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Michigan Justice In Hot Seat Over House Transfers

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DETROIT (AP) - The chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court called on a fellow justice to “clear the air” Thursday after a TV station said she put real estate in relatives’ names while trying to persuade a bank to allow a short sale on a separate home.

After the sale went through, Justice Diane Hathaway put one of the homes – a debt-free property in Windermere, Fla., valued around $740,000 – back in her name, WXYZ reported.

“Ordinarily, the financial transactions of any person, including a justice, are personal matters,” Chief Justice Robert Young Jr., a Republican, said in a statement. “However, the WXYZ story raises very serious allegations about Justice Diane Hathaway’s financial transactions. I am naturally very concerned about these allegations.”

He said he “advised’ Hathaway, a Democrat, to “respond publicly to these allegations to clear the air.” She drove away from a WXYZ reporter and declined comment in a report broadcast Wednesday.

Steve Fishman, an attorney for Hathaway and husband Michael Kingsley, said there was nothing illegal.

“These were personal matters that involved persons close to her, and she is not going to discuss personal matters in the press,” Fishman told The Associated Press. “I’m satisfied there was nothing underhanded.”

WXYZ said Hathaway’s home on Lake St. Clair in Grosse Pointe Park was sold for $840,000 in a short sale last fall. A short sale means a bank and a borrower agree to sell a property for less than what’s owed on the mortgage. It’s not known how much was owed.

Before the sale, another Grosse Pointe Park home in Hathaway’s name was put in the name of a stepson, the TV station reported. A third home in Grosse Pointe Park was purchased in the name of a stepdaughter but put in the justice’s name after the sale, WXYZ said.

Hathaway, a former Wayne County judge, was elected to the Supreme Court in 2008, defeating then-Chief Justice Cliff Taylor, a Republican, who was hurt by ads that accused him of sleeping on the bench during cases. The victory helped another Democrat on the court become chief justice for two years.

© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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