When doing right goes sadly wrong
Woman files whistle-blower lawsuit over flap with District Court judge
How would you react if state investigators come to you and started asking you questions about your boss and looking for details about the way he or she is running the place?
Then consider how you would react if your boss was a District Court Chief Judge. Think there might be a few butterflies?
That was the dilemma attorney, magistrate and court administrator Pam Anderson [no not the actress!] faced last year. As an officer of the court she knows not only is honesty the best policy, it’s the only one. So when the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission came a calling, wanting all the gory details of how her boss Judge Sylvia A. James ran her courthouse, she answered all the questions to the best of her knowledge.
-- Sylvia James
She told Local 4 News exclusively today, “I received a subpoena and I told the truth.”
The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission believed her and used her testimony against Judge Sylvia A. James in hearings last year. James is no longer the Chief Judge, removed from the bench for misuse of public funds.
But that is history, last year’s news really. But it is prelude. Today’s story is an exclusive Local 4 broke at 6 p.m. Pam Anderson filed a whistleblower lawsuit. No, she is not suing Sylvia James. She is suing James’ successor Judge Richard Hammer Jr.
Here is the story Pam Anderson tells in her lawsuit linked here: She continued after James’ dismissal as magistrate and court administrator under interim Judge Valdemar Washington. When Washington gave up the job permanently to Hammer last year, Anderson says Hammer isolated her.
She told Local 4, “I know that I was treated differently as a District Court employee. He hardly talked to me. I was not included in staff meetings. I was not given memos that other staff members were given.”
She says her testimony against Judge James was now working against her, and in fact worked against her until last March when she was cashiered unceremoniously.
“They were colleagues, they were friends and I feel my termination was not based at all upon my job performance,” she said.
No, she believes it was retribution for telling the truth in the first place.
Now Anderson is suing not only Judge Hammer but also the municipalities of Garden City and Inkster, and the 21st and 22nd District Courts that Hammer oversees, along with the woman who replaced her Sally Huskins. It is a whistleblower action that seeks in excess of $100,000 for lost wages and reputation. Anderson said, “I would like to be compensated for my lost wages if at all possible and I would like my job back.” Who wouldn’t?
Now, the question remains is this all true?
That, of course, is why we have judges and juries. We don’t know whether Anderson’s story is accurate, but one is left to consider how all of this started, with her sworn testimony against her boss that proved accurate.
Tonight we are getting nothing from those who were just served with the papers in this lawsuit. Judge Hammer did return repeated phone calls and said he was not at liberty to comment. Fair enough. Huskins was reportedly working from home today and was not reachable. Phone calls to both city halls went unanswered with voice mails left.
This is no small concern. It is difficult enough to get witnesses to testify truthfully. But it gets that much more difficult if witnesses are looking over their shoulder long after their testimony in the knowledge bad things could befall them; like unemployment.