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Michigan judge admits seeking romance with probationer

Michigan’s criminal justice system can only work if everybody involved follows the rules. For example, police are not supposed to arrest someone or seize potential evidence of a crime without obeying proper procedure. Prosecutors and defense attorneys must follow rules of civil procedure in court. Even the judge presiding over the trial is constrained by ethical and legal obligations.

When one of these figures fails to follow the rules, justice is not served. This includes when a judge attempts to begin a romantic relationship with someone still under his or her control, as a Jackson County judge recently admitted doing.

MLive.com reports that on Nov. 25, the Michigan Supreme Court has censured the judge and suspended him without pay for 30 days. The order was the result of the judge’s misconduct toward a woman he had sentenced to probation. In addition, the judge improperly interfered in a case involving a friend’s daughter.

In the first incident, a woman pleaded guilty to domestic violence and the judge sentenced her to probation in 2014. Later that year, the woman sent the judge a holiday card. In response, the judge wrote her a letter asking if she was interesting in dating him, even though “being on probation is a complication.”

The two began an email correspondence that lasted several weeks, but it appears the two never had sex, or that the judge promised leniency on the woman’s probation in return for sexual favors. But the fact that the judge even initiated a “prelude to a relationship” violated ethical rules, the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission concluded in a report.

The second incident took place around the same time. The judge contacted another judge, trying to make things easier for a woman in the second judge’s court.

The judge has admitted the ethical violations and is reportedly “extremely remorseful.”

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