INKSTER (WWJ/AP) – The Michigan Supreme Court has removed a Detroit-area judge from office for mishandling public money.
Inkster District Judge Sylvia James was accused of turning a community service fund into her own “publicly funded private foundation.”
The Michigan’s Judicial Tenure Commissio accused 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, according to the Supreme Court.
The Commission wanted her off the bench, and the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously agreed.
She was suspended without pay in December and found guilty of misconduct in April.
In the court’s opion that issued Tuesday, James was also ordered to pay costs, fees and expenses incurred in prosecuting the complaint, along with appropriate restitution.
View a copy of the opinion (.pdf format)
State investigators said 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.
James’ lawyer had argued that she didn’t take any court funds for personal benefit.
James has been on the bench since 1988 and is running for re-election. Her name will appear on the August ballot with seven opponents. She will be allowed to resume her judgeship if she succeeds in both the primary and the general election.
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