Last April, Inskster District Court Judge Sylvia James was placed on administrative leave with pay after city officials leveled charges of financial mismanagement against her.
As Michigan Radio's Sarah Alvarez reported, James "could not explain why court funds were used to pay for travel, clothing, and other expenses."
Another judge took her place, and the State Supreme Court started looking into the charges.
Yesterday the State Supreme Court suspended Judge Sylvia James (again, with pay) and appointed a "special master" to look into the allegations that she misspent $131,030 collected by her court in fines and fees.
It's a situation rarely seen by a sitting judge. Instead of ruling over a courtroom, this judge will face a courtroom. We clarified how the process will work with Marcia McBrien, the State Supreme Court’s public information officer. Here are the main points:
- Judge Ann Mattson was appointed as the "special master" in a Judicial Tenure Commission proceeding against Judge Sylvia James.
- The Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC) is like a lower court, with Mattson presiding as the judge.
- Mattson can call witnesses, hear testimony, and the hearing(s) would be open to the public.
- Following the proceedings, Judge Mattson will have 21 days to transmit a report to the Judicial Tenure Commission.
- Judge James will have an opportunity to file objections to the report, in which case there would be a hearing on those objections.
- Then the JTC will consider the special master's report, and a majority (five) of them need to agree on whether to adopt the findings of the special master. Or, they can make their own findings and recommendations.
- The JTC's recommendations go to the Michigan Supreme Court, which will review the record of the proceedings and file an order to accept or modify the recommendations of the JTC.
So in this case of alleged financial mismanagement, the judge becomes the judged.