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    G R Press: Judge Jane Markey - A case of poor judgment

    By Abogada, Section News
    Posted on Tue Aug 24, 2010 at 11:19:50 AM EST
    Tags: Jane Markey, Curt Benson, Cooley Law School, abuse of power, nepotism, Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct, Michigan Supreme Court (all tags)

    A Grand Rapids Press Editorial, dated July 28, 2007, takes issue with Judge Markey's "abuse of power" (their words, not mine) in attempting to "leverage a teaching job for her husband" at Cooley Law School - while she served on the School's Board of Directors.  

    This is the kind of thing that the opposition will use in ads come fall....we can't risk it.  Taking back the Michigan Supreme Court is just too important.  

    Grand Rapids Press, The (MI)

    July 28, 2007 Section: Editorial
    Edition: All Editions Page: A12

    A case of poor judgment- Judge Jane Markey's crusade to win her husband a job at Cooley Law School crossed the line

    The Grand Rapids Press.

    Of all the virtues the public expects in a judge, objectivity and fairness top the list. Michigan Appeals Court Judge Jane Markey failed that test. The Grand Rapids judge used her position on the board of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School to unabashedly leverage a teaching job for her husband, Curt Benson, an attorney and one-time president of the Grand Rapids School Board. The incident displayed a worrisome blindness on Judge Markey's part. She crossed an ethical line that should have been plain as day. She lobbied administrators, over whom she had control, to hire her husband over the objections of other faculty. That's a misuse of her position, both as a judge and a member of Cooley's board.

    In July 2004, Judge Markey wrote a five-page letter to the school president, deans and faculty. She styled it a "closing argument" for her husband. The letter is a glowing account of Mr. Benson's "skills, knowledge and ethics" and a clear endorsement of him for the job.

    Judge Markey, however, claims the letter was meant to inform, not pressure. It's hard to believe such a transparently faulty characterization of her role would stand up in her own courtroom.

    Her behavior is hard to square with this broad rule from the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct: "A judge should not use the prestige of office to advance personal business interests or those of others."

    Judge Markey's conduct came to light because of a lawsuit brought against Cooley by Lynn Branham, a former associate dean at the school. Ms. Branham alleges that her refusal to support Mr. Benson's hiring led to her termination and threatened her health. Her suit, filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids, claims she was the target of retaliation and discrimination. She is seeking her old job and damages from Cooley.  Cooley plans to fight the allegations "vigorously," according to the school's attorney.

    Mr. Benson had been a part-time adjunct instructor at the school, which has campuses in Lansing, Grand Rapids and Oakland. In 2003 he sought a full-time teaching position. A faculty subcommittee recommended against his hiring. The full faculty voted against him twice. Finally, last year the faculty agreed to hire him.

    It's unclear why other teachers and Ms. Branham initially -- and adamantly -- opposed Mr. Benson. Documents obtained by The Press raise questions about his poor grades as a law student at Cooley. What is clear is that Ms. Branham faced considerable pressure to support Mr. Benson, even against her own judgment.

    One telling e-mail from Associate Dean of Faculty Charles Cercone to Ms. Branham hints that backing Mr. Benson would be expedient for her Cooley career -- and that not backing him could hurt. "Last chance to fall on your sword and do the right (or maybe just the smart) thing," Mr. Cercone wrote. "What do you say?" Was that pressured environment to favor Mr. Benson driven by the advocacy of Judge Markey?

    Cooley, Grand Rapids' only law school, is a private institution. Judge Markey, however, is a public servant. In that light, her conduct in this private arena merits scrutiny. She was asked to sit on the Cooley board, no doubt, in part because of her powerful position. Her ability to sway people within the Cooley community and on the board comes in part from the trappings of her office.

    She used, and abused, that power here.

    Citizens have a right to expect more of someone who holds a post of such high public trust. Judge Markey, in weighing her responsibilities as a judge and as a wife, should have reached a different verdict.

    Copyright, 2007, The Grand Rapids Press. All Rights Reserved.

    < The Story of "Bailout Bill" Schuette | Tea Party Disgust: Splitting the Conservative Vote in Michigan's First District >

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    Fact check (none / 0) (#1)
    by 2scarfs on Wed Aug 25, 2010 at 03:44:51 PM EST
    Abogada needs to check his facts:

    1. The GRPress issued a retraction of this editorial after it was discovered that the aggrieved professor who was dismissed (because she was a loon) floated the editorial board erroneous information.

    2.  If Judge Markey in fact did what she is accused of here, there would be a complaint to the Judicial Tenure Commission.  None was ever filed, nor did the JTC issue any statement on this matter.

    3. Judge Markey has always denied having any influence over Benson's hiring and no one has put up any evidence to the contrary.  Until I see evidence to the contrary, I have to believe Judge Markey.

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