Monday, January 19, 2009

Detroit's top lawyer resigns after calling court 'ghetto'

DETROIT -- The city's top lawyer resigned Thursday night after she told an official with the 36th District Court that it was "acting like a ghetto court."

Kathleen Leavey, who is white, made the comment Wednesday to a court administrator, Constance Allen, but she said it was misinterpreted.

Leavey, Allen and Dennis Mazurek, the city's chief assistant corporation counsel, were talking about a $400,000 judgment recently decided against the city, but Leavey said the conversation branched into the overall performance of the court.


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"I called it that because of the way they treat people," Leavey said, speaking in part of the long lines for service that are common in the court. "They treat people poorly ... whether you are black or white. You just get less service than you get in the suburbs. It's just a bad situation."

"She (the administrator) interpreted it as racist. That's not what I am."

"There was nothing I could do to explain. They just concluded it was racist."

Chief District Judge Marilyn Atkins contacted Deputy Mayor Saul Green about the comment Thursday, Leavey said, the same day Atkins sent a scathing letter regarding the comment to Leavey and other city officials, including all the court's judges. Green asked to her resign, Leavey said. Leavey said she has not talked with Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr.

Atkins said in the letter that she was offended.

"How dare you! Not only are your words insulting and racist to this court and the entire city, but they are highly unprofessional coming from the highest ranking attorney for the City of Detroit," Atkins wrote. "You should really think before you speak, especially when referring to this court -- a predominantly African American court in a predominantly African American city with an African American about to become president."

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