Lawyer: Let embattled 36th District Judge Sanders quit
Detroit — Judge Brenda Sanders, recently re-elected to the 36th District Court, should be allowed to retire and not be removed from the court, her attorney said Monday during the jurist’s disciplinary hearing.
Sanders was suspended from the bench without pay last year by the Michigan Supreme Court after a complaint of judicial misconduct by the Judicial Tenure Commission.
Sanders’ attorney, Cyril Hall, told the nine-member Commission on Monday during a hearing to determine whether Sanders should be removed from the bench that his client is mentally ill and needs treatment.
He said she used her extended medical leave last year for a knee problem to avoid having to come to work because it is a “manifestation” of her mental illness.
Sanders did not appear at the hearing.
“That’s the product of the illness,” Hall said Monday. “She could not come. She could not face the issue. ”
Commission Executive Director Paul Fischer told commissioners: “If the mental illness caused the problems, that is a big if because there is no evidence in the record that shows that.”
Fischer, the only other person to testify Monday, said Sanders’ actions of avoiding seeing a doctor recommended by the commission were “calculating.”
“She chose not to go,” Fischer said. “She knew what she was doing.”
The commission will make its recommendation and release a public report next month.
Hall said Monday Sanders’ case should be dealt with as a mental issue.
“The longer she’s not treated she just spirals down, down, down, down” Hall said, adding she is not addressing her medical needs.
Hall said Sanders does not want to return to work because she cannot handle the stress of the job.
Last month, a fact finder concluded the judge is not fit to continue in her role.
“Sadly, the evidence clearly proves that respondent is psychotic and therefore, seriously mentally ill,” retired Wayne County Circuit Judge Michael Sapala concluded in his report, released Jan. 6.
“Her mental disability renders her unfit to sit as a judge. Her illness prevents her from being able to properly perform judicial duties.”
Sapala presided over a disciplinary hearing in December by the state Judicial Tenure Commission, which brought the complaint against Sanders.
During the hearing, a psychiatrist testified Sanders suffers from “paranoid delusions” but Sanders, in an email to The Detroit News late last year, disagreed.
“The psychiatrist that made findings that I was delusional and mentally impaired, has never interviewed me or evaluated me for mental disability in any way,” Sanders wrote.
Sapala also made reference to a 2013 letter Sanders allegedly wrote to U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade asking for a federal probe into her concerns that she was a target of corruption and conspiracy.
The Judicial Tenure Commission alleges Sanders is mentally unfit to continue to serve and said she fraudulently received a paid medical leave from her $138,000-a-year position.
Sapala also wrote “the evidence clearly proves that respondent committed fraud in her request for a long-term medical leave of absence.”
But Hall said Monday “there is no fraud to the respect of the leave.” He said she did have problems with her knee. Hall said his client is not receiving any pay from her job and is destitute and getting by with financial help from family members.
The commission is expected to issue its decision after its March 16 meeting.
The state Supreme Court will schedule oral arguments in the case and make a final decision on Sanders’ fate.