Supreme Court Hears Servaas case

Fischer takes brunt of scrutiny

A year and two months and $158,000 later, Rockford’s Judge Servaas has had his day before the Michigan Supreme Court.

Although a ruling could still be months away, Servaas is pleased with the hearing, which dragged to an hour long. It consisted – in part – of a grilling of Paul Fischer, the Judicial Tenure Commission director who ambushed Servaas in his Rockford office on January 16, 2008 with a hidden recording device, demanding his immediate resignation on threat of public humiliation.

Several times Fischer asked that Servaas be immediately removed from office for a variety of alleged offenses and was refused each time. Now the case has gone all the way to the state’s highest court.

During the hearing, the seven-judge panel did tell Servaas that it is never appropriate to comment on a co-worker’s breast size, an allegation he admits happened as a joke at a holiday party and which he says he regrets. Much of the rest of the time judges directed their comments to Fischer and his methods. “He took a beating,” Servaas stated.

Servaas said the hearing was supposed to be a half-hour long, but went on an hour. “We were each supposed to have five minutes to state our case. Fischer didn’t even get up to the podium before they started on him,” Servaas said.

“The justices did an excellent job. I’m really happy that they ” he said. “I have nothing but faith and will be happy to abide by their decision.”

Servaas said the case has been a long and expensive endeavor and believes this may prompt changes in how court judges are investigated. He said it is wasteful and pointless for the body accusing a judge – in this case the Judicial Tenure Commission – to also be the first body to make a ruling on the case.

The case has cost Servaas over $55,000 out of his own pocket, with a tab of $158,000 and a lawsuit insurance limit of $100,000.

A grievance has been filed against Fischer to the Michigan Bar Association. It was brought by 20 judges who are also former bar association presidents and blasts Fischer’s actions during the Servaas case. It is extensive, critical and harsh.

The grievance asks for restitution for the attorney fees and costs with the exception of costs relating to the legal issue of residency. It states that findings “against Fischer should be significant, reflecting the systematic abuse of the trust that his office reposes in him.” A copy of the grievance against Fischer – over 1,000 pages long – was loaned to the Squire. Watch future issues for details of the contents of that document.

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