33ºF

Judge Vonda Evans defends herself amid questions surrounding her work hours

Evans accused of showing up to work late, leaving early

photo

DETROIT – Vonda Evans is one of the most recognizable judges in the Metro Detroit area, but there are questions surrounding her work hours.

"I move my docket more efficiently than most of my colleagues on the bench," Evans said. "I can do more in two hours than they do in a whole day."

But a mountain of documentation at the courthouse suggest otherwise, as hidden cameras record some very light workdays.

Internal documents from as far back as 11 years ago show the Wayne County Circuit Court was so concerned about whether Evans was coming to work in a timely manner or accurately recording when she was there, the chief judge ordered work surveillance of her for months.

Local 4's hidden cameras were at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice on April 5. Attorneys and people waiting to have their cases heard were told to be there at 8:30 a.m., but at 9:48 a.m., they were still waiting.

"It seems like they tell you to be here at 8:30, you'd think they would be here," one man said.

"Never," a woman said.

While people waited, Evans' courtroom doors opened minutes before 10 a.m., as the judge herself wasn't yet in the building. Local 4 cameras captured her driving in minutes later. It's not a new trend, according to complaints.

"What I want to know, Mara, is why don't they tell on other judges that come in at 9 o'clock and are home by noon?" Evans asked Local 4's Mara MacDonald. "Isn't that a violation of the rules?"

"Well, apparently we need to have surveillance on every court out here if what you're telling me is true, because none of these people work," Mara said.

On the same day as Evans arrived a little after 10 a.m., she left by 11:35 a.m. She returned to drop someone off at 1:09 p.m. and wasn't seen the rest of the day. Chief Judge Robert Colombo said this is something he's heard before.

"If I told you one of the reasons we have the volume of information on Judge Evans is her colleagues don't think she's pulling her weight up here, do you think she is?" Colombo asked. "It's hard for me to say she's not pulling her weight. I would say that I'm more concerned about her arrival time and the way she is acting outside of court."

Most judges get complaints occasionally, usually about the outcome of trials. But Evans has complaints about her behavior both inside and outside of the courtroom.

"As far as my demeanor is concerned, yes, I am unorthodox," Evans said. "I'm not the typical judge, and I never will be because I'm the people's judge."

Evans isn't typical in court, but complaints about her behavior outside the courtroom have been made, as well, including a complaint last year that she was yelling into her phone about a case while inside a T.J. Maxx store.

"Yes, she was so loud, and it was very obvious that she wanted everyone to know who she was and what she was saying," part of the complaint reads. "(It was) totally unprofessional of someone in her position."

Evans said she makes no apologies for her court management or her demeanor.

"Let me explain this to you," Evans said. "I was told long ago not to be an educated fool, (and to) talk to your listener on a level they can understand."

"I've got to try and persuade judges by bringing this to their attention, and hopefully they'll make better decisions in the future," Colombo said. "But anybody who knows Judge Evans knows she's extremely defensive and has an answer for everything."

Evans said the criticism is strictly political, and she has decided to run for the Court of Appeals.


About the Authors: