Friday, December 5, 2008

Magistrate J. Michael James - DUI - Van Buren County


On December 05, 2008 South Haven District Court Magistrate J. Michael James was charged with driving while intoxicated to Allegan General Hospital to be with his injured wife. James' wife had suffered severe head and upper torso trauma, in what James only explained as 'a fall'.

Magistrate James later plead guilty to impaired driving.



Ex-magistrate pleads guilty to impaired driving
Published: Tuesday, February 10, 2009, 12:28 AM
Updated: Tuesday, February 10, 2009, 12:31 AM
By Paula M. Davis
Kalamazoo Gazette
http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2009/02/exmagistrate_pleads_guilty_to.html

ALLEGAN -- A former Van Buren County magistrate who retired after his arrest for drunken driving pleaded guilty Monday to driving while impaired.

J. Michael James, 61, of Bloomingdale Township, was originally charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated but pleaded to the lesser charge of impaired driving. Both violations are misdemeanors.

James was sentenced to three to six months of probation.

As part of his sentence, Allegan District Judge Joseph Skocelas ordered James to submit to random alcohol testing and substance-abuse assessment. James also is expected to pay $815 in fines, court costs and other fees, a court official said.

Police arrested James Dec. 5 after he followed an ambulance carrying his wife to Allegan General Hospital. Police were called to the hospital on reports that James was being disorderly in the waiting room.

James' wife was treated at the hospital for severe trauma to the head and upper torso area, according to a police report. James told an officer that she was injured in a fall, the report said.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz has been appointed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the injuries to James' wife.

Paul Hamre, chief judge of the Van Buren County Circuit Court, suspended James with pay after his arrest in December. James then retired, effective Monday.

                   









Ex-magistrate pleads guilty to impaired driving
By Mickey Ciokajlo
MLive
February 10, 2009, 12:28AM
http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2009/02/exmagistrate_pleads_guilty_to.html

ALLEGAN -- A former Van Buren County magistrate who retired after his arrest for drunken driving pleaded guilty Monday to driving while impaired.

J. Michael James, 61, of Bloomingdale Township, was originally charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated but pleaded to the lesser charge of impaired driving. Both violations are misdemeanors.

James was sentenced to three to six months of probation.

As part of his sentence, Allegan District Judge Joseph Skocelas ordered James to submit to random alcohol testing and substance-abuse assessment. James also is expected to pay $815 in fines, court costs and other fees, a court official said.

Police arrested James Dec. 5 after he followed an ambulance carrying his wife to Allegan General Hospital. Police were called to the hospital on reports that James was being disorderly in the waiting room.

James' wife was treated at the hospital for severe trauma to the head and upper torso area, according to a police report. James told an officer that she was injured in a fall, the report said.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz has been appointed to investigate the circumstances surrounding the injuries to James' wife.

Paul Hamre, chief judge of the Van Buren County Circuit Court, suspended James with pay after his arrest in December. James then retired, effective Monday.

                 









Former magistrate pleads guilty
James gets six months probation and $815 fine for Dec. 5 driving while impaired arrest
Posted: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 12:00 am
Updated: 8:16 pm, Tue Nov 15, 2011.
By ANDREW LERSTEN
H-P South Haven Bureau The Herald-Palladium
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/former-magistrate-pleads-guilty/article_1ed35edc-ff86-5593-a67d-09bbc6f53fb7.html

SOUTH HAVEN - Former Van Buren County magistrate J. Michael James pleaded guilty Monday to a reduced charge in an Allegan County drinking and driving case.

James, 61, had been charged with driving while intoxicated Dec. 5 in the city of Allegan. He pleaded guilty to the reduced charge of driving while impaired, Allegan District Court officials said.

James had been on paid administrative leave from his magistrate's job since his arrest, but late last month announced his resignation, which was effective Monday. He had been the District Court magistrate at the South Haven courthouse for 20 years.

He was sentenced to three to six months of probation and ordered to pay a fine of $815. He was ordered to have substance abuse counseling and refrain from alcohol. He will also have to participate in a victim impact panel through the courts.

James told Allegan police he had been drinking the night of Dec. 5 before he drove to Allegan General Hospital, where he was arrested. His wife had been taken to the hospital by ambulance that night with severe trauma injuries, and he followed in his car, police said.

The Jameses live near Gobles, about 6 miles from the hospital.

Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz is reviewing the circumstances surrounding the hospital visit to see if domestic assault charges may be warranted against James.

Allegan police said James' wife claimed she had fallen at home, causing her injuries, but officers said they weren't sure if her injuries were consistent with a fall.

Fitz was assigned the case after Van Buren County Prosecutor Juris Kaps recused himself. Fitz said he may make a decision on his review later this week.

                   








Temporary magistrate David Hill appointed to district court in South Haven
By Ed Finnerty
The Kalamazoo Gazette
February 05, 2009 at 12:04 AM
Updated February 05, 2009 at 12:18 AM
http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2009/02/temporary_magistrate_david_hil.html

PAW PAW -- Van Buren County commissioners have appointed David Hill as temporary magistrate of the Seventh District Court West Division in South Haven, replacing J. Michael James, who is retiring after his arrest in December for allegedly driving while intoxicated.

James, 61, is stepping down effective Monday, which is the same day he is scheduled for a pretrial conference on the drunken-driving charge, according to the Herald-Palladium of St. Joseph. He previously pleaded not guilty.

James is also being investigated in a related case of alleged domestic violence. Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz was assigned by the state attorney general's office to conduct the investigation, after Van Buren County Prosecutor Juris Kaps asked for a special prosecutor because of his longtime working association with James.

Van Buren County Chief Circuit Judge Paul Hamre suspended James from his position with pay after his arrest, which occurred after James followed an ambulance carrying his wife to Allegan General Hospital in early December. An Allegan Police Department report said an officer administered three breath tests to James, each showing a blood-alcohol level of more than Michigan's 0.08 level for drunken driving.

James said his wife was injured in a fall. The Allegan police report, however, indicated the victim, who was not named in the report, suffered severe trauma to the head and torso and that doctors considered having her taken by helicopter to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo.

James was appointed magistrate in 1981.

               










Charged magistrate resigns
Posted: Friday, January 30, 2009 12:00 am
Updated: 8:05 pm, Tue Nov 15, 2011.
Charged magistrate resigns By ANDREW LERSTEN
H-P South Haven Bureau The Herald-Palladium
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/charged-magistrate-resigns/article_5b37c72a-7f94-5b5b-9619-63ca6d51cb7f.html

SOUTH HAVEN - Long-time Seventh District Court Magistrate J. Michael James, facing both a drunk driving charge and a domestic assault probe, is resigning.

James, 61, of Bloomingdale Township, has been magistrate at the South Haven courthouse since 1989, and had been a Van Buren County assistant prosecutor before that. His resignation is effective Feb. 9.

"He has been a dedicated and loyal employee of ours," County Administrator Douglas Cultra said of James Thursday.

The County Board of Commissioners this week week voted unanimously to approve the temporary appointment of David Hill to fill James' duties in South Haven. Action was recommended by the Seventh District Court judges.

Hill had been appointed magistrate by the state Court Administrators Office after James was placed on paid administrative leave last month after he was arrested for investigation of the drunk driving charge in Allegan County on Dec. 5.

Hill had been a county probation officer, and is also a former state police officer. James will continue to be paid by the county until his last day of work on Feb. 9, Cultra said.

James was charged by Allegan city police with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated. A pretrial conference in the case has been scheduled for Feb. 9. James earlier pleaded not guilty to the charge.

Meanwhile, the state Attorney General office in Lansing has appointed Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz to serve as special prosecutor in the related domestic assault investigation of James. Van Buren County Prosecutor Juris Kaps asked for the special prosecutor because of his long-time working relationship with James.

At the request of Allegan police, Van Buren County Sheriff's detectives investigated whether James may have beaten his wife on Dec. 5. His wife was taken by ambulance to Allegan General Hospital that night with severe trauma injuries, and Allegan police said they did not know whether the injuries were consistent with the couple's statements that there had been an accidental fall.

J. Michael James admitted driving to the hospital that night after drinking some vodka tonics, and was arrested at the hospital after police were called to investigate. A preliminary breath test at the hospital showed he had a blood alcohol level of .127, more than 50 percent higher than the state's legal limit of .08, police said.

Contacted at home Thursday, James said he was resigning due to the police investigation, "which is a bunch of baloney." He declined to further comment.

                     







In brief
Posted: Tuesday, January 13, 2009 12:00 am
Updated: 8:06 pm, Tue Nov 15, 2011.
The Herald-Palladium
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/in-brief/article_17ba567e-57e1-5404-a620-2b88f286214d.html

VB magistrate faces February court date
ALLEGAN - The next court hearing in the case of Van Buren District Court Magistrate J. Michael James, charged with operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated last month in Allegan County, has been adjourned until Feb. 9, court officials said.

James had pleaded not guilty to the charge. The pretrial conference had been scheduled for Jan. 9, court officials said earlier.

James is on paid administrative leave from his post at the South Haven courthouse.










Court official charged with DUI
Police: Magistrate drove to Allegan General Hospital while intoxicated
Posted: Wednesday, December 31, 2008 12:00 am
Updated: 7:51 pm, Tue Nov 15, 2011.
H-P South Haven Bureau The Herald-Palladium
http://www.heraldpalladium.com/localnews/court-official-charged-with-dui/article_c14a3ac1-0193-5e6b-9c8c-3458b57ebbd8.html

SOUTH HAVEN - A veteran Van Buren County court magistrate finds himself on the wrong side of the law after being arrested for drunk driving in Allegan County.

And he may be facing additional criminal charges. Van Buren County authorities are also investigating whether J. Michael James assaulted his wife earlier that day.

James, 61, of Bloomingdale Township is the magistrate at Seventh District Court in South Haven and a former assistant Van Buren County prosecutor.

He was arrested on Dec. 5 at Allegan General Hospital in Allegan, according to the city police report.

James pleaded not guilty to the charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated during his arraignment in Allegan County District Court, according to court staff.

Chief Van Buren County Judge Paul Hamre has placed James on paid administrative leave, pending the outcome of the case, and the state court administrator's office has appointed a magistrate to fill his duties at the South Haven court for now, officials said Tuesday.

According to the police report, James appeared intoxicated at the hospital.

A preliminary breath test at the hospital showed he had a blood alcohol level of 0.127, more than 50 percent higher than the state's legal limit of 0.08.

Patrolman Jay Gibson said James told him he had been drinking vodka tonics and admitted he drove about 6 miles to the hospital.

Meanwhile, Van Buren County Prosecutor Juris Kaps said Tuesday he is asking for the state Attorney General's office to appoint a special prosecutor from outside Van Buren County to investigate an allegation that James assaulted his wife that night.

The woman was taken to the hospital by ambulance, with a black eye, a bleeding face and bruising to her face, neck and upper torso.

She and her husband both maintained she had fallen in their home, but Gibson said he wasn't sure the injuries were consistent with a fall.

Due to loss of blood and trouble maintaining her blood pressure, she was taken by helicopter to Bronson Methodist Hospital in Kalamazoo.

Van Buren County sheriff's detectives last week concluded their investigation into the assault allegation, and turned their report over to Kaps for review, Detective Gabrielle Rought said.

Due to his long-time working relationship with James, Kaps is asking the Attorney General's office to appoint another prosecutor to the case.

James was an assistant Van Buren prosecutor from 1981 to 1989, when he was appointed magistrate.

A pretrial conference has been set for Jan. 9 on James' drunken driving charge.


                   










Van Buren County magistrate, J. Michael James, suspended after arrest
By Sarah Crone Kalamazoo Gazette
December 30, 2008, 12:08PM
http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2008/12/van_buren_county_magistrate_j.html

ALLEGAN -- A Van Buren County court magistrate was arrested earlier this month for allegedly driving while intoxicated to Allegan General Hospital to be with his injured wife, according to a police report.

Magistrate J. Michael James has been suspended with pay from his job, said Paul Hamre, chief judge of the Van Buren County Circuit Court.

A report from the Allegan City Police Department shows that a separate investigation was to be conducted into whether James' wife had been assaulted or whether her injuries were the result of an accident.

The woman, who is not named in the report, suffered severe trauma to the head and upper torso area. The report says doctors considered airlifting her to Bronson Methodist Hospital for treatment, although it does not state whether that occurred.

James told police his wife sustained the injuries in a fall, the report says.

He is scheduled to have a pretrial hearing Jan. 9 on the misdemeanor drunken driving charge.

The Gazette was unable to reach James, 61, for comment Monday.

He is the magistrate and administrator at Van Buren County's 7th District Court East Division in South Haven. He was first appointed magistrate in 1981.

According to the police report, James followed an ambulance that was carrying his wife to the hospital in early December.

Police were dispatched to the hospital on reports of a disorderly person in the waiting room who appeared to be drunk, urinating in his pants and, at one point, passing out.

Allegan police officer Jay Gibson wrote in the police report that James smelled of alcohol and told the officer that he'd had vodka tonics that evening.

According to the report, Gibson conducted three separate breath tests that showed James had a blood-alcohol level of 0.127 percent in one test and 0.13 percent in two subsequent tests. The legal limit for driving in Michigan is 0.08 percent.

The report said that a Van Buren County Sheriff's Department deputy was dispatched to the hospital to investigate the injuries to James' wife. The Allegan report does not say whether that occurred.

Hamre said the Van Buren County Judicial Council, composed of the county's judges and headed by him, is expected discuss the suspension and reason behind it at a future date that has not yet been determined.

The case also could be addressed by the state Judicial Tenure Commission and/or the State Court Administrative Office, Hamre said.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Van Buren County should have provided Mr. James a treatment plan for alcohol-related problems instead of pushing him out of his position of 28 years. I would think there would be some employee benefits available for government employees to get help, not just public humiliation and forced retirement. Yes, it is a crime to drive while intoxicated. But, after 28 years of public service, this man deserves the chance to use the benefits of mental health resources.