The trial of a former a former Jackson County judge accused of fixing tickets began Monday. James Justin faces four felonies for the common law offense of misconduct in office for allegedly dismissing parking tickets for his wife and other court staff members.
The investigation into Justin's misconduct began way back in 2010, when he was suspended with pay. The Michigan Supreme Court removed the judge from office last January.
Sitting as defendant, Justin listened as Assistant Attorney General Greg Townsend told laid out the circumstances that landed him in court.
"Would you ever question that?" Townsend asked a court administrator, talking about Justin's ticket dismissals.
"No," Tammy Bates replied, explaining how Justin tossed out tickets without a hearing or notice to the prosecutor. She testified it was not procedure, but said he had power as a judge.
Justin's attorney argues dismissals aren't that rare. He pointed out Jackson County averages 200-300 per year.
Also testifying Monday was Glenn Page, staff attorney for the Judicial Tenure Commission. Page was the one who headed up the investigation into Justin's conduct. He told the court he spent three weeks going through hundreds of Justin's files and found a pattern with people close to the judge.
"Yeah, when I was going through these dismissals I came across a ticket for Kim Justin and I asked Mrs. Bates is this the judge's address? Is this Kim Justin?" Page said.
Of the four tickets Justin is charged with dismissing, two were issued to his wife. One for speeding in 2009, the other for an equipment malfunction in 2006. Prosecutors say Justin admitted skipping normal policy and writing off both.
Page read a transcript of his questions to Justin, during Justin's Judicial Tenure Commission Hearing to the court, "(Page to Justin) so your wife explained it to you and you felt her explanation was sufficient that you could just dismiss it? (Justin) I guess that my understanding is that district judges have the ability to listen for explanation from traffic tickets from people who receive them and either alter the disposition or amend the findings and cost or both."
The other two tickets were issued to Justin's court reporter of seven years and another close staff member. Prosecutors say Justin cancelled the court reporter's speeding violation, writing it was dismissed at the request of the officer.
Justin's attorney and the Townsend will be delivering their closing arguments tomorrow as the trial wraps up. Proceedings begin at 9 a.m.
Justin has been on the bench for more than 30 years. He was first elected in 1976.