the people will be heard in the courtroom. I will fight for what is right
The criminal justice system could be more effective with people who have substance abuse and/or mental health issues, and with our veterans who may benefit from treatment courts in order to address the underlying issues which led to their offense. Placing someone in jail or prison for a non-violent offense gets those individuals off the street temporarily. Once released, the underlying concern is still there, and that individual is highly likely to return to the destructive behavior they knew prior to jail. With the intervention treatments these courts provide, we can break the cycle and help these individuals become productive members of society again. This makes our community safer.
The criminal justice system should treat all victims of crime with the utmost respect and honor. Our criminal justice system has placed emphasis on the protection of offender's rights, but doesn't protect victims as well. The most vulnerable in our community, namely children, seniors and animals, are often the victims of criminal opportunists. I will fight in the courtroom for those who couldn't fight for themselves. The prosecutors office will once again work closely with the Prosecuting Attorney's Association of Michigan and our Michigan Legislature to ensure that victims in Oakland County have a voice, and that laws, where possible, are strengthened to protect victims' rights.
Cold case homicide prosecutions would receive two of these full-time prosecutors. There would also be a grant writer/training coordinator as we have lost the auto theft grant in the last seven and half years, and missed out on a cold case homicide grant as well. Other grants have not been pursued. Training by out of state professors does not give the assistant prosecutors the real training they need to represent victims in an experienced, professional manner. The training coordinator would pursue PAAM, PAAC, NCDA, Arson prosecution trainings, etc. The other two prosecutors would be replaced in sections where prosecutors have been lost due to rapid turnover and financial constraints.
I would ensure that all assistant prosecutors are trained to handle any and all types of cases. Including those from specialty units. If necessary, Assistant Prosecutor's would be assigned based on the need on any particular day. For example, it may be necessary to take someone from the Anti-Drug unit and temporarily assign them to the District Court Division. Additionally, division chief's and section leaders would be enlisted to assist in the caseloads to ensure that all cases and courts are effectively covered. Where needed, I would personally go into court to handle a court docket or trial. The prosecutor's office should and has in the past operated under a "team" approach.
Seven and a half years ago, assistant prosecutors were pulled from participation in sobriety and drug treatment court. Phone calls attempting to discuss Veterans Treatment Court went unanswered. Addiction rates have risen dramatically! In my experience as an Emergency Medical Technician, and in my almost thirty years as a prosecutor, I have seen too many deaths. The jails are filled with nonviolent offenders who will return to substance abuse when released unless some intervention occurs. We send our soldiers to see, hear and experience the unthinkable. We cannot turn a blind eye. I support Veterans, Sobriety and Drug Treatment Courts. These programs are critical, and save lives.
The prosecutor should reduce charges where the facts and evidence in a case do not support the original charge. In addition, there are specific statutes such as the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act, etc... that provide for more lenient treatment of an offender should they meet certain requirements. Where appropriate, these statutes should be recommended to fairly treat a defendant and guide them back to being a productive member of society. When I am elected, the prosecutor's office will have a review team (as opposed to only the elected official) reviewing felony and violent offenses when a reduction is considered. By having a review team in place, politics will not be considered as a factor
Absolutely. The prosecutor's office can support veterans’ treatment, sobriety, and drug treatment courts. By doing so, the underlying issues which led an individual to commit their crime can be addressed, and thereby reduce offender recidivism. Ignoring these issues leads to repeat offenses. With the habitual offender statute, those individuals are more likely to spend more time in custody, and for longer durations. Dealing with the underlying issues makes our communities safer. It also reduces taxpayer costs.
Absolutely. The prosecutor's office can support veterans’ treatment, sobriety, and drug treatment courts. By doing so, the underlying issues which led an individual to commit their crime can be addressed, and thereby reduce offender recidivism. Ignoring these issues leads to repeat offenses. Mental health treatment can assist offenders who need this help, and that definitely impacts recidivism.
Yes. These juveniles have committed the most heinous crimes known to man, offenses which carry the most serious penalty. The question is, "what is a human life worth?" The victims (and their families) have already been given a life-ending sentence without the benefit of appellate review. These juveniles' crimes were committed when they were minors. Each case should be reviewed individually for aspects which may demonstrate a mitigating factor. Did the child suffer PTSD when he or she committed their crime? Was that child abusing substances to bury their own suffering prior to the offense occurring? Was there a stronger, dominant adult involved who bullied the child?
All too often, victims seem to have little say when their world is turned upside down. If someone broke into your home and killed your loved one, would you be okay with NOT having any input in the release of their killer. The Victim Rights Act gives victims certain rights that mandate that their voices be heard. Victims wishes should be given great weight. However, there will be times when the facts of the case merit a reduction in charge or sentence. There will be times when the evidence doesn't support the original charge, but does support a reduced charge or sentence. The victim may not want a reduction, but the evidence isn't there. The prosecutor must do the right thing.
1. The Americans with Disabilities Act, which includes expecting mothers, and family medical leave act, will be respected. I will not order my employee in for training where she is a new mother still breastfeeding during her maternity leave. 2. I will not run the prosecutor's office with fear and intimidation. I will lead by example, continuing to try cases. You can't lead or expect your employees to respect you if you are too afraid to try a case yourself. 3. I will make sure the assistant prosecutors get the trainings they need and deserve. Our community deserves highly trained prosecutors. 4. I will hire experienced prosecutors, many of whom have already expressed interest when I win.
One statute that has been repeatedly raised is the Medical Marijuana Act. Interpretation and enforcement of the original act has been a huge challenge for law enforcement. The defense bar has been challenged in assisting clients in understanding the boundaries of the act. As a result, millions of dollars have been spent in litigation, attempting to define how the act shall be properly enforced. The act needs amendments to address the problems which have been created, and to give fair notice to the general public of what is permitted and what is not authorized. Regulations are needed to ensure the safety of the medical marijuana being used. Federal law still conflicts with our statute.
I have not endorsed either presidential candidate. I do support each voter gathering as much information as they can about each of these candidates in order to make an informed decision. I promise to do the same, and to vote for the candidate I believe will serve our country the best. I am particularly concerned about how each candidate plans to keep our community safe. As such, I will be watching the presidential debates closely, and I encourage others to do the same. Further, I have not planned to appear with either presidential candidate at this point; however, it is possible that each campaign's calendar may include the same event in the next 51 days.