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State panel files complaint against Detroit judge Davis

Oralandar Brand-Williams
The Detroit News

The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission has filed a complaint against Judge Kahlilia Yvette Davis of 36th District Court, the watchdog agency announced late Monday.

Davis, 44, who has been on the bench for three years, is charged with three counts of judicial misconduct involving an alleged failure to officially record court proceedings, as required by law.

Judge Kahlilia Yvette Davis

The judge is accused of knowingly conducting proceedings without an official record, and making misrepresentations to the commission about the allegations against her and publication of court proceedings.

Davis, according to the complaint, "disconnected, damaged, disabled, did not activate" recording equipment when she presided over cases in January and February last year. The complaint alleges that the judge presided over 29 cases from Jan. 22-Feb. 13, 2019, knowing that the proceedings were not being recorded and that there was no  court reporter present. 

The judge allegedly did not tell parties who appeared before her that no official record of the proceedings was being made, according to the JTC complaint, which accuses Davis of misconduct in office and "persistent failure to perform judicial duties."

Davis, according to the commission, "exposed the legal profession and the courts to obloquy, contempt, censure or reproach..."

The complaint further alleges that when Davis was questioned by the commission about the allegations against her, she denied that she "personally" disconnected, damaged or disabled the equipment in her courtroom.

"This denial was false and misleading, and she knew it was false and misleading at the time she provided it, in that on one or more dates between January 22 and February 13, 2019, she did personally disconnect, damage, disable, or in some other way rendered the  video recording equipment in Courtroom 340 inoperative," read the complaint.

Davis is accused of "willful concealment, misrepresentation, or failure to file an answer," which are additional grounds for disciplinary action under the complaint, according to the commission, which is asking the Michigan Supreme Court to appoint a fact-finder in the case.

A fact-finder, or master, could ask for hearings that could ultimately lead to the judge being removed from the bench.

Chief 36th District Judge William MConico said Tuesday he could not comment on the complaint filed against Davis but that she is assigned to the traffic misdemeanor docket in courtroom 337.  

"I placed her on her current docket January 1, 2020. She was not assigned a docket by Judge Nancy Blount for the majority of 2019," said McConico. "I have no comment on  allegations in the JTC complaint. The allegations allegedly occurred while Judge Nancy Blount was chief."

 Besides the charges of failing to have proceedings properly documented, the commission alleges that in January and February 2019, Davis judge recorded 32 hearings on her cellphone without authorization and published some of the recordings online.

Davis' attorney, Michael Schwartz, said there is no justification for the complaint against her. "We're going to be defending against these charges," he said.

"What is going on here is an attempt to harm Judge Davis," said Schwartz. "I expect when it's done, she will be exonerated. There are people who just don't like her and it has nothing to do with her but (something to do) with them."

Last year, Blount barred Davis  from hearing cases, saying the jurist refused to follow court rules requiring her to use video recording equipment.

Blount also ordered that Davis go through security screening for court staff and attorneys at the front doors of the downtown Detroit courthouse. Other judges are allowed to go through separate entrances.

"Given her posts on social media, the import of which I think most reasonable people would find threatening (as well as several other incidents that I will not offer information on at this time), it was imperative to take further measures to ensure the safety of all within the Courthouse. The totality of all of these factors necessitated immediate action," Blount said in a February 2019 statement.

bwilliams@detroitnews.com