After a defendant failed to appear for a hearing, a judge called the defendant’s cell phone, with “permission” of defense counsel. The judge told the defendant that a bench warrant was issued, and that they should keep going because it would not be pleasant if the judge found them.

The Commission found that the judge’s effort to intimidate the defendant over the phone was an abuse of authority and a flagrant flaunting of judicial power in violation of Canon 1. The Commission stated that a courtroom is a place for law and order, not sarcasm, and said the judge’s message to the defendant, insinuating that his capture and punishment were the judge’s personal goals, diminished the dignity of the proceedings and diminished the authority of the court, in violation of Canon 2(A)’s requirements that a judge avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety, and conduct themself in a patient, dignified and courteous manner.

The Commission noted the judge’s acknowledgment that they should not have used sarcasm, but said the effect of the acknowledgment was weakened by the repeated excuses the judge offered in response to the Commission’s inquiries and by the hostile tone of the judge’s answers. The Commission also took note that the judge admitted acting similarly in many other cases, and observed that this did not inure to their benefit. Finally, the Commission noted that the Michigan Supreme Court had previously publicly censured and suspended the judge for belligerent conduct.

The Commission dismissed with an admonition that the judge refrain from similar conduct and sarcasm in the future, and warned that a public complaint might ensue if the judge failed to refrain. 


A judge volunteered at a public event. While there the judge became frustrated with the perceived effort of other volunteers. The judge reacted by throwing a can at them and using vulgar language toward them.

The judge acknowledged their actions, but defended them to the Commission by claiming they had been caused by the other volunteers. The Commission disagreed, pointing out that there is no excuse for such behavior from a judge during a public event, and that a judge is a judge 24 hours a day and is expected to be on their best behavior in public. Therefore, a judge may not retaliate inappropriately, even if they believe others are behaving poorly.

The Commission noted that the judge’s angry behavior had been previously brought to the Commission’s attention as well. On that occasion the judge had been cautioned for improper judicial demeanor, including a lack of civility and professionalism toward other judges and court staff. The Commission also noted that the judge had previously demonstrated anger and disrespect to the Commission. It noted that the allegations in this case were consistent with the prior anger and attitude issues.

The Commission admonished the judge to remember that a judge is held to higher standards than other members of the public pursuant to Canons 1 and 2, and should avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety. Further, a judge must expect to be the subject of constant public scrutiny and must accept restrictions on conduct that might be viewed as burdensome by the ordinary citizen.

The judge’s chief judge had become aware of the public incident and attempted to discuss it with the judge. The judge rejected this attempt, essentially claiming that it was none of the chief judge’s business. The Commission disagreed, noting that the public perception of the court was very much the chief judge’s business, and a judge’s public behavior affects the public perception of the court on which they sit. The Commission therefore also admonished the judge for their treatment of their chief judge.