Michigan Supreme Court orders district court judge's suspension

LANSING (AP) -- The Michigan Supreme Court has granted a request to suspend a Detroit-area judge accused of using public money as a personal slush fund.

Inkster District Judge Sylvia James' suspension comes with pay, the state's high court said in an order last Thursday.

Michigan's Judicial Tenure Commission asked the Supreme Court in October to suspend James. The commission accuses her of misspending thousands of dollars earmarked for an alternative sentencing program for travel or to promote herself.

More than $131,000 is believed to have been misappropriated, the Supreme Court said in its order.

The improper spending included money for Inkster High School cheerleader uniforms, a school European trip fund, a 1970 class reunion and the Inkster Police Auxiliary, according to a Judicial Tenure Commission report.

James disputes the allegations and has been on paid leave since April.

Her attorney, Philip Thomas, has said her rights have been violated. The Associated Press left messages last Friday night seeking comment from Thomas.

Justice Stephen Markman argued that James' suspension should come without pay and that her salary be placed in an escrow account.

"By the time this matter is finally resolved by the Tenure Commission and this Court, respondent will have been provided between 12-15 months of additional salary, without having performed a single day of judicial service for the people of her District," Markman wrote.

But Chief Justice Robert Young countered that James' pay would be suspended "based on allegations, before her misconduct has been proven at a hearing."

Published: Tue, Dec 20, 2011


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