The curious case of Hon. Benjamin H. Logan

A deal to resolve misconduct charges filed by the Judicial Tenure Commission against 61st District Court Judge Benjamin H. Logan may be on the rocks.

Last fall, the JTC’s formal complaint alleged that Logan’s intervention to grant bond to Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn gave the “appearance of impropriety.” See, The Michigan Lawyer: Special master appointed in Grand Rapids judicial misconduct case

Vaughn had been arrested for domestic violence.

The complaint alleged that Logan intervened after a telephone call with another commissioner, Paul Mayhue, who visited Vaughn in jail. Logan initially denied that any phone conversations took place. He eventually conceded in a JTC settlement agreement that he and Mayhue spoke for 15 minutes on the day Vaughn was arrested.

The JTC recommended a public censure for Logan and sent the file to the Michigan Supreme Court for approval.

Wait a minute, something doesn’t seem to be adding up, we’re curious, a little more “explication,” please, said Justices Elizabeth A. Weaver, Maura D. Corrigan, Robert P. Young, Jr., Stephen J. Markman and Diane M. Hathaway.

We DIRECT the Judicial Tenure Commission to file a supplemental report within 56 days of the date of this order, explaining:

(1) whether it has determined that the respondent did not lie to the Commission, despite the allegations in Count II of the complaint; and

(2) if the respondent did not lie to the JTC, then how does the respondent explain his admitted 15-minute phone call received from Mayhue in light of his multiple denials of having any conversations with Mayhue on the date in question? See page 4 of the settlement agreement (admitting that the 2:08 p.m. phone call from Mayhue to the respondent on 6/17/08 lasted approximately 15 minutes), pages 5-6 of the complaint (alleging that the respondent denied having any conversations with Mayhue on that date), and page 2 of the respondent’s answer (continuing to deny that he had any conversation with Mayhue on that date).

One possible reading of the tea leaves: if a judge lies to the JTC, something more than a public slap on the wrist is in order.

Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly and Justice Michael F. Cavanagh “would adopt the recommendation of the Judicial Tenure Commission.”

JTC complaint against Grand Rapids judge violates due process, says lawyer

If the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission decides to continue its prosecution of Grand Rapids District Judge Benjamin Logan, it will be violating the judge’s constitutional right to due process, reports The Grand Rapids Press.

That’s the contention made in Logan’s response to the commission’s complaint that he allowed personal relationships to influence his decision to release Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, D-Grand Rapids, on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond prior to his aggravated assault arraignment.

Logan is being represented by former Kent County Circuit Judge Dennis Kolenda, who is now in private practice.

Special master appointed in Grand Rapids judicial misconduct case

The Michigan Supreme Court has appointed the Hon. Vesta Svenson as the special master who will hear judicial misconduct charges lodged against 61st District Court Judge Benjamin H. Logan.

In a formal complaint, the Judicial Tenure Commission alleges that Logan authorized a $5,000 personal recognizance bond for Kent County Commissioner James Vaughn, who had been jailed on a probable cause charge of aggravated domestic assault.

The JTC alleges that Logan did so after a series of phone calls between him and Kent County Commissioner Paul Mayhue, who had visited Vaughn after he was jailed.

According to the JTC, Logan was not handling arrangments the day Vaughn was arrested, and Vaughn had not yet been arraigned when Logan sent a fax to the jail authorizing Vaughn’s release.

The JTC’s complaint charges that Logan never asked the Grand Rapids police for additional information about the case, and never told them about the bond he authorized for Vaughn.

Vaughn was later convicted of aggravated assault and domestic violence, and was sentenced to a term in the Kent County jail.

In two separate letters, the JTC quizzed Logan about the alleged events. In each response, Logan denied speaking by phone or in person with Mayhue about Vaughn’s situation.

The JTC alleges that Logan’s denials “were false, willfully so, intended to mislead the Commission, and constituted a breach of Respondent’s duty to cooperate with the Commission.”

The JTC’s formal complaint alleges that Logan’s conduct violated the state constitution, several canons of the Michigan Code of Judicial Conduct, including MCJC, Canon 2C – allowing family, social, or other relationships to influence judicial conduct or judgment – and the Michigan Court Rules.