DETROIT (WXYZ) - When Justice Diane Hathaway won her Michigan Supreme Court seat in 2008, she ended the 13 year judicial career of a former judge and tonight he spoke to 7 Action News.
Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Cliff Taylor said Hathaway's actions have given the Michigan judicial system a black eye.
"It feeds cynicism and contempt through the system in Michigan. She should be ashamed to have done that," said Taylor by phone. The judge turned attorney talked with us from Florida where he goes in the fall to teach law classes.
"She has every right to disgrace herself. But she does not have the right to bring contempt on all the judges of Michigan," said Taylor.
The feds said Hathaway lied to the bank to get out of $600,000 dollars in mortgage payments on her underwater home in St. Clair so she could get a short sale. The 7 Action News investigators found documents that showed Hathaway shuffled around homes to do it.
"The person who goes in and robs a bank is going to be serving 5 to 10 years in prison. Defrauding a bank out of over $500,000 dollars is a very serious crime. Should that person receive a much lighter sentence?"asked Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor and professor at Wayne State University. He said that prison time is a possibility for Hathaway.
"She's a real estate broker. She knew what she was doing. You don't' accidentally defraud a bank," said Henning.
Hathaway dodged questions last May and eventually denied the accusations. Then earlier this month, on the same day the Judicial Tenure Commission moved to suspend Hathaway from the bench, she announced her retirement. Meanwhile those who are still on the Michigan Supreme Court bench hope this doesn't hurt the public's faith. In a statement to 7 action news, Republican Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. said:
"When any elected official is charged with serious misconduct, the public's faith in its government institutions can suffer. The federal criminal fraud charges levied against Justice Hathaway and her departure from the Supreme Court bring to a close an unhappy, uncharacteristic chapter in the life of this Court. The last eight months have cast an unfortunate shadow over the Court. Going forward, my five fellow justices and I, and this Court as an institution, will do what we have always strived to do: to uphold the highest ethical standards, render the best public service in promoting the rule of law for everyone, and do our utmost to deserve the trust the public has placed in us."
7 Action News reached out to Hathaway's fellow Democrat colleagues tonight but they have yet to make a comment.