Professional discipline boards busy in 2015

By Lee Dryden
The Daily Record Newswire
2015 was a year some judges and lawyers will certainly remember — but they won’t reflect upon it fondly. A Detroit judge deemed psychotic was removed from office. A Jackson judge was suspended for misconduct. A Traverse City lawyer was disbarred after hiring someone to kill a rival attorney. A Southfield attorney was disbarred for misappropriating nearly $200,000. It was a happier ending for a Wayne County judge accused of mishandling divorces — he was cleared of wrongdoing.

 Detroit judge removed from office due to mental illness

36th District Court Judge Brenda K. Sanders was removed from office in July after the Michigan Supreme Court agreed with the Judicial Tenure Commission that she is mentally ill.

She had been suspended without pay since the previous fall. Sanders reportedly told The Detroit News in an email that “the electoral mandate of the people of the city of Detroit has been nullified by the racist regime of the Michigan Supreme Court.”

A special hearing master concluded Sanders is “seriously mentally ill” and “psychotic.” A psychiatrist testified that Sanders suffers from paranoid delusions, citing specific examples of her instability, including a letter to U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade. The psychiatrist testified the letter was the result of “delusional thinking, wherein (Sanders) manifests persecutory beliefs that are not rational; they do not correspond to reality.”

Sanders announced that she planned to retire, although she never did so. The Supreme Court decision stated Sanders failed to cooperate with the JTC investigation and made intentional misrepresentations.

Traverse City lawyer disbarred after plot to kill fellow attorney

Traverse City defense lawyer Clarence K. Gomery was disbarred in July after pleading guilty earlier in the year to hiring a man to murder another attorney.

Gomery, a former Leelanau County prosecutor, is currently spending six to 20 years in prison for solicitation of murder. When Gomery is released, he will be on parole until 2034. Gomery initiated the murder-for-hire plot against Traverse City lawyer Christopher Cooke.

An acrimonious relationship developed between Gomery and Cooke in 2013, when Cooke represented a man who sued Gomery for business fraud. The lawsuit was contentious and a jury found Gomery liable for both fraud and malpractice. Gomery’s solicitation-of-murder plot was revealed when Dale Fisher, the dock contractor who Gomery hired to kill Cooke, went to law enforcement with the plan before the hit was carried out. Gomery reportedly planned to pay Fisher $20,000 to kill Cooke.

JTC master clears Wayne judge of mishandling divorce cases

In November, a master cleared Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Richard B. Halloran Jr. of wrongdoing after he granted divorce judgments in four cases without taking sworn testimony.

The JTC’s complaint alleged that Halloran violated MCL 552.9(1), MCL 552.6(3) and MCR 3.210, respectively, by not taking sworn proofs to establish jurisdiction and the statutory grounds for divorce, and by granting a divorce judgment “without taking the statutorily required proofs in open court.” But John D. O’Hair, a retired Wayne Circuit judge appointed as master by the Michigan Supreme Court, concluded that Halloran was entitled to dismissal of the charges and that the JTC should “dismiss or withdraw” its complaint. See Complaint against Hon. Richard B. Halloran Jr., Master’s Report and Recommendation.

O’Hair said that Halloran and JTC Executive Director Paul J. Fischer, who was the examiner in the case, agreed there were no disputed facts. O’Hair decided the matter as an issue of law. Halloran’s written admission stated he did not obtain the statutorily required testimony in “possibly over 400 divorce cases” but he was specifically charged with misconduct in only four cases.

Jackson district judge suspended, censured by high court

In late November, the Michigan Supreme Court publicly censured Judge R. Darryl Mazur of the 12th District Court and suspended him for 30 days without pay for judicial misconduct.

The high court adopted a Judicial Tenure Commission decision and recommendation that Mazur be sanctioned for two unrelated instances of misconduct — trying to strike up a relationship with a woman the judge had placed on probation and attempting to intervene in a case after Jackson police arrested one of his former neighbors. He admitted to misconduct in both instances as part of a settlement with the JTC. The JTC’s decision and recommendation is In re Hon. R. Darryl Mazur, 12th District Judge.

The commission did not issue a formal complaint against the judge or conduct a public hearing. In the probationer’s matter, Mazur responded to a Christmas card with a handwritten note on court stationery, inquiring about her marital status and the possibility of seeing each other socially even though she was still on probation.

Southfield attorney loses license for taking $198K from estate

Southfield attorney George V. Cassar was disbarred in October after he misappropriated $198,000 from an estate and asked his client to say she had lent him the money, according to an Attorney Discipline Board hearing panel’s report.

The panel was unmoved by the fact that Cassar repaid the funds, resigned from his firm and self-reported his actions to the Attorney Grievance Commission. The case is Grievance Administrator v. George V. Cassar, P 55724.

“Even though the money was returned within several months and there was self-reporting … the money was moved to various accounts controlled by respondent. Additionally, respondent initially did not tell his senior partner the truth, but instead attempted to hide the truth by having the client claim she had loaned him the funds,” the hearing panel said.

Cassar told the panel he asked his family physician and a therapist for help so he could understand his actions.


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