Articles Posted in Professional Malpractice & Ethics

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The Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) filed a formal complaint against Sixth Circuit Judge Lisa Gorcyca, alleging two counts of judicial misconduct arising from a hearing at which she found three children in contempt of court. The contempt hearing arose in the context of a protracted and acrimonious divorce and custody case. The two younger children, 10-year-old RT and 9-year-old NT, were ordered to participate in parenting time in respondent’s jury room with their father. LT was not scheduled for parenting time with his father on that day, but he came to the court with his siblings. After the children refused to communicate with their father, respondent held a show cause hearing to determine why all three children should not be held in contempt. Among other things, respondent told LT that he was defiant, contemptuous, and “mentally messed up.” She held him in direct contempt of court and ordered LT to be confined at Oakland County Children’s Village. Respondent then addressed RT and NT, who were initially apologetic and indicated that they would try to comply with the court’s order but later stated that they would prefer to go with LT to Children’s Village. All three children were handcuffed and removed from the courtroom. The JTC special master found respondent committed misconduct by: (1) finding LT in contempt of a nonexistent parenting-time order; (2) giving the children’s father the keys to the jailhouse thereby depriving the children of the opportunity to purge their contempt; (3) making a gesture indicating that LT was crazy and making disparaging remarks about the children; and (4) misrepresenting to the JTC that the gesture was intended to communicate LT’s moving forward with therapy. The JTC adopted the master’s findings with one exception: the JTC disagreed with the master that respondent misrepresented the meaning of the gesture and concluded that her answer was merely misleading. The JTC recommended that the appropriate discipline for respondent’s misconduct was a 30-day suspension without pay and costs. After review of the record the Michigan Supreme Court agreed in part with the Commission’s conclusion that respondent committed judicial misconduct, but was not persuaded that the recommended sanction was appropriate. Instead, the Court held public censure was proportionate to the judicial misconduct established by the record. The Court rejected the Commission’s recommendation to impose costs, fees, and expenses against respondent under MCR 9.205(B). View "In re Hon. Lisa Gorcyca" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) filed a formal complaint against 14-A District Court Judge J. Cedric Simpson, alleging three counts of judicial misconduct arising from a 2013 incident where Crystal Vargas, one of respondent’s interns, was involved in a motor vehicle accident near respondent’s home. Vargas immediately called respondent, and he arrived at the scene approximately 10 minutes later. As the investigating officer was administering a field sobriety test, respondent identified himself to the officer as a judge, had a conversation with Vargas without the officer’s permission. Vargas had a breath-alcohol content (BAC) over the legal limit, and she was placed under arrest. Respondent contacted the township attorney who would be handling Vargas’s case, said that Vargas was his intern. Respondent also contacted the attorney to discuss defense attorneys Vargas might retain. After an investigation into respondent’s conduct, the JTC filed its formal complaint alleging that respondent had interfered with the police investigation into the accident, interfered with Vargas’s prosecution, and made misrepresentations to the JTC. The master appointed to the case found by a preponderance of the evidence that respondent’s actions constituted judicial misconduct on all three counts. The JTC agreed with these findings and concluded that respondent’s conduct violated the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct and also constituted misconduct in office and conduct clearly prejudicial to the administration of justice under Const 1963, art 6, section 30(2). The JTC recommended that respondent be removed from office and that costs be imposed. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded the JTC correctly found that respondent committed judicial misconduct, but it erred by concluding that removal from office was warranted. A suspension of nine months without pay was proportional to the misconduct. View "In re Hon. J. Cedric Simpson" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) filed a formal complaint against Wayne Circuit Court Judge Bruce Morrow, alleging 10 counts of judicial misconduct that arose out of criminal cases over which he had presided. After hearing argument on objections to the master’s report, a majority of the JTC concluded that the evidence established judicial misconduct in eight of the ten allegations and recommended that respondent be suspended for 90 days without pay. After review of the entire record and due consideration of the parties’ arguments, the Supreme Court agreed with the JTC’s conclusion that respondent committed judicial misconduct, but the Court was not persuaded that the recommended sanction was appropriate in this case. Instead, the Court held that a 60-day suspension without pay was proportionate to the body of judicial misconduct established by the record. View "In re Hon. Bruce Morrow" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) petitioned for the interim suspension of Wayne Circuit Court Judge Wade H. McCree without pay. With respect to Count I, an appointed special master concluded that respondent should have disqualified himself from a felony nonsupport case as soon as he began a sexual relationship with the complaining witness in the case. With respect to Count II, the master found that respondent had lied to the prosecuting attorney’s office when he reported that the witness was stalking him and trying to extort money from him. With respect to Count III, the master concluded that respondent had improperly acted in another criminal case, one that involved the witness' uncle. With respect to Count IV, the master found that although many of the text messages that respondent exchanged with the witness while he was on the bench were inappropriate, they were used in a private context and did not rise to the level of judicial misconduct. Finally, the master found that the misrepresentations alleged in Count V did not warrant action by the JTC. The JTC recommended that respondent be removed from office, and conditionally suspended without pay for six years. The Supreme Court granted the petition. View "In re McCree" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) issued a formal complaint against Judge Deborah Adams of the Third Circuit Court for misconduct (misrepresentations under oath, forgery and the filing of forged and unauthorized pleadings, and misrepresentations to the commission). The JTC found two of the three counts against Judge Adams were established by a preponderance of the evidence, and recommended that she be suspended without pay for 180 days and ordered to pay costs. The Supreme Court affirmed the JTC's findings of fact and conclusions of law. However, the Court rejected the JTC's recommendation of suspension and instead removed her from office. View "In re Adams" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) recommended that the Supreme Court remove Respondent 22nd District Court Judge Sylvia A. James from office for judicial misconduct. Judge James filed a petition asking the Court to reject that recommendation. The evidence established that respondent misappropriated public funds, some of which were intended for victims of crime in the city of Inkster. She inappropriately spent much of this money on self-promoting advertisements and travel expenses for herself and various other court employees. She treated these funds, as the master phrased it, as her own "publicly funded private foundation." In addition, she: (1) denied people access to the court by instituting and enforcing an improper business-attire policy; (2) employed a family member in violation of court policy; and (3) made numerous misrepresentations of fact under oath during the investigation and hearing of this matter. The Court concluded that cumulative effect of respondent's misconduct, coupled with its duration, nature, and pervasiveness meant that respondent was unfit for judicial office. "Although some of her misconduct, considered in isolation, does not justify such a severe sanction, taken as a whole her misconduct rises to a level that requires her removal from office." Therefore, the Court adopted the recommendations of the JTC, except with respect to costs respondent will be ordered to pay, as would be detailed later. View "In re Hon. Sylvia James" on Justia Law

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The Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) recommended that the Supreme Court remove Respondent 12th District Court Judge James Justin from office for numerous instances of documented judicial misconduct. Respondent's multiple acts of misconduct evidenced that he failed to follow the law, "apparently believing that it simply did not apply to him." Among the instances cited, Respondent fixed traffic citations issued to himself and his spouse, dismissed cases without hearings, failed to follow plea agreements, and made false statements under oath during the JTC hearing. Upon review, the Supreme Court ordered Respondent's removal from office, and that he pay costs, fees and expenses incurred by the JTC in prosecuting its complaint. View "In re Honorable James Justin" on Justia Law