INKSTER, Mich. (WXYZ) - It’s the latest chapter in the case of a controversial suburban judge. The former Chief Judge of Inksters 22nd District Court has responded to misconduct allegations and now waits for an important decision on her immediate future.
Back in April Judge Sylvia James was placed on paid administrative leave and was locked out of the building where she sat as chief judge for nearly 23 years.
Then last month, a lengthy formal complaint from the State Judicial Tenure Commission spelled out serious allegations of misconduct. James is now admitting to some of the allegations, but insisting she did nothing wrong in others.
Among the allegations in the JTC document - the ongoing complaint of visitors to the 22nd District Court building, where Judge James rule of 'proper attire only' in her court caused people wearing jeans to be turned away, with James court officers suggesting they walk a block away to the St. Vincent DePaul store to buy second hand clothing more to James liking.
In her response, James says there was good reason for the controversial rule. In an interview last November, James told me “years ago, we used to have people coming in with gang colors and we’ve had a few fights in the courthouse.” She didn’t say why she left the rule in place long after the gang colors problem subsided.
That issue was insignificant when compared to JTC allegations of embezzlement, misconduct in office, actions contrary to justice, ethics and honesty by James.
But from the start of their probe and formal complaint actions, James attorney Phil Thomas says that, beginning with taking her off the bench, his client hasn’t been treated fairly.
“The Michigan Supreme Court did not have the right to do that without a full investigation by the JTC,” Thomas told 7 Action News when the complaint was issued last month
In her answer posted Thursday, Judge James insists she followed the rules when she wrote checks from a community services program fund to dozens of Inkster charities, schools and organization, that the hiring of her niece as a court worker or program manager was not against court rules that prohibit the hiring relatives, that she went to conferences, using court funds because “she envisioned” setting up a drug court in the future.
But shockingly, she claims all of what’s happening to her now is based on politics in Inkster - so, she wants the State Supreme Court justices to recues themselves from any role in her case.
We asked attorney Thomas if his claim of “the systems misconduct and mistreatment” of his client override the allegations in the JTC complaint. “They’re all allegations which I intend to disprove,.” Thomas said. The JTC will now review James written response to their complaint..but in the meantime, they’re waiting for a Supreme Court decision on the JTC’s recommendation to formally suspend James….with or without pay.
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