Saturday, January 17, 2009

Detroit Corporation Counsel Kathleen Leavey Browbeaten Into Resigning After Characterizing Michigan's 36th District Court As A "Ghetto Court"

The city of Detroit's top lawyer resigned under pressure on Thursday January 15th, 2009 after she told an official with the Michigan 36th District Court that it was "acting like a ghetto court". Full stories published by the Detroit News and the Detroit Free Press.

Discussion posted on the Vanguard News Network Forum, the Detroit News Forums, and the Dearborn Underground blog. Now picked up by DetroitIsCrap.

Detroit corporation counsel Kathleen Leavey, who is white, allegedly made the comment on Wednesday to a court administrator, Constance Allen. Leavey, Allen and Dennis Mazurek, the city's chief assistant corporation counsel, were talking about a $400,000 judgment recently decided against the city, but Leavey said the conversation branched into the overall performance of the court.

"I called it that because of the way they treat people," Leavey said, speaking in part of the long lines for service that are common in the court. "They treat people poorly ... whether you are black or white. You just get less service than you get in the suburbs. It's just a bad situation. She (the administrator) interpreted it as racist. That's not what I am. There was nothing I could do to explain. They just concluded it was racist."

And when Chief District Judge Marilyn Atkins heard about it, she quite literally chimped out and went on the warpath. First, she contacted Deputy Mayor Saul Green about the comment Thursday. Then Atkins sent a scathing letter regarding the comment to Leavey and other city officials, including all the court's judges. Green then asked to her resign. Leavey said she has not talked with Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr.

Atkins viciously berated Leavey in the letter. She wrote, "How dare you! Not only are your words insulting and racist to this court and the entire city, but they are highly unprofessional coming from the highest ranking attorney for the City of Detroit. You should really think before you speak, especially when referring to this court -- a predominantly African American court in a predominantly African American city with an African American about to become president."

Atkins, who wrote she would not accept an apology from Leavey even if she offered, also defended the court in the letter saying it has a "positive reputation" in the city and that judges are hardworking and dedicated.

"Her resignation as corporate counsel is between her and the mayor," said Atkins said Friday. "I just knew I needed to address her racist remarks. The outcome of the situation was not something I had considered. My focus was on responding to her comments. I needed to respond and respond quickly." As Chief Judge, Atkins supervises 30 judges and six magistrates.

Cockrel's spokesperson, Daniel Cherrin, called the comments unacceptable. "It's an unfortunate development in Kathy's long and productive careers as a city employee and as an attorney representing the city," Cherrin said. "I know the mayor was disappointed by the comments, which were unacceptable and do not reflect the values and policies of the city of Detroit and this administration."

Councilman Kwame Kenyatta was a bit more charitable, saying the controversy was an "unfortunate situation", and also said he believed Leavey was representing the city well since being appointed by Cockrel this fall. But he said she needed to step down because the comment could be interpreted as racist and the fact that the court staff was insulted.

But even though Leavey is resigning her position, which she held since September 2008, she's not leaving the city's employ. She plans to revert to her civil servant position in the law department, where she's been at since 1985. She pledges not to go down without a fight, and is "deeply wounded" by the accusation of racism.

Local public reaction as expressed on the Detroit News Forums is almost all against Judge Marilyn Atkins and supportive of Kathleen Leavey. Even some of those who identify as black agree that Judge Atkins' court is a "ghetto court"; one black respondent spoke about moving two counties away to get a case out of her jurisdiction. Some have also speculated on the possibility that Leavey might be Jewish, but I could find no confirmation of this. I don't believe she would have been pressured into resigning if she was Jewish; the Jews watch each others backs.

It's obvious the double standard is alive and well in Detroit. God forbid you criticize a black person, but blacks can berate and abuse whites at will. And this is a black professional, no less. Some blacks are getting the impression that with Obama about to become President, they can start lording it over us.

We must be prepared to disabuse that notion.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

See for context