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Inkster Judge misused funds says report

Inkster Judge misused funds says report

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1
STA
TE OF MICHIGANBEFORE THE JUDICIAL TENURE COMMISSION
 COMPLAINT AGAINST:
HON. SYLVIA A. JAMES
Formal Complaint No. 8822
nd
District Court Hon. Ann MattsonInkster, MI Master______________________/ 
THE MASTER’S FINDINGS OF FACT AND CONCLUSI
ONS OF LAWPROCEDURAL HISTORY
On October 26, 2011, the Judicial Tenure Commission filed a 51 page, 4 count FormalComplaint against Judge Sylvia A. James of the 22
nd
District Court in Inkster, Michigan. Italso requested the appointment of a Master to conduct a public hearing in the matter. Prior tothe filing of the Formal Complaint, Respondent had been placed on paid administrative leaveby the Supreme Court on April 13, 2011.On November 9, 2011, Respondent filed her Answer to the Formal Complaint. Shealso filed a Motion to Disqualify the Supreme Court. The Motion to Disqualify was deniedon November 30, 2011.
 
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On December 15, 2011, the Supreme Court appointed the Hon. Ann Mattson asMaster and ordered Respondent suspended with pay pending conclusion of the JudicialTenure proceedings.A pretrial hearing was conducted on January 10, 2012. Motions were heard onJanuary 17, 2012. A public hearing was held at the 20
th
District Court, Dearborn Heights,beginning on January 23, 2012. It continued for 27 days, concluding on March 1, 2012. Atthe start of the hearing, the parties stipulated that neither side was required to presentwitnesses to authenticate otherwise admissible exhibits. During the hearing, 244 exhibitswere admitted and 34 witnesses testified. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Examiner filedan Amended Complaint. Oral arguments were heard on March 5, 2012. The Master receivedthe final volume of the 5,881-page transcript of the hearing on March 14, 2012. ProposedFindings of Fact and Conclusions of Law were filed by both parties on March 26, 2012 andreceived by the Master on March 27, 2012.
STANDARD OF PROOF
The standard of proof in a Judicial Tenure Commission hearing is by a preponderanceof the evidence.
 In re Ferrara
, 458 Mich 350, 360 (1998); MCR 9.211(A).
FINDINGS OF FACT
Jurisdictional AllegationsRespondent is, and at all material times was, a judge of the 22
nd
District Court for theCity of Inkster. She was first elected in 1988. She was last elected in 2006. Respondent issubject to all the duties and responsibilities imposed on judges by the Michigan SupremeCourt, and is subject to the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct and the standards set forth inMCR 9.104 and MCR 9.205.
 
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COUNT I: FINANCIAL IMPROPRIETIESA. MISAPPROPRIATION OF COMMUNITY SERVICE FUNDS
The Master finds by a preponderance of the evidence that Respondent didmisappropriate Community Service Funds based upon the following:The facts show that in 1989 or 1990, shortly after Respondent was elected, sheestablished the 22
nd
District Court Community Service Program (hereafter CSP) as asentencing alternative. Her intent was to provide constructive punishment for non-violentoffenders while reducing jail overcrowding and serving the needs of the City of Inkster.(Transcript Volume 3, pages 484-
486; Examiner‟s Exhibit E
-5). Prior to 2006 all revenue,including CSP fees, was transmitted by the Court to its funding authority, the City of Inkster,on at least a weekly basis, (V10, 1852-1855). Most of this revenue was deposited into the
City‟s general fund accounts from which the City paid the Court‟s payroll and vendor bills
and disbursed statutorily mandated payments. The City retained the balance. (V3, 509). TheCity maintained the fees collected from Community Service Program defendants in a separateliability account. (V3, 507; V10, 1859).Respondent sentenced qualified criminal misdemeanor defendants to the CSP (V3,497), sometimes in lieu of and sometimes in addition to jail. (V3, 505, 506). Each defendantwas assigned to serve a certain number of days on the CSP and, in addition to fines, costs andother assessments, was required to pay CSP oversight fees on a sliding fee scale ranging from$10 to $25 for each day in the program. (V3, 491).SCAO Region One Administrator Deborah Green testified that there is no distinctionbetween the type of program established by Respondent and the community service or

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