Supreme Court removes judge from office

By Jo Mathis
Legal News

Stating that the duration, scope and number of his acts of misconduct were without precedent in Michigan judicial disciplinary cases, the Michigan Supreme Court has unanimously ordered the removal of Jackson County 12th District Court Judge James Justin from office.

Justin was accused of dismissing traffic cases after talking to people in the hallway or elsewhere outside court, as well as dismissing tickets for himself, his wife, friends and staff.

In a 31-page opinion, Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. wrote that Justin’s acts sketched a common theme: He failed to follow the law, apparently believing that it simply did not apply to him.

Instances of respondent’s judicial misconduct include “fixing” (personally and surreptitiously dismissing) traffic citations issued to himself, his spouse, and his staff; preventing the transmission of or altering court information that was legally required to have been transmitted to the Secretary of State; dismissing cases without conducting hearings or involving the prosecutor; failing to follow plea agreements; and making false statements under oath during the Judicial Tenure Commission hearing.
Justin was also found to have cause inappropriate delays in dozens of cases that were pending for years.

Justin’s fixing of traffic tickets issued to himself, his family, and staff alone warrants the most severe of sanctions, Young wrote.

“However, respondent’s substantiated misconduct is much more extensive,” he wrote.

The court found that citizens who had received “optimum, convenient service” in Justin’s courtroom later found themselves in another judge’s courtroom, where the rule of law was the guiding principle, and would sometimes become confused and angry.

While under oath, Justin said his practice of “talking to people” and dismissing their cases depended on defendants’ “having actual proof that their position was right.”

Young said that was a blatantly false statement, as proven by Justin’s dismissing the tickets of his court staff, who received citations for speeding, and his spouse, who received three citations for speeding and a citation for disobeying a stop sign that were issued between November 2000 and October 2009.    

Young noted that Justin’s actions are part of his “pervasive pattern of misconduct and his calculated disregard for the law,” and that his “clear disregard for the rule of law is incompatible with a judge’s duty to uphold the law and renders him unfit for judicial office.”

Three fellow Republican justices signed Young’s decision, while the court’s three Democratic justices agreed only with Justin’s removal.

Jusin had been suspended with pay since July 2010.


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