A judge was admonished pursuant to MCR 9.223(A)(4) for dismissive and impatient behavior towards a litigant during the presentation of their case regarding a civil infraction, in violation of Canons 2(B) and 3(A)(14), which require that judges treat litigants with courtesy and respect, and Canon 3(A)(3), which requires that a judge be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants. The judge’s tone of voice was brusque, and the judge made statements without justification that could only be understood, by the litigant or the public, as accusations that the litigant was lying. The judge never gave the litigant an opportunity to explain their case, and the judge further threatened to have the litigant arrested when the litigant attempted to rebut the judge’s unfounded accusations, despite absolutely no apparent security risk.

In addition, the judge did not initially accept responsibility for the poor demeanor in response to questions by the Commission. Despite having indicated to the chief judge, after reviewing video of the incident, that they were embarrassed by the way they had treated the litigant, the judge later advised the Commission that they had treated the litigant with respect. The judge explained this discrepancy in part by stating that when they answered the Commission’s questions, the judge was under the impression that the canons and the Commission’s questions only focused on whether the judge’s treatment of the litigant was based on race or gender. The Commission rejected this explanation and found that had the judge’s answers to the Commission’s questions been candid, the judge would have acknowledged that they did not treat the litigant properly.

The Commission noted that neither the canons nor the Commission’s interests are limited to poor treatment that is due to a protected characteristic.

The judge explained that their mistaken claim to the Commission, that they had treated the litigant respectfully, was because they did not look at the video after seeing it with their chief judge two months before receiving the Commission’s questions, and instead chose to answer the Commission’s questions relying only on the transcript, which, as the judge reviewed it, did not show anything inappropriate. Much of the disrespectful demeanor was revealed by the judge’s tone and visual context, and did not appear in the transcript. The Commission advised the judge that in the event of future questions from the Commission, they must take care to fully inform themselves before answering.

The Commission noted that to the judge’s credit, the judge eventually acknowledged that they had treated the litigant rudely and was embarrassed by their conduct, and that they need to work on their demeanor and not let personal issues affect how they treat litigants. The Commission also noted the judge’s years of service and otherwise good disciplinary history, as well as the judge’s desire to apologize to the litigant. The Commission made that apology a condition of the admonition.


A magistrate presided over an arraignment of a defendant who was charged with obstruction of justice and attempting to influence jurors. Prior to doing so the magistrate had observed the defendant with the fliers that he was accused of passing out unlawfully, whereupon the magistrate briefly interacted with the defendant about the fliers. At trial, the magistrate was called as a witness. At the time of the arraignment, the magistrate did not raise with the parties the possibility that magistrate might be a witness, nor did the magistrate discuss whatever impact that fact might have on the propriety of presiding over the arraignment.

The Commission accepted the magistrate’s assertion that at the time of the defendant’s arraignment, they did not know they would be called as a witness at the trial. However, the Commission cautioned that Canon 3(C) requires that a judge or magistrate raise the question of their potential disqualification if they are aware of a circumstance that may require it. Such a circumstance existed because MCR 2.003(c)(1)(c) requires disqualification if the judge has personal knowledge of relevant facts that are in dispute. The Commission found that had the magistrate adhered to Canon 3(C) at the arraignment, that would have provided the parties the opportunity to explore whether the magistrate should preside over any aspect of the case.

The magistrate believed they had no conflict of interest because they believed at the time of arraignment that they were not a witness to the crimes with which the defendant was charged. The Commission found that the magistrate should have known that in fact, they were a witness.

The Commission recognized that the magistrate is not a lawyer, and therefore, may not have analyzed their involvement in the case as a lawyer would have. The Commission further recognized that the magistrate had much less experience at the time of the incident than they do now, and found it mitigating that the presiding judge had instructed the magistrate to conduct the arraignment, potentially leading the magistrate to think they were not required to alert the parties that there may be a problem.

At arraignment the magistrate set a high bond for the offense of handing out flyers, which could easily have kept the defendant in custody over the holiday that was to begin the next day. The Commission was concerned whether the bond was a punishment for the defendant’s alleged crime rather than an attempt to secure the defendant’s presence. After receiving the magistrate’s explanation, the Commission determined that the magistrate had considered only criteria that are proper under MCR 6.106(F)(1) when setting the bond, and therefore there was no evidence that the bond was for an improper purpose.

The Commission commented on the magistrate’s excellent record, noting that no other grievances had been filed against them. The Commission dismissed with a caution that the magistrate become familiar with MCR 2.003, and advised that if any future situation arises that raises the possibility of a conflict of interest, to fully explore that issue with their presiding judge or with the parties in the case.


A judge self-reported that they donated the remaining $100 in their campaign bank account to a charity at the conclusion of their campaign. The judge had self-funded the campaign. The means by which the judge disposed of the campaign funds violated the technical terms of Canon 7(B)(2)(f), which allows only: 1) to return them to the donor (in this case, the judge them self); or 2) to turn them over to the State Bar Client Security Fund.

Once the judge was aware of the violation, the judge immediately incurred an additional $100 expense to send the same amount of money to the Client Security Fund to avoid any hint of impropriety. That is, the judge could have complied with the canon in the first place by returning the campaign money to the judge’s own account. By instead donating that money to a charity, then donating an additional $100 to the Client Security Fund, the judge paid twice when it was not necessary to pay at all.

The Commission commended the judge for their candid self-report. The Commission noted that because the judge could have reclaimed the campaign contribution, the judge had effectively donated $100 of the judge’s own money to the charity, so it was arguable that in reality, the judge had not violated the canon in the first place. The Commission also noted that that no one was harmed, the judge did not benefit, and the judge acted in good faith at all times.

The Commission reminded the judge of the need to carefully adhere to Canon 7 should the judge run for future judicial office.


A judge resolved a dispute by drawing a name out of a hat. The Commission determined that under the particular circumstances of this case, the judge’s doing so did not abdicate judicial responsibility and did not violate the Code of Judicial Conduct. Accordingly, the Commission dismissed the grievance.

The Commission noted that before resolving the dispute in this way, the judge had made every effort to get both parties in the case to articulate their position in the dispute, and that it was clear that neither could offer a principled basis for their own position, yet neither would yield to the other. The Commission further added that resolving the dispute by drawing a result out of a hat was as sound as any other decision in this circumstance.

Although there was no misconduct, the Commission dismissed with the explanation that it was concerned with the impression the judge inadvertently created. The Commission pointed out that making the decision in this way created the impression to an observer that the judge was being cavalier about their judicial role and was abdicating their duty to decide based on their judgment rather than by chance. The Commission further advised that deciding in this way has the potential to erode public confidence in the judiciary, contrary to the commands of Canons 2(A) and 2(B), which state in part that public confidence in the judiciary is eroded by irresponsible or improper conduct by judges and a judge must avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety, and that all times, the conduct and manner of a judge should promote public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judiciary.


Canon 7(C)(1) requires that a judge wind up their law practice before taking the bench. A judge self-reported that the judge violated Canon 7(C)(1) by keeping a private IOLTA account following the beginning of their service as a judge. The Commission dismissed with explanation.    

The judge advised that they kept the account open in order to cover one or more checks they had written on the account that had not cleared by the time they took the bench. The judge believed that closing the account before all checks had cleared would have created a larger difficulty.

The Commission commended the judge for their candid self-disclosure. The Commission noted that an unintended and unforeseen consequence of leaving the account open was that it incurred a credit card processing fee, though no money was processed by credit card. The fee caused the account to be overdrawn, which generated an IOLTA overdraft notice to the Attorney Grievance Commission.

The Commission observed that although the judge technically violated Canon 7(C)(1) by leaving the account open until all checks cleared, the violation was in good faith. The Commission noted that no one suffered any harm, the judge gained no profit, and no client funds were ever at risk. The Commission advised that should the judge have an IOLTA account at some future date, they should not allow that account to become overdrawn.