(WXYZ) - She's been removed from the bench. Now, long-time Inkster Judge Sylvia James could lose her license to practice law.
It was a 7 Action News investigation that began in January of last year that was first to reveal public anger about the way Chief Judge Sylvia James ran her court. Monday morning, the long process got underway in downtown Detroit that could result in more punishment for the embattled former judge and lawyer.
A very brief pre-trial conference for the lawyers was the first step. It will be the Attorney Grievance Commission arguing that Sylvia James, the Inkster district judge removed from the bench by the State Supreme Court this summer, should now face equal sanctions against her law license. But that will be part of the debate, and the process determining how to punish lawyer James for the misconduct that saw her disgraced as a judge.
AGB Member Ann Widlak will chair the James hearings. She set the stage for the process by detailing the schedule for both sides this morning, with Kimberly Uhuru presenting the case against James for the Grievance commission. It was a 7 Action News investigation into James administration of the 22nd district court where she was chief judge for 23 years that set a months- long process in motion.
Two state court administration audits and findings of financial misconduct lead to a six week trial and finally, a Supreme Court decision to fine James up to $80,000 in costs, after the justices removed her from the bench.
The commission need only explain the already proven misconduct found by the Judicial Tenure Commission. The debate before the discipline board will be if taking her law license is equal to removing her from the bench.
James' lawyer is hoping that a still-active case filed months ago in federal court to stop the removal process will bring this new proceeding to a halt. He says when the JTC opened James safe and removed documents from her office while she was on administrative leave, authorities may have violated her rights months ago.
Mayer Morganroth, James' attorney, told 7 Action News in January, "in one instance, there is the illegal search and seizure where they grabbed her personal safe that she owned... purchased herself years ago, and broke into it. " James alleges files that could have supported her claim of innocence were either lost or used against her in the JTC hearing.
The federal case Morganroth was talking about won't be argued until January 15, with a decision expected in March, or later. Clearly, it's a process that could take months, but insiders tell us Sylvia James will likely face new sanctions, even disbarment, in the future.