FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 15, 2023
CONTACT: Honorable Curtis J. Bell, President, ABJM
DETROIT, MI– The Association of Black Judges of Michigan announces their request for an independent audit of the Judicial Tenure Commission has been granted. Judge Curtis J. Bell, who last month was elected as ABJM’s President, was pleased to learn that the organization’s request was granted. “ABJM’s request for an independent audit did not come as a surprise to the leadership of the Commission as our executive board met with executive director Lynn Helland and Chair Judge Jon Hulsing over a year ago and informed them of ABJM’s plans to make this request of the state’s highest court in hopes that the Commission would join the ABJM in the search of transparency,” says Bell. “I am pleased that the ABJM’s letter was received favorably by the Michigan Supreme Court.”
The ABJM does not have any details about how the independent audit will move forward or whether the Michigan Supreme Court will issue a protective order to maintain the confidentially afforded to the commission and respondent judges. Yet, Bell emphasized that “[the audit] must be independent of the State and the Judicial Tenure Commission’s influences. The auditors must have access to all records starting with the original letter/complaint by the party to the determination by the JTC to seek Supreme Court review of the Master’s Findings. The selection of the auditors should not be made by the JTC.”
When did the ABJM formally request an independent audit of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission?
On March 27, 2023, ABJM leadership sent a letter to the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court seeking an independent audit of the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission.
Why was the request for an independent audit made?
The request for an independent audit was premised on information and belief that over the past 15 to 20 years the Commission has prosecuted Black judges at a disproportionately higher rate than White judges. Over the last 20 years the percentage of Black judges in Michigan has remained around 16%. However, a review of the formal complaints filed by the Commission since 2020 revealed that 80% of the judges prosecuted by the Commission have been Black.
What organizations joined the ABJM in the request for an independent audit of the Judicial Tenure Commission?
ABJM’s request for an independent audit was supported by the Detroit Branch -NAACP, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, and the Black Women Lawyers Association of Michigan. Each organization sent a letter to the Michigan Supreme Court supporting the request for independent audit. Copies of those letters are available on the ABJM website.
The Association of Black Judges of Michigan was founded in 1979. More information about the ABJM can be found at www.abjm.org.