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Fallout From Layoffs: Some Prosecutors Fail to Show Up in 36th District Court

March 19, 2013, 6:00 AM by  Allan Lengel

Chief 36th District Court Judge Kenneth King

The fallout from Friday's layoffs of 26 people from the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office was immediately felt on Monday over at Detroit's 36th District Court.

Chief Judge Kenneth King told Deadline Detroit that no county prosecutors showed up in court Monday morning for the traffic and ordinance violations, the biggest revenue generator for a court that has been hurting for money.  He said about 70 percent of the traffic and ordinance violations are handled by city attorneys -- who are still showing up --  but the remainder are handled by the prosecutor's office.

King said one of his judges asked about the whereabouts of the prosecutors Monday morning and was told by the prosecutor's office that it wouldn't send anyone for the traffic and ordinance docket until a budget standoff is resolved.

 "This will have an immediately impact on our operations," King told Deadline Detroit. He said some of the cases were dismissed and others were adjourned for a later date.

King said he feels the court is caught in a political and budget battle between Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy and County Executive Robert Ficano, who cut the prosecutor's budget.  On Friday, the prosecutor laid off 26 contract workers: 22 prosecutors, three investigators and one weekend clerk. On top of that, 30 prosecutor positions have gone unfilled. 

In announcing the layoffs, Worthy issued this statement: 

"We have been warning the County for months that any reduction in staff would cause drastic actions to be taken and  severely impair our mandated functions. Robert Ficano has taken the irresponsible action of laying off people who work hard to prosecute criminals in my jurisdiction.

Ficano's office fired back on Friday, accusing  Worthy of using "scare tactics."

"The prosecutor has been on notice since late February that the county could not extend the use of these consultants because of her office's overspending," said June West, a spokeswoman for Ficano. "We have been working in good faith to reach a budget adjustment that can be presented to the Wayne County Commission.

King said he spoke to Worthy Monday morning, who warned things could get worse.

He said she may stop sending prosecutors to preliminary examinations for such crimes as home invasions so they have  enough resources to deal with murders and other more serious cases.

Maria Mille of the prosecutor's office said Monday morning: "At this point we don't have someone to send there."

The office hopes to fix the matter through a lawsuit filed against the county to make up for a $9-millioin deficit in its budget, she added.

Ficano's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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