Judges Judging Judges: Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission
Most judges judge the actions and choices of civilians. Every now and again one of them will be required to judge an attorney or a police officer – a member of the law enforcement community. But it is rare that one judge gets to judge another, at least in an official capacity.
The Judicial Tenure Commission’s Executive Director Paul J. Fisher announced that the commission believes that Washtenaw County district court Judge J. Cedric Simpson acted improperly on all counts. The evidence was reviewed by retired Ingham County Judge Peter Houk, who agreed with the commission’s findings.
Washtenaw County district court Judge J. Cedric Simpson is accused of interfering with a police investigation and lying to police in order to misrepresent his relationship with his intern, 26-year-old Crystal Vargas.
According to court documents, Vargas and Simpson exchanged more than 14,000 phone calls and text messages during a four month span. The judge claimed that the volume of their communication had to do with a particular case Vargas was working on. But investigation later proved that the case in question began some time after the judge and his intern had began maintain regular contact.
The police investigation Simpson is accused of interfering with was Vargas’ drunk driving arrest back in early September of last year. Vargas apparently called Simpson moments after she was pulled over by the arresting officer and asked for his help.
Simpson arrived at the scene of the arrest and identified himself to the officers as “Judge Simpson”. He then approached Vargas without permission from the officers. Later he contacted Pittsfield Township Attorney Victor Lillich just a few days later, claiming to be concerned about keeping Vargas in his employ after her arrest. He also requested a copy of the arrest report.
Judge Houk listened to hours of testimony and studied all of the evidence before making his determination. But Houk is not the person who will be deciding whether or not Simpson is penalized for his actions. And, if so, what that penalty might be.
Both the Judicial Tenure Commission’s examiners, and Ken Mogill, Simpson’s defense attorney, have yet to share their versions of the story in front of the commission. It is the commission, when all is said and done, who will decide if Simpson’s actions were in fact against the law, and what form of punishment would be appropriate. The next hearing is scheduled for June 8th.