Attorneys make closing arguments in Inkster judge's misconduct hearing

(WXYZ) DEARBORN HEIGHTS - Closing arguments were made today in the misconduct hearing for Inkster's Chief Judge Sylvia James. 

In October, James was charged by the Judicial Tenure Commission with  professional misconduct following a series of reports by 7 Action News Investigator Bill Proctor.  The complaint accuses her of embezzlement, says she gave false statements to the tenure commission, violated the court's hiring practices and used restricted court funds to pay for things like landscaping and catering, and made donations to groups that, in turn, helped promote Judge James' name.

Scores of witnesses have testified over the last six weeks, including Judge James.  Her attorney Sharon McPhail said the hearings have been evidence of a political witch hunt. 

"They started with she's guilty, and worked their way backwards," she said.

"They rifled through her belongings and they came back with a number of things that found their way into this complaint. And after all of the witnesses and documents, they still have proved nothing."

Attorney Margaret Rynier, who represented the Judicial Tenure Commission, said James' misconduct was clear, especially as it related to alleged misuse of the court's Community Service Program fund.

"Judge James wanted those funds because she did not want to listen," she said.

"Her decisions were not going to be questioned.  She was going to administer that account in however way, or whatever way, she saw fit."

The special master who heard the last six weeks of testimony and arguments will now deliver her findings to the Judicial Tenure Commission, who will then make a recommendation to the state supreme court. It's up to the court to decide if sanctions should be imposed. 

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