Detroit — Prosecutors were again a no-show Tuesday in 36th District Court as the budget battle between the Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano continued.
Chief Judge Kenneth King said he wouldn't know the full impact on pending cases until he hears from eight judges who handle traffic and ordinance violations cases. He acknowledged it is a problem for the court because serious cases, including those dealing with drunken driving and suspended licenses, had to be dismissed. The cases also generate significant revenue for the court.
King said he met with Worthy Tuesday and that he now has a "better understanding" of her budget concerns.
"But I hope it's resolved soon," King said.
In Judge Lydia Nance Adams' courtroom, 10 cases were dismissed because of the lack of a prosecutor. Adams criticized the decision not to send prosecutors into the court, saying "it was not a good call" for lawyers not to show up for work. The judge dismissed 10 cases on Monday.
Meanwhile, Adams told Boyd Blessed on Tuesday that he "truly was blessed" as she dismissed six traffic tickets, including citations for a suspended license and no proof of insurance, because no one was there to handle the state charges.
Another 36th District judge, Deborah Lewis Langston, said while she "understands and appreciates" what Worthy is doing, she added that the prosecutor's actions are "doing a disservice" to area residents.
"They get to be the monkey in the middle," Langston said Tuesday. "This is a hard place to come to do business. There is the parking situation, the security they have to go through and some people have to make arrangements for child care."
Langston said she also had about 10 cases she had to adjourn or dismiss because there was no prosecutor available to handle them. She said the most serious cases were adjourned. Langston said a case can't go forward unless "all hands are on deck."
Normally, two Wayne County assistant prosecutors are assigned to 36th District Court and handle about 40 percent of its cases — violations of state statutes, including serious matters such as drunken driving and suspended drivers licenses.
The rest of the cases are handled by attorneys who work for the city of Detroit. Those cases include parking violations, traffic fines and city ordinance violations.
Last year, Ficano proposed a $25.6 million budget for Worthy's office. The budget was approved by county commissioners. Worthy then sued the county, saying she was promised — and needs — at least $34 million to properly run the department.
Wayne County Commissioner Shannon Price said Worthy is shunning her responsibilities.
"She's putting politics before priority. She knew last year that her budget had been cut," said Price, R-Canton. "She's refused to live within that budget."
The employees who lost their jobs are contract employees whose contracts expired, Price said.
"She was informed the contracts would not be renewed because she was over budget," Price said. "She could have worked something out with the court on timing or caseloads. She never reached out to the court and now she's playing politics."
Commissioner Laura Cox, R-Livonia, said, "The real problem is she's running a budget deficit. This is the problem — she is not managing the budget because she doesn't want to. She doesn't like it. The bottom line is we told her to cut her budget and she didn't do it."
On Friday, 22 attorneys, three investigators and a clerical worker — all contract workers — were laid off to trim costs.
Worthy is expected to further address the issue today at a news conference at her office at the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice downtown.