LASNING, Mich. - Inkster Judge Sylvia James was suspended from the bench for misusing public money.
However, she isn't stepping away without a fight. James went to Michigan Supreme Court Wednesday to argue for why she should keep her job. This comes ahead of an election which she still hopes to win.
The lawyer for the Judicial Tenure Commission told the Supreme Court that James played fast, loose and easy with the public's money.
"The misappropriation of funds is grounds for removal," said Paul Fischer, representing the JTC. "And lying under oath are independent further grounds for removal."
James is in trouble for misusing $131,000 that was supposed to be restitution for crime victims. Most of the money went to community charities of her choice.
Her lawyer, Mayer Morganroth, said the judge never personally benefited.
"It had been done in the past, for 17 years before she got in," Morganroth said.
However, Chief Justice Robert Young bristled when Morganroth said James had not checked state law restricting use of the money.
"This woman is a judge. What do you mean you might not look at the law?" Young said. "I find it offensive that a judge of all people can wink and blink at the law."
Lawyer argues other judges have done same without removal
Morganroth showed the court a chart showing 12 other judges who received reprimands or brief suspensions rather than removal from office. The JTC lawyer wants James barred from the bench for the next six years. James is on the August primary ballot for a new six-year term.
"If she is removed by us, why should we interfere with the electoral process?" Young said.
Fischer was quick to answer.
"Because the vote of the people doesn't necessarily cleanse the stain that led to the removal in the first place," he said.
James continues to campaign for her reelection. She is expected to appear Wednesday night at a candidates forum in Inkster.
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