Do public officials in Michigan need to jump in the lake? Last week, we covered an assistant attorney general in the Wolverine State who is on the hunt for a gay student at the University of Michigan. Today we bring you news of a misbehaving judge.
According to court records, Judge James M. Justin, a state district judge in Jackson County, dismissed nine traffic cases against himself and his wife. The Jackson Citizen Patriot reports that the judge fixed four illegal-parking tickets that he received from 2002 to 2004. He also dismissed five traffic tickets received by his wife, Kim R. Justin, over a ten-year span. Who says chivalry is dead?
Judge Justin’s tickets were, amusingly enough, “dismissed after explanation” — to himself. Presumably Judge Justin found his explanations very convincing.
So what does His Honor have to say about all this?
Judge Justin isn’t denying what he did, although he does think things have been blown out of proportion:
Justin acknowledges he was wrong but his actions warrant no more than a reprimand, said Dennis Kolenda, a Grand Rapids attorney and retired judge who represents Justin in the misconduct case.
“He shouldn’t have done it,” Kolenda said. “We’re not saying he’s never made a mistake, but certainly they are not removable offenses.”
Judges in my high school dismissed their own parking tickets all the time, it was no big deal.
In Justin’s defense, Kolenda said the traffic cases at issue are years old, they involve minor civil infractions, and following proper procedure would have created costs and difficulties Justin chose to avoid.
Such as “costs and difficulties” to James and Kim Justin: the nine fixed tickets carried potential penalties of up to $751. But that amount, associated with tickets amassed over several years, is rather small compared to Judge Justin’s annual salary of $138,272 — so he could have easily afforded to pay the tickets. From a cost-benefit perspective, and with the benefit of hindsight, fixing the tickets was not a smart move on Judge Justin’s part.
In fairness to Judge Justin, it appears that his approach to traffic tickets wasn’t merely self-serving. According to misconduct complaints against him that are now being investigated, the judge fixed hundreds of tickets without formal hearings.
Judge Justin defends his informal approach to traffic tickets as “efficient and user-friendly.” Of course, paying your traffic tickets is also quite efficient, but not as user-friendly.
If Judge Justin gets a traffic ticket now, he’s on his own: he has been suspended indefinitely by the Michigan Supreme Court.
Suspended Judge dismissed traffic tickets against him, his wife [Jackson Citizen Patriot]
Suspended Judge Waived Own Tickets [WILX.com]