A local judge accused of embezzling court funds and other misdeeds could be removed from the bench

DEARBORN (WXYZ) - It looks like any other trial, with a judge, defense and prosecution. But the accused is 22 nd District Court Judge Sylvia James.

A legal proceeding in Dearborn today sets the stage for James's trial before the Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC), which begins next week. It's all happening after the 7 Action News Investigators exposed how the judge operated her courtroom and failed to share with Inkster officials how she used court funds.

After our reports, two audits and a scathing complaint from the JTC resulted in the hearing that could end with the judge's removal from the bench.

There were some tense exchanges between defense attorney Sharon McPhail, who is representing James and attorney Margaret Rynier, who represents the JTC, over evidence.

McPhail and attorney Phil Thomas, who also represents James, fought and to have most of the allegations against James dropped from the 52-page complaint against her. But they failed.

That means that claims of embezzlement and several court-rule violations, like the bizarre dress code policy that denied access to her court for wearing jeans, will be heard.

James is also accused of misspending tens of thousands of dollars on a community service fund that bolster sher standing with the Inkster community. She also hired her niece and gave her nine raises in a short period, and is also accused of buying cheerleading uniforms for her high school alma mater with court funds.

There are still unanswered questions about the $55,000 Judge James authorized that her long-time friend, and attorney Sharon McPhail be paid for legal work. McPhail has not produced records to show what she did for James was court-related.

James's supporters were also in court for the two-hour session, but the former chief judge of Inkster's court was not present.

7 Action News will be at next week's trial and will have a full report.

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