Bench Memos

Michigan Justice Diane Hathaway Under Scrutiny

Michigan Supreme Court justice Diane Hathaway is under scrutiny for a series of financial transactions that could subject her to investigation by ethical and law-enforcement authorities. As Ross Jones of local ABC affiliate WXYZ reports:

[R]ecords show in a little over a year, [Justice Hathaway] owned four homes: one in Florida, and three in Grosse Pointe Park.

The homes are a part of a dizzying property shuffle that experts say raise ethical and legal questions, but Justice Hathaway has been ducking those questions for more than six weeks.

. . . .

[Lawyer] Howard Young says when his clients have asked about moving assets out of their names to qualify for a short sale , he’s told them to be cautious. 

“Those are typically fraudulent transfers, because they are done with the intent to delay, hinder, or defraud creditors,” said Young.

“And we are very careful to advise against making such transfers because even as an attorney, you can well be considered a co-conspirator in a fraud and that has significant ethical issues, and the state bar is going to come looking,” he said.

Judges are held to a high standard of conduct in Michigan, and according to the state judicial code, they need to avoid even the “appearance of impropriety.”

Scott Johnson at Powerline Blog relays a more detailed account of what happened, from the perspective of a lawyer who says the transactions “could well be Federal and state felony bank fraud.” Justice Hathaway seems to be referring questions to a top criminal-defense lawyer, but the chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, Robert Young, has issued the following statement: 

Ordinarily, the financial transactions of any person, including a Justice, are personal matters.  However, the WXYZ story raises very serious allegations about Justice Diane Hathaway’s financial transactions. I am naturally very concerned about these allegations.

Because media allegations are just that and may fail to include a complete picture of a complex set of financial transactions, this morning I advised Justice Hathaway to respond publicly to these allegations to clear the air.  For now, I have no further comment on the WXYZ allegations.

I will continue to report as the story develops.  

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