On Tuesday, December 12, 2023, the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission admonished Berrien County Judge Charles LaSata in a letter they made public.
According to the letter, Judge LaSata violated the following rules:
Canon 3(A)(3)’s requirement that you treat anyone with whom you deal in an official capacity with patience, dignity, and courtesy
Canon 3(A)(14)’s requirement that you treat every person fairly, with courtesy and respect.
Canon 2(B), which requires you to preserve the public’s faith in your impartiality.
Canon 2(A)’s requirement that you avoid all impropriety and appearance of impropriety
Canon 7(A)(1)(b), which prohibits a judge from “publicly endorsing a candidate for non-judicial office.
Did not properly follow pretrial release rules under MCR 6.106
Did not properly consider defendants’ ability to pay fines under MCR 6.425
The five-page letter from the commission’s chair Jon Hulsing outlined issues with Judge LaSata’s conduct over the past decade that violated the state’s code of judicial conduct and court rules. Specifically, the judge disparaged criminal defendants in a disrespectful manner, required cash bonds when defendants should have been released without paying, and improperly jailed people for failing to pay fines.
However, the commission noted when they brought their concerns to Judge LaSata in September 2020, his behavior completely changed. “We found a tale of two judges, with serious problems in how he acted and what he said for ten years, but then a different judge after we intervened,” said Hulsing. Given the judge appeared to have learned from the process and addressed the issues, the commission decided only to caution him rather than pursue disciplinary actions.
Their role, the letter stated, is to protect the public, not punish. If the judge has truly reformed as it seems based on the past few years, an admonishment was sufficient. The commission also looked into whether Judge LaSata improperly endorsed his wife, former state senator Kim LaSata, during her political campaign but he disputed doing so publicly. They warn him to be careful about any future involvement in non-judicial races.
Judge LaSata, who served in the state legislature before becoming a judge in 2004, agreed for the admonishment letter to be released publicly. The Judicial Tenure Commission is responsible for oversight of Michigan’s judges.
Judge LaSata was appointed to the Circuit Court Bench in 2004 and presently presides over cases in the Criminal Division of the Berrien County Trial Court. Previously, he held positions as a partner and shareholder at the LaSata Law Office in Niles, as well as at Bittner, Hyrns, LaSata, Reimland & Daly P.C. in Saint Joseph.
A copy of the original filing can be found here.