DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. (WXYZ) - For the third day in a row, suspended Inkster Judge Sylvia James is testifying in a special hearing that could remove her from the 22nd District Court bench where she has served 23-years.
Today’s testimony is again centered on questions about checks drawn from the Community Service Program, which is an account that is supposed to be used to fund a non-violent offender program.
The checks written from that account are being introduced by Judicial Tenure Commission associate examiner Margaret Rynier. Rynier who is offering it as proof that James violated court rules when she used the account to support local charities and church groups, contribute to her Inkster High School alma mater, fund trips she and members of her staff took to seminars that should have been paid for out of another fund.
In testimony yesterday, James admitted she had not provided receipts or an accounting to in anyway justify how the money was spent, or if she reimbursed the court or the city when she spent less than the amount she gave herself in advance of the trip.
James also sounded frustrated yesterday as she testified that she wrote all the checks issued from the community service fund—and that she would stipulate on the record that she signed off on them all. But the JTC attorney, who is acting as the prosecutor, presented each check one-by-one.
“Yes, I signed check No. 1278, on or about May 21, 2009, yes…” James testified.
The JTC presented evidence that the Community Service Program funds went to dozens of community organizations, which is a violation of court rules.
On a court screen, the prosecution projected a photo of a group of Inkster High School students, who posed outside the Inkster court with artwork that had been displayed on a parade float pulled by a 22 nd District court van that is used by the Community Service Program. James confirmed that she had provided the van, and a check to support the students’ effort.
“Yes, it is true that on or about May 15, 2009, I authorized a check for an Inkster Memorial Day float,” James testified.
Then came the $2,000 check James wrote to herself, and the more than $2,000 check given to court administrator Pam Anderson , and another employee for a drug court conference in California. At the time, her court did not have a drug court program.
James admitted she did not keep all of the receipts from the 2009 California conference. She also testified that she did not remember if she cashed the check before or after the trip. James also could not recall if the expenses were less than the advance that she had taken.
The following year, when James made a similar trip to a drug court conference in Boston, she had made a side trip to New York. She used frequent flyer miles that she had earned to pay for the flights. But it appears from the records presented at today’s hearing, that James had taken an advance for the trip from the Community Service Program fund account for more than what she had spent on that trip.
The special hearing is expected to go through next week.
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