Joseph Longo has a collection of guitars lining his office floor, loves Italian food and holds a special place in heart for his vintage Jaguar.
Just above his desk hangs a framed piece of an old dress shoe – a reminder of the effort he made to get elected as judge to Ferndale's 43rd District in 1998: “I knocked on every door in the three cities of my district and wore a hole in the sole of my shoe," Longo said, his chin held up with his right hand, his arm resting on the side of his chair.
A graduate of the University of Detroit High School (in an accelerated three years), Longo was a star football player until his fifth knee surgery finally put that sport ambition to rest. Working as a janitor to pay his way through college, Longo graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Michigan in 1974 in only two years.
“He’s the smartest man I ever met … but he also relates to people," Magistrate Patrick Brennan said.
After 13 years of being a judge in the 43rd District, Longo, a Madison Heights resident, still hasn't lost a passion for the job.
“I love what I am doing,” he said, adding that he has declined offers to join higher courts. This is because as a district judge, he gets to work with citizens in his community. “I have an opportunity on a one-by-one basis to fashion something that actually helps people, not just punish them," he said.
Longo runs a “sobriety court” every Wednesday – an intensive treatment program for people convicted of drinking and driving. Longo said national statistics show that intensive treatment, instead of jail or punishment, reduces repeat offenses from 66 percent to 15 percent. The court consists of probation, a 12-step program, daily blood-alcohol breath tests and unannounced screenings – just for starters. Longo is not required to run sobriety court; rather, he opts to, believing this method results in a “gargantuan difference.”
In his downtime, Longo loves to play music. He played in garage bands when he was growing up, and in the 1970s, he earned extra cash by playing folk guitar at weddings. After a long day of work, he still loves to strum one of the many guitars in his office.
To further promote his passion for music and his community, he became an investor in a local record label called Bona Dea.
Longo is married to Cathy Longo, an executive at Blue Cross Blue Shield. They love to spend time at their Irish Hills family retreat as often as possible.
At 55, Longo said he has determined that there are three things people need for happiness:
- Something to do.
- Something to love.
- And the trickiest part, something to hope for.
Longo said that activities such as sobriety court give him hope.
And by those measures, it appears as if Longo's happiness is found right here in Ferndale, in 43rd District Court.