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Posted on Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 3:44 p.m.

Washtenaw District Judge Cedric Simpson reassigned to civil cases only

By Amalie Nash

A judicial assignment shakeup at Washtenaw County's 14th District Court means Judge J. Cedric Simpson will no longer be presiding over criminal cases.

The changes, announced to the district court staff today, are effective immediately.

Simpson, who presided over criminal and civil cases in 14A District Court, has been reassigned to handle civil cases only. His criminal docket was divided between Chief Judge Kirk Tabbey and Judge Richard Conlin.


Judge J. Cedric Simpson

Tabbey said the changes were made because schedules needed to be shuffled due to Magistrate Camille Horne recently being called to military duty. He said it made sense for Simpson to assume the entire civil docket because of his experience and expertise in civil cases.

Tabbey declined to discuss whether performance was an issue with Simpson, saying that's a personnel issue. "I have received no official written complaints about Judge Simpson, and any other issues are personnel matters, so I would have no comment," he said this afternoon.

A message seeking comment was left with Simpson.

A spokeswoman with the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission said no formal complaints have been filed against Simpson. She said any grievances against judges are confidential.

The reassignments were approved by the State Court Administrator's Office. A spokeswoman from that office was not immediately available for comment today.

When Tabbey was named chief judge of the 14A District Court in 2008, he replaced Simpson, who presided over the court for three two-year terms.


14th District Court Chief Judge Kirk Tabbey

Simpson, first appointed to the 14th District Court in 1999, is known for his no nonsense style in the courtroom. In 2007, he ordered a legal intern for the Washtenaw County Public Defender to be locked up after he repeatedly showed up without the security badge that allowed him to speak to clients in lockup and his cell phone went off in court.

Under his new assignment, Simpson will remain in his current chambers and hear all civil cases, including landlord tenant hearings and general civil pretrial hearings. His pending criminal cases go Tabbey and Conlin.

"Cases pending will be reassigned as they are scheduled for new hearings, when bench warrants are issued, when arraignments are set, or when matters are adjourned," a document released today states. "Defendants having no objection to being sentenced by a judge other than the judge who took the plea will file a sentencing judge waiver form prior to scheduling the sentencing hearing. Defendants who object to being sentenced by a different judge will have their cases re-assigned to the original judge for sentencing."

15th District Court Magistrate M. Colleen Currie will hear some of Horne's cases in her absence, the memo states.

Tabbey said the reassignments should allow the court to function more efficiently.

"There will be a lot of positive outcomes to this," Tabbey said. "Looking at the absence of the magistrate and addressing the huge scheduling hole that left, we needed to make some moves. We've been planning this for a while, and we anticipate it will be a smooth transition."

The reassignments will be evaluated again in six months, Tabbey said.

Amalie Nash is the news director for and can be reached at


monroe c

Fri, Jul 23, 2010 : 5:24 p.m.

btrfligrl14 wrote "If there is change that is desperately needed at 14 a-1 court it is to get them a second or third probation officer. Mr. Graham is way overworked there." Maybe Mr. Graham would be more productive if he wasn't a full-time doctoral student at UM: How can he handle such a large workload when he's going to school for an advanced degree in social work? Oh, right, he can't....


Wed, Jul 21, 2010 : 8:34 a.m.

I had Judge Simpson as my judge in 2007. Though he is a little unorthodox he is a fair judge. Basic rule for him is DON"T LIE. He was hard on me but fair. If it were not for him I would not have 3 years clean and be living as a productive member of society. He played a big part of me getting my life back on track. I was not happy about having to be on a alcohol tether for 4mos but he did it because he knew how bad of an alcoholic I was. He scared the crap out of me and never wanting to be in front of him ever again helped me stay where I am today...a clean and sober individual. I have since sat in his courtroom with clients and friends that have gotten into trouble, and I have noticed that he is trying to help people. There are a lot of people out there with substance abuse problems and I believe he knows this. Thus why he is so hard on people. The article mentioned what he had done to a public defender, well what makes them different from the public? If I brought a cell phone in and it went off would I not be in trouble too? I once sat in his court when he yelled at all of the PD's because they had not spoke to their clients in holding. Now to me that is making sure the accused get a fair shake. No one in this world is exempt from fault. He ran a tight ship plain and simple. I thought his "lessons" to some of the younger accused were admirable and necessary. Kids these days are out of control and do not realize how their actions are going to effect them later in life. He was only trying to help, so I do not think calling Judge Simpson names or attacking is character is worth while. He did the best he could with what he had to deal with in his court. If there is change that is desperately needed at 14 a-1 court it is to get them a second or third probation officer. Mr. Graham is way overworked there. I know I will miss Judge Simpson help in the criminal justice system. Say what you will he IS a good judge!!


Wed, Jul 14, 2010 : 5:18 p.m.

Many lives will be lost because of this decision. Judge Simpson handled his criminal court in the best way possible: he saved lives which many deemed unsavable, punished those who deserved to be punished, and applauded and respected those who deserved it. Whoever said in an earlier post that criminals and thugs would be smiling was dead on. This is truly a sad moment.


Sun, Jul 11, 2010 : 7:58 p.m.

The only time I was in his courtroom, Judge Simpson was arrogant, smug, and assumed he knew what was going on without giving me, my family, or my attorney a chance to speak. I came in to his court on pain medication following a hospitalization. He told me I "looked high" and demanded that I take a drug test, after I had already told him I was on opiate medication and provided proof of my prescription. After the test results came back positive for opiates, he revoked my PR bond and gave me a $10,000 cash bond, because he "suspected" that I was on more drugs than I was prescribed, regardless of the lack of any evidence other than his suspicion. I also know of a young woman who was in Judge Simpson's court for 3rd degree retail fraud, and because of her history, he chose to make an "example" of her, letting her sit in jail for over 4 months before she was even sentenced, then setting a bond review where he let her out on an electronic monitoring tether, which she wore for another 2 months. Judge Simpson had her doing daily drug testing for the four months after her release from jail (during which she frequently had to appear in person in his courtroom for progress reports, a la drug court) that he postponed her actual sentencing date. I'm sure Simpson believed he was doing good in this case but that is not how justice is supposed to work...that's why we have sentencing guidelines, which he cleverly sidestepped in this case by never sentencing the defendant. It is a waste of money, as well as being cruel, unusual, and paternalistic, to be putting people who commit crimes like this (the defendant in the retail fraud case stole some video games, with a combined value of under $200, from Target) on electronic tethers, in jail for months, or in long-term drug treatment at taxpayer expense.


Sat, Jul 10, 2010 : 9:59 p.m.

It's about time this man was taken off of criminal cases. He was a lunatic behind the bench, and quite frankly, I would like to see him discharged from the court system entirely. At least this was a step in the right direction. I have seen him on the bench and he tended to rule on pure emotion and often refused to listen to logic. I commend this decision wholeheartedly!


Sat, Jul 10, 2010 : 6:02 p.m.

This is long overdue. Having observed his behavior on the bench, I cannot believe he is trusted to pass judgment on others. Not only does he squeeze the poorest people for their last dollars, he will interrupt witnesses if they present ideas contrary to his bias, and will often play with his cell phone or perform personal grooming during a trial. Also, I have observed judicial oversight representatives in his courtroom, and noticed a marked change in his behavior when that is the case...


Thu, Jul 8, 2010 : 1:59 p.m.

@Jake341956: I suspect its less about race and more about judicial politics and making money. If you have ever been involved in the court system or been around the legal system you will find that the outcomes are less about achieving justice and rehabilitating the offender than it is about developing a track record as being "tough on crime." Sometimes the very laws that are designed to "punish" criminals on behalf of the people, wound up "criminalizing" individuals who otherwise have no business being in the system except for that first time offense. Judge Simpson has a reputation for being a no non-sense Judge who used common sense in relating to individuals who appeared in his court. His judicial colleagues probably did not appreciate his popularity and this is the way they choose to address it. Its too bad that at a time when our correction budget is running amok, we still have this mentality of "lock em up. Its makes good politics and to hell with the financial pressures it creates.


Thu, Jul 8, 2010 : 1:53 p.m.

If Judge Tabbey did this for economic reasons I believe he has failed the community. Judge Simpson may be responsible for turning more young people from heading down the wrong path than any other judge in the county. He is fair,smart,great at reading the person before him, and he passionately cares for the young dummies that end up before him for being young and stupid. I have spent a significant amount of time in his court room over the last 10 years. I can state without reservation that my wife and I have a now grown son that is a productive, law abiding citizen, and would have been in the prison if it weren't for the astute manner in which the judge handled this young man over a period of time. Every new practicing criminal judge would be well served to have spent a little time watching Judge Simpson. I hope over time Judge Tabbey reconsiders.


Thu, Jul 8, 2010 : 12:09 p.m.

I've observed Judge Simpson's court for quite some time and although his methods may seem unorthodox at times, the results are he achieves are unquestionable. He genuinely cares for his defendants and at some point they respect what he tries to do for them. Ever since the Chief Judge title has changed hands, there has appeared to be a power struggle between these two Judges. It seems strange that the only black judge in the 14th District court is being handled in such a disrespectful manner. What a waste...


Thu, Jul 8, 2010 : 6:47 a.m.

Ms. Nash-Please dig out the true story on this one - it's all about the finances. There were no complaints against Judge Simpson from any lawyers or suspects or convicts. There is an allegation from Judge Tabbey that Judge Simpson wasn't bringing enough moneny into the court. Ask Judge Tabbey about it, who recently became Chief Judge Tabbey. Doesn't fairness dictate a truthful answer from him? It has nothing to do with Magistrate's Horne departure. It has everything to do with Judge Tabbey trying to make Judge Simpson look like he's done something wrong in the management of his court. Hear me now - the management of his court, not his role as an adjudicator. His constituents deserve to know the truth about why this is happening and complain to the right people. This is a justice system, we have a vote here.

ronn oneal

Thu, Jul 8, 2010 : 12:27 a.m.

This is the few of many Judges that I know from personal dealings that's down to earth. Ran into the man while in Lowe's/Home Depot after he convicted me and slap me with a fine. Most of the fine was paid by doing community service, which was far, and Drug screens(drops) that wasn't a problem either but, surprisingly he invited me to the court room during lunch time and have lunch together. Now where I come from and have been; that's unheard of. I call it just doing his job. I've seen him go outside of the box a few days and a 5min case turns out to be 45 mins and a drug screen because someone lied to him about their business on the stand.


Wed, Jul 7, 2010 : 9:54 p.m.

Are you people serious? That was THEE definition of "Napoleon Complex"!


Wed, Jul 7, 2010 : 9:30 p.m.

Attorneys who practice in front of a judge are going to be hesitant to file a grievance report against that judge because that person's name will appear in the report. So, the judge will know who did it. That would make practicing law uncomfortable. So, even if Simpson was the worst judge on the planet, which I am not saying he is, attorneys are not going to complain. The grievance process is a joke because grievance commissions aren't going to take people appearing before the judges opinions seriously, and attorneys aren't going to file grievances even if they know a judge is horrible.


Wed, Jul 7, 2010 : 8:43 a.m.

Ha! The crutches story just makes me like Judge Simpson even more! My only experience with Judge Simpson is as a student in one of the criminal justice classes he teaches at WCC. He is a fantastic teacher. If he is teaching from the bench, defendants would do well to shut up and listen. Theyre getting a free lesson from someone who knows what hes talking about and has their best interests at heart. I plan to sign up for Judge Simpsons Criminal Law class in the fall. Strange that I will be taking criminal law with him just as he stops hearing criminal cases. It sure feels like there is some motivation behind this move that the public is not privy to. To take a widely respected criminal judge who teaches criminal justice classes off of all criminal cases is definitely weird.


Wed, Jul 7, 2010 : 8:38 a.m.

@Amalie, don't let the commentators get to you, the article was fine.

Alex Brown

Wed, Jul 7, 2010 : 6:36 a.m.

I will never forget seeing the coverage on television of him during the trial of the "Gentleman" taking deposits for suits then not delivering when he said "I have never called anyone a liar but you, sir, I do not believe anything you have said in this courtroom". @weijtmann - the court has a schedule. So he did not give you special any special treatment. That is exactly what court rules require!


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 10:07 p.m.

This is a big mistake. Simpson's one of the best. Smells political to me. Damn shame.


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 9:13 p.m.

This is just a travesty - Judge Simpson is the best of the best, one of the fairest and most honorable judges out there in the world today. What a loss to the criminal judicial system. And sad for many, especially teens, who will be facing that fork in the road -- he took the time to reach out, and was innovative with his guidance.


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 7:47 p.m.

Im surprised this happen judge simpson is prolly the most fair judge there is. He may be hursh but he gives what is need to try to put people on the right path. If they choose the follow that path is a different story. He tries helps people more then he henders them.

Lou Perry

Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 7:22 p.m.

I don't know what manifested this change; yes, there is politics in Courts. Judge Simpson is an outstanding Judge dealing with a variety of cases and defendants. I've sat in courtrooms over the years a lot (don't ask - I'm not an attorney). Judge Simpson does his job without beating-up those who appeared in front of him nor does he judge with a closed mind. He treats people with counsel not with respect.Even more, when light issues or situations are presented, there is a smile. Here again, politics seem to control our courts.If you sit and observe Judge Conlin's Court in Chelsea, I;m not sure he knows how to deal with urban crime and college students. I don't know when Judge Simpson's responsibility changes, but sit in his court for awhile, you'll see the American system of Justis working at its best.


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 7:03 p.m.

We will never really know what happened here with Simpson. But on the surface... sure does look like there was a problem and it had something to do with the criminal side of his cases. If you are in a position for long enough.. changes are bound to occur.


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 6:51 p.m.

You take a no nonsense judge like Simpson who is strict but fair to everyone no matter what side of the courtroom you are sitting on and put him in charge of civil case only? Of course there is something going on here. It would be bad enough if it were personal but it seems that it might be about revenue? Seriously? Do we enforce laws and hire the number of people we need to do that or do we enforce laws to generate revenue to keep government employees employed? If this is true then this is government run amuck. Out with the old and in with the new I say.


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 6:16 p.m.

@ Amalie Nash-Are women judges called to active duty a common occurrence or was that simply not a news-worthy story?


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 4:32 p.m.

No reports of any reprimands against Judge Simpson, yet you spin this story to imply that misconduct is the reason he's being reassigned? Why not a story about Magistrate Horne's being called-up to active duty? Was that not interesting enough for a lead story?


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 4:32 p.m.

I have known Judge Simpson for 12 years. I was married in his courtroom. I know he is the best at what he does.


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 4:24 p.m.

Good luck Scott. And keep clean! Life can be good.


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 4:20 p.m.

I have been sentence twice by Judge Simpson and i do have to say he was pretty fair with me. I also witness how sometimes he was definitly harsh on some people who i felt didn't deserve it. Either way i'm still on probabtion for something i should have been let off of a long time ago, but judge Simpson is very strict when it comes to getting off early.


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 4:14 p.m.

Simpson was very hard criminals that couldn't handle probation. The thugs are smiling ear to ear over this.


Tue, Jul 6, 2010 : 3:41 p.m.

From what I understand, the accusations leading to this change have not been substantiated. Sadly, these allegations are based on the amount of revenue being brought into the court, not the way that Judge Simpson administers justice. It seems to me that to make such drastic changes without an objective third-party taking a look at things will only lead to allegations of bias, resulting in long-term resentment and hostility. This cannot be the way things should be run in a justice system, and certainly is a waste of taxpayers money if actions being taken are not based on the facts. An investigation into this situation is necessary so that a fair result can be implemented. Judge Simpson (and his court) should be evaluated based on what he was elected to do - be fair and impartial in his delegation of duties, not how much money he can squeeze out of the unfortunate souls that appear before him.