Judge James seeks to stop hearing that could remove her from bench

(WXYZ) - She says her constitutional rights have been violated, so Judge Sylvia James has gone to federal court seeking millions of dollars in personal damages, and a halt to the administrative hearing that could result in her removal from the bench.

She and her attorneys sought a temporary restraining order on January 20th, but that motion was denied.

Now, Judge Lawrence P. Zatkoff of the U.S. District Court's Eastern District of Michigan has decided any hearing on the rights issue will be heard, but only after the JTC hearing is complete. James seeks at least $75,000, but up to $10 million in damages she claims she suffered from the JTC complaint and hearing.

Monday's session was an abbreviated day of testimony in the Judicial Tenure Commission hearing for Inkster Chief Judge James, who spent only the morning answering questions posed by her defense council, instead of the prosecutor, or "associate examiner" in the case.

In JTC case number 88, James faces four counts claiming financial, employment, and administrative improprieties that could include embezzlement and other misuse of court funds.

James reiterated that politics, and her bitter feud with the mayor and others in Inkster city government since 2005 drove the JTC's examination of her administration, and her handling of court funds and personnel. But she and her lawyers have also said they're handicapped in her defense, claiming that the ammunition for her arguments of innocence have been stolen from her private space, her office inside the 22nd District Court building.

In Monday's half day session, James said what's missing is important information, she claims, could prove her innocent of the JTC's allegations of misconduct. What was taken, she says, has not been returned to her or her lawyers, although the JTC has said in court they have given James and her attorneys everything they have, and will present in the case against her.  

Also at issue, Judge James says she has not been able to talk to workers inside the court who may testify against her.

 Mayer Morganroth is one of two well known Detroit-area attorneys who have filed in federal court on her behalf.

"I don't want to go into particular evidence," he told 7 Action News, " but I know of some stuff in there, particularly, that showed approval of specific items, that they have not come up with."

He's talking about documents that James claims will show officials had knowledge of the actions that have lead to charges in the complaint.

Morganroth and Elliot Hall have filed a motion for preliminary injunction in federal court, trying to force the Judicial Tenure Commission to surrender documents that James believes will support her defense. The lawsuit also tried to stop the JTC administrative hearing that could lead to James removal from the bench.

The lawyers claim, on several levels, the Judges constitutional rights have been violated.

"In one instance, of course, is the illegal search and seizure where they grabbed her personal safe, that she purchased herself years ago," Morganroth said. "They broke into it."

The lawyers also say that some of the evidence presented against her, in particular Judge James use of money from the controversial Community Service Program bank account, were not really rule violations at all.

Attorney Hall told 7 Action News "none of the (CSP) funds went personally to her, they all related to some activity going on in the city of Inkster." He also said, "they almost charged her with being criminally liable…for embezzling these funds, and we think that's improper."

Morganroth added "if you look at the actual fund, and look at its purpose, it was for purposes that are permitted under the fund, and had been permitted I think for some 23 years - since its inception".

The JTC disagrees, and Tuesday morning, their examiner will continue to argue their case against Judge Sylvia James in a Dearborn Heights district courtroom.


FC88 formalcomplaint


Order Adjourning Hearing

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