Mich. SC: Judge fixed traffic tickets

Jessica M. Karmasek Jan. 31, 2012, 10:58am



LANSING, Mich. (Legal Newsline) - The Michigan Supreme Court last week ordered a district court judge be removed from office for misconduct, including "fixing" traffic citations issued to himself, his wife and his staff.

The state's Judicial Tenure Commission, which is charged with investigating any alleged judicial misconduct, recommended Judge James M. Justin's removal.

Justin, a judge on the 12th District Court in Jackson, was first elected to the court in 1976 and was reelected in 1982, 1988, 1994, 2000 and 2006. His term expires in December.

According to the commission, Justin's misconduct included: dismissing traffic tickets issued to himself, his wife and his staff members; preventing the transmission of or altering court information that was legally required to be sent to the Secretary of State's Office; dismissing cases without conducting hearings or involving the prosecutor; failing to follow plea agreements; and making false statements under oath during a commission hearing.

On Friday, the state's high court said Justin's fixing of traffic tickets alone warrants the most severe of sanctions.

"However, respondent's substantiated misconduct is much more extensive," Chief Justice Robert P. Young Jr. wrote in the Court's 31-page opinion.

"The duration, scope, and sheer number of respondent's substantiated acts of misconduct are without precedent in Michigan judicial disciplinary cases. Respondent's long-term pattern of judicial misconduct constitutes a negation of the proper exercise of judicial authority that more than justifies the sanction imposed."

The Court called Justin's actions a "calculated disregard for the law" and an "intentional effort to undermine the judicial process."

"Such misconduct evinces an unacceptable disregard for the role of judge as well as disdain for due process and the right of parties to a fair hearing," Young wrote for the Court. "Respondent's actions are completely antithetical to the privilege of being a judge and more than adequately justify his removal from office."

In addition to Justin's removal from office, the Court ordered the commission to submit a bill of costs, itemizing what portion of the costs may be attributed to the "conduct or statements of respondent that give rise to liability" for the payment of costs, fees and expenses incurred by the commission in prosecuting the complaint.

The commission filed its complaint against Justin in November 2010.

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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