LANSING, Michigan — A Detroit-area judge was "stupid" for having an affair with a woman who appeared in his court, but he shouldn't lose his job over it, an attorney said Wednesday as he urged the Michigan Supreme Court to choose a different punishment.
The court heard an hour of vigorous arguments in the case of Wade McCree, who has said he was smitten with a younger woman who appeared as a plaintiff in a child support case and that they began an extramarital affair last year inside and outside the Wayne County courthouse.
It's not McCree's first misconduct case. The Supreme Court reprimanded him in 2012 after a TV station reported that he had sent a topless photo of himself to a female court officer. The picture of the fit judge earned McCree a nickname: "buff judge."
That same TV station, WJBK, subsequently broke the story of McCree's affair with Geniene La'Shay Mott. McCree didn't immediately remove himself from her child support case when the affair began — a key part of his misconduct, according to a watchdog agency, the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission.
"It hardly enhances the judiciary to have a jurist having sex with a plaintiff in an action over which he's presiding," Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. said.
McCree has been suspended without pay since February. The commission wants the Supreme Court to remove him from office and keep him off the bench for six years if he's re-elected in 2014.
McCree's attorney, Brian Einhorn, said some sanction is appropriate but not what the commission is seeking.
"I can't think of a better word than stupid" to sum up McCree's relationship with Mott, Einhorn told the court.
He blamed it on "hypomania," a mental and emotional condition that was disclosed earlier this year during McCree's misconduct hearing.
Young wondered whether it's appropriate to disqualify McCree from being a judge, as the commission seeks, if he's re-elected in 2014.
"Why should we, in effect, intervene and thwart the ... process of voting?" Young said.
The commission's executive director, Paul Fischer, said the public could re-elect McCree but it's still the Supreme Court's job "to remove an unfit judge from office."