LANSING (WXYZ) - The Michigan Supreme Court just issued a ruling that says Chief Judge Sylvia James of Inkster’s 22 nd District Court will be removed from the bench for the remainder of her term.
The ruling comes after a 7 Action News investigation more than a year ago.
Our report led to two audits and an internal probe by the State Court of Administrators’ Office and the Judicial Tenure Commission. Both looked at how James ran her court going back several years. Those audits lead to formal charges and a six-week hearing.
Today’s decision comes less than two weeks after the high court heard oral arguments from James’s attorney Mayer Morganroth, who said she made mistakes as an administrator of her court, but did nothing that should warrant her removal from the bench.
But the State Supreme Court clearly disagreed. In their written opinion they say that James misused public funds intended for crime victims in Inkster.
Justice Marilyn Kelly wrote that James' behavior shows "...she is unfit for judicial office."
It also says she treated the funds like her own "publicly funded private foundation..." and denied people access to her court.
The high court's written opinion also says James’ "…misconduct persisted for years, permeating and infecting every corner of the 22nd District Court."
But one Justice wrote that James's removal from the bench--which may only be for a few months if she is re-elected in November--does not go far enough.
Justice Stephen J. Markman wrote that James should be suspended for six years.
Markman wrote that James lied again and again during the investigation into her court. But he says, the "...most disturbing factor, and the one that arguably presents the greatest danger to the integrity of the judiciary, is that Judge James' misconduct was part of an enduring pater or practice that she has shown no intention of changing."
Markman also wrote of James that, "Her behavior and statements before, during and after the investigation and hearing demonstrate that Judge James refuses to be bound by any law or requirement that conflicts with her own desires."
She has been ordered to pay a fine, but it is not clear how much that will be.
She is currently running for re-election. If she wins, she will be back on the bench January 1.
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