Inkster Judge Sylvia James appears in court to defend against allegations of embezzling court funds

DEARBORN HTS. (WXYZ) - Inkster District Court Judge Sylvia James is accused of taking too much time off the bench, being late on resolving court cases, and violating nepotism rules when she hired her niece and gave her several pay increases. 

Those accusations come from State Supreme Court Administrator Deb Green who is the first witness in a special hearing at the Dearborn Heights District Court, where James is before a judge who could remove her from her the bench for good. James has been a Inkster judge for 22 years, but was put on paid administrative leave last April, following an audit of her court and how she was using its funds.

The special administrative hearing, which is expected to last two weeks, is similar to a trial in which James will have to defend against accusations that she embezzled court funds and committed other wrongdoing.

Attorney Margaret Rynier from Judicial Tenure Commission is acting as the prosecutor. James is represented by attorneys Phil Thomas and Sharon McPhail, who will argue her defense.

Both sides gave opening statements this morning at this administrative hearing, which is expected to last two weeks.

Rynier said that SCAO interviewed dozens of witness and thousands of court records dating back to 2006, and have found that all the accusations laid out in the 51 page complaint against James are true. But attorney Thomas said that the claims are false and that James did nothing wrong.

Dozens of witness will be called to take the stand.

James made a last-minute effort to stop the hearing by filing a federal lawsuit. Late Friday, she demanded $10 million dollars in damages in that lawsuit, citing discrimination, but a federal judge denied her request.

Now, a panel of judges will look at a list of 192 complaints against her.

Judge James is facing four counts including financial, employment, and administrative improprieties, as well as misrepresentations over a five-year span.

She's accused of misusing about $130,000 dollars in public funds and spending court money on personal expenses, including money for Inkster High School cheerleading uniforms, a 1970 class reunion, and a school European trip fund.

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