Michigan Supreme Court Considers Family Court Judge's Lack of Candor
|Wayne Circuit Family Court Judge Deborah Ross Adams|
After 3-years of her own gruelling divorce proceeding [understandably transferred from Wayne County to the Oakland County Family Court] during which Judge Adams ducked media-scrutiny of the disintegration of her 30-plus year marriage, the good Judge really hit the jackpot when her attempts to "right a wrong" at the midnight hour of her divorce went totally awry.
The divorce case went awry due to Judge Adams' own self-defeating and over-reaching conduct. Both the Judicial Tenure Commission and a Special Master appointed by the Michigan Supreme Court found earlier this year that Judge Adams lied to the judge presiding over her divorce proceedings and signed her former attorney's name to a petition without his permission, recommending a 180-day suspension without pay.
The appellate lawyer for the Judicial Tenure Commission even went beyond the recommended 180-day suspension, asserting in oral arguments before the Michigan Supreme Court that because Judge Adams has such little respect for the truth, that because she willfully misled a tribunal and jurist [i.e. Oakland Circuit Judge Mary Ellen Brennan] in open court, she did not deserve her elected seat on the Wayne County Family Court.
For his part, our friend Cyril Hall had his hands full on behalf of Judge Adams during the High Court oral arguments. Mr. Hall emphasized his client's exemplary judicial record while downplaying the materiality of her one-time lies under Oath during a pro-confesso divorce proceeding.
Justices Robert Young and Stephen Markman pressed Mr. Hall on the importance of truth within a judicial proceeding, no matter how perfunctory, and queried whether his client was perhaps held to a higher standard, being herself a family court jurist facing a similar docket as Judge Brennan here in Oakland County.
Justice Markman, in particular, asked Cyril to "fill-in-the-blank" for the following statement:
This Court [Supreme Court] preserves the integrity of the judiciary, and maintains public trust in that judiciary, by allowing a judge to remain on the bench despite having testified falsely under oath, because...[why?].Mr. Hall simply did not have a good answer for Justice Markman.
Having listened to the oral arguments, we here at the Law Blogger predict that the Supreme Court will uphold the Judicial Tenure Commission's recommended suspension, but will decline the request of the JTC's attorney to remove Judge Adams from the Wayne County bench. Even Justice Young noted that this requested sanction exceeded the appellate attorney's own client's recommendation.
Hopefully for the family law litigants that will appear before Judge Adams in the upcoming years, assuming she survives this personal and professional setback and retakes her position on the Wayne Circuit's Family Court, she will have learned a valuable bedrock lesson upon which our entire legal structure is based: the truth matters in any and all judicial proceedings.
Post Script: Judge Adams was removed as a judge by the Michigan Supreme Court's decision. In August 2013, Governor Snyder appointed Bodman attorney Charles Hegarty to fill this judicial vacancy.