Judge's pay will be garnished to cover verdict

By Ed White
Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) — A Detroit-area judge says he’s open to settlement talks after he lost a key decision that will cost him more than $1 million. Dearborn Judge Mark Somers said 25 percent of his pay will continue to be garnished to pay off a $734,000 verdict, plus legal fees, won by a former court employee. But with interest accruing, it’s hard to make a dent.

“It’s not chicken feed — it’s got to be close to $30,000 a year,” Somers told The Associated Press. “But I’m not making much ground. Never will.”

Julie Pucci accused Somers of illegally firing her in 2006. He said it was a legitimate reorganization at 19th District Court, but Pucci won the trial in federal court.

Pucci and Somers wanted the city of Dearborn, which pays the court’s budget, to pay the verdict. But the Michigan Supreme Court last week dropped interest in the case with a two-sentence order and let an appeals court decision stand in Dearborn's favor. Somers, 59, said he would consider settlement talks with Pucci.

“My resources are limited. It’s a foolish notion to close that door,” the judge said.

Pucci's lawyer, Joel Sklar, said he’s “mystified” that the Supreme Court didn’t write a full opinion after ordering detailed briefs and hearing arguments.

“That’s the source of Julie’s disappointment and my disappointment,” he said. “It would have been more satisfying, win or lose, to have an explanation.”

As for getting the money, Sklar said he’ll “continue to pursue whatever avenues of collection we can pursue” with Somers.

Deborah Gordon, an attorney who specializes in employment law, said it’s unusual for the Supreme Court to agree to hear a case and then drop it. She has sued public workers and won verdicts that were paid by local governments.

The court “decided it was a hot potato or there was a complete change of heart whether they should take up these weighty issues,” Gordon said.