George Cushingberry goes quiet

Detroit City Council president pro-tem lets lawyer do all talking about traffic stop, but so many questions remain

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®

DETROIT - He is no shrinking violet, that George Cushingberry.

He is as smooth talking a politician as you will ever come across and because he is a through and through pol he will be happy to smile widely and weigh in on any issue thrown his way; except now.

More: Cushingberry avoids reporters at City Council chambers

George has gone quiet. On Monday, he arrived late at the City Council table and questioned new Detroit Department of Transportation director Bob Dirks about city busses and schedules being more readily available in a "Google search." But Cushingberry did not come out of the Council chambers to the hallway where his office is located. Instead he ducked out the back so he could avoid us on his first day back after the Detroit Police Department cleared him of any charges in his now-infamous traffic stop the day after becoming Council pro-tem.

He is an elected official, after all, and we were quite curious about his thoughts on getting what the police chief called "special treatment" from a Detroit police sergeant after having an open glass of alcohol and a lit marijuana cigarette burning in the front seat middle console. Moreover, his car's registration had expired and he apparently wasn't asked to produce a driver's license or proof of insurance either.

Cushingberry faced a barrage of questions from Local 4 Defender Hank Winchester last week about his troubles with a couple thousand dollars-worth of unpaid parking tickets that led to the Secretary of State's office putting a hold on his license, preventing it from being renewed until the bill is paid. Cushingberry's attorney, Todd Russell Perkins, told Local 4 the parking tickets have been settled. As best we can tell he paid some $400 to the city to "settle" the claims against him but that the situation has been cleared up. Also, that confrontation helped convince Cushingberry and Perkins to avoid interviews for the immediate future.

There are a few good reasons for that. The remaining questions for George Cushingberry are embarrassing into the future. For instance, I would like to ask George about his skills as a lawyer. You see he is about to lose his law license for 45 days.

View: Order of 45-day suspension and restitution with condition by consent

He also now is going to have to go back to school, pay nearly $1,000 in court costs and $500 to a former client after pleading no contest to professional misconduct charges at the Attorney Discipline Board. The fact that George went the no contest route says he wasn't disputing the claims that he "failed to take reasonable steps to protect a client's interest upon termination of representation, failed to withdraw from the representation when it became clear that the representation would result in a violation of the Michigan Rules of Professional Conduct, and engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice."

This was, in effect, a plea bargain. The charges and penalties he faced were much more serious. Getting his license to practice back will require jumping through some hoops as well.

The list of questions in this case would exceed the length of this piece. Yet, the further questions about Cushingberry's professional skills mount as another legal malpractice case winds its way through the courts. You see, one of his former clients is suing him for $24 million. The claim is that Cushingberry pushed a businessman/real estate developer into bankruptcy when he did not need to and that developer is now flat dead broke as a result of the mishandled case. The client's lawyer tells Local 4 Cushingberry so badly botched the case from front to back that the client lost his home and millions of dollars in assets he had worked his entire life to build. The client's new attorney says Cushingberry did not even respond to the paperwork in the case and also claims he avoided service of that paperwork for months.

Officers of the court are not supposed to do such things. So what is the deal here, George? Is this the kind of competent leadership you bring to City Hall? If true, is there any explanation for mangling cases like this?

You get the idea of the kinds of questions we would like to get answers to. We will keep chasing these stories and trying to get answers from George.

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