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Posted on Tue, Jul 13, 2010 : 9:55 p.m.

Community members hold meeting to seek answers, object to Judge J. Cedric Simpson's reassignment

By Dave Gershman

Washtenaw District Court Judge J. Cedric Simpson thanked community members who packed a meeting room Tuesday evening for their support and said he was told his recent reassignment to handle only civil cases wasn't disciplinary.

The Rev. Joseph Cousin, pastor of the Bethel AME Church of Ann Arbor, organized the meeting after the change sparked many questions in the African American community that remain unanswered. He said community members are looking for Chief 14A District Judge Kirk Tabbey to provide a fuller explanation for the reassignment.

About 70 people attended the meeting in the Ann Arbor Community Center.


Judge J. Cedric Simpson

Several audience members said Simpson set a positive example for the community, showed an understanding of the community, and presided fairly over his courtroom. They suggested a campaign to reverse the court changes.

“Tonight is just the beginning,” said Cousin.

Simpson had presided over criminal and civil cases in 14A District Court. Tabbey reassigned him to handle only civil cases. His criminal docket was split between Tabbey and Judge Richard Conlin. 

The State Court Administrator’s Office approved the changes, which were announced to court staff July 6 and took effect immediately.

Tabbey was also invited to Tuesday's meeting. A representative said the chief judge received the offer on Monday and couldn't attend because of a prior commitment.

Simpson spoke briefly at the start of the meeting and took several questions, though he declined to respond to many of them, citing the deference judges show for the court. “There are certain statements I will not make,” he said.

Simpson said he assumed the changes were made in the best interest of the court and should not be viewed as disciplinary. “Please don’t do anything in my name that is not respectful of the system that I am a part of,” he said.

Simpson said he received an e-mail June 29 indicating Tabbey wanted to discuss changes to case assignments that would become effective in July. 

At a meeting on July 1, Simpson said he was told by a representative of Tabbey, who could not attend because of an illness, that he would be reassigned. He said a second meeting was arranged for July 6, but was not held. He did not elaborate.

Tabbey previously told the changes were made to increase court efficiency. Magistrate Camille Horne had been called to active military duty. Tabbey said it made sense for Simpson to assume the entire civil docket because of his experience and expertise in civil cases.

Simpson was appointed to the district court in 1999. When Tabbey was named chief judge in 2008, he replaced Simpson, who had presided in the post for three two-year terms.

Dave Gershman is a freelance writer for, Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 6:47 p.m.

@ILJ: I agree, this is not about race. However, the principals involved are African Americans and I find it curious that with all the issues facing the African American community this is one that has generating some activism in a community that seems to have lost the ability to advocate on its behalf. I still say that there are members of Pastors Cousins church who face fairness and justice issues everyday but does he convene a community meeting respond to them? At the most, a committee will probably be formed, a couple meetings will beheld with the appropriate actors, things will be smooth over and the issues that are having a debilitating effect on the African American community will still be there.


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 12:48 p.m.

@KeepingItReal: I dont think the fuss is about a perceived snub of Judge Simpson. I think it is about how there are many strange things about this change in the operation of the 14A District Court, and how the person who made the change has so far not been willing to field peoples questions about his decision. If a very competent, accomplished and respected criminal law judge has been pulled off of all criminal cases for reasons that have to do with politics or money, then people SHOULD be upset black, white and every other color. I think this is about fairness and justice, not race.


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 12:33 p.m.

I read and re-read the article in an effort to try and figure out what's going on. First Rev. Cousin says that..."Tonight is just the beginning" and Judge Simpson, after giving the group a synopsis of the events as they transpired, pleaded with the group to not "do anything in my name that is not respectful of the system that I am a part of." He also states that the action taken by Tabbey is "not disciplinary." So what's the problem here? It seems to me that there are a lot more important issues that have happened just this past year that impacts the African American community but the voice of the African American community has been incredibly silent on these issues. Judge Simpson is an educated man who has access to many resources and people and if he feels strongly enough about the recent changes then let him marshal those resources and fight that battle. All too often, Blacks get all riled up about a perceived snub of someone in a position like Judge Simpson, raise cane until the emotions dies down and the issue fades away while at the same time, real problems, i.e. education, black on black violence crime and violence, jail and prison, community apathy, substance abuse, etc., suffers from a lack of leadership. Rev. Cousin, I would venture to say that there are probably members of your congregation and other blacks in the community who could benefit from your advocacy. Why don't you used your position as a pastor in this to seek and pursue solutions to things that have a direct impact on blacks. Judge Simpson will survive this drama.


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 12:21 p.m.

@Mick52: I'm sure that Judge Tabbey had ample opportunity to speak to Judge Simpson directly, since they work in the same court every day and I assume his decision to change court operations was not made overnight. The fact that he did not personally inform Judge Simpson about the changes he was making in the operation of the court, but instead informed the affected judge through an intermediary, says something about the situation.


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 11:11 a.m.

Despite what the story says, I sense some underlying current here that Judge Simpson's case load is changing due to some unreported issue. @ILJ's comments are way off base. The story indicates that Judge Tabbey was ill at the time of the meeting set with Judge Simpson, and he had a prior commitment at the time of this community meeting. You can't expect an official to change his schedule. Perhaps his prior commitment was for some other community purpose. Or a meeting that could not be rescheduled. I know both of these judges and have enormous respect for both of them. Judge Simpson clearly states this move is not disciplinary, so what is the problem here? If someone has some factual information on this upon which these conspiracy theories are based, please post such.


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 10:38 a.m.

Perhaps should look into 14A's finances. Under Simpson there was a surplus of money. Under Tabby not only was that surplus extinguished, but it was driven into the red and continues to go further...perhaps even into the hundreds of thousands? Funney how 6 years of Simpson surplus got taken away by two years of Tabby turmoil. Sounds like Mr. Tabby was looking for a scapegoat in Judge Simpson. I know the courts hold records of all that stuff. It'd be interesting to read what a journalist could dig up.


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 10:02 a.m.

If I read this correctly, Tabbey did not speak directly with Simpson before making the changes to his docket, but instead notified him through a "representative"? And Tabbey was too busy to come answer the public's questions about the changes on Tuesday evening? It appears that the only one Tabbey has spoken to directly about the changes is Ann And seeing as how there are no fresh quotes from Tabbey in this latest story, maybe he has even stopped talking to Ann Tabbey needs to address this directly. He is a public servant and he owes the public answers to their questions about the abrupt and unusual changes he has made at their court. If he's avoiding answering questions from Simpson and from the public, it makes me think that he's afraid to defend his actions, maybe because they will be difficult to defend.


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 8:08 a.m.

Judge Simpson is an excellent judge. Problem with Washtenaw County is many of the judges just give the "poor" criminals a slap on the wrist, very little justice for the victims. Judge Simpson is fair but tough, requiring criminals to be responsible for their behavior. We need more judges like Simpson.


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 8:05 a.m.

I got reassigned at work. No meetings, no protests, nothing. How come nobody cares about me.


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 7:35 a.m.

Judge Simpson is fair, tough on defendants when he needs to be, and helpful to attorneys and litigants during court proceedings. He is one of the finest judges in Washtenaw County.


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 6:31 a.m.

Judge Simpson is one of the finest attorneys and CLEARLY the finest judge in the county. Wherever he has contributed it has been to the benefit of our community. I'm sure that will continue to be true. My question is: How can we get him into Circuit Court?

Stephen Landes

Tue, Jul 13, 2010 : 9:41 p.m.

I applaud Judge Simpson for his statements as portrayed in this article because he demonstrates respect for his profession and fellow judges. I hope his approach to commenting on the operations of his court, regardless of his personal feelings or concerns, are viewed by others as an example of honorable behavior worth emulating.