News Hits has to hand it to Wayne County Circuit Court Judge William J. Giovan. Though the judge was asked to recuse himself from a case for an alleged “appearance of impropriety,” the man not only kept his cool, but gave the attorney requesting the recusal her props.
Last week, attorney Miranda Massie argued that Giovan should recuse himself from a sexual-harassment case her client Justine Maldonado filed against her employer Ford Motor Co. and former supervisor Dan Bennett. (The case was featured in a recent Metro Times cover story, “Harassment factory,” June 12-18.) According to Massie, the alleged impropriety involves Kelvin Scott, who chaired a campaign fundraiser for Giovan, a member of the bench since 1976. Scott also belongs to Scheff and Washington, the law firm representing Ford, said Massie.
Elizabeth Hardy, who represents Ford, said that Scott only sat in on two depositions in the case in 2000. As to Giovan’s campaign fundraiser, Scott merely signed on as chairman, but did not solicit funds or contribute to the campaign, said Hardy. Scott told News Hits the same.
Giovan asked Massie when she learned of the fundraiser and how. She said several attorneys called her and faxed her a copy of the fundraiser invitation. Giovan asked Massie for the attorneys’ names, but she claimed that she did not remember them. Giovan was incredulous.
“Tell me who faxed it to you,” he demanded. Massie wouldn’t answer, claiming that was irrelevant.
“I agree it is not important who faxed it,” said Giovan. “What is important is when it was faxed.”
According to the judge, at the end of May he sent a fundraiser invitation to every attorney in Wayne County, including Massie. If Massie received an invitation in May, Giovan asked, why did she wait until the end of June to claim an “appearance of impropriety”? Massie claimed she never received the invitation. Giovan wasn’t buying it. He suspects that Massie wants him removed from the case not because of Scott, but because of a negative ruling he made against Massie’s client just days earlier. (Giovan ruled that the criminal record of Bennett, who was arrested for indecent exposure in 1995, and is accused of sexually harassing Massie’s client, cannot be used at trial.)
Giovan also said that Scott “did not raise one dollar” for his campaign and did nothing to arrange the event. He asked Scott and another attorney to chair the event because they served as presidents of two local bar associations and thought it would be a “wonderful” way to end his final campaign. Also, Giovan said that prior to receiving the recusal request, he didn’t know that Scott belonged to the firm representing Ford.
Giovan refused to recuse himself and commented on Massie’s “remarkable zeal. And it is remarkable.”
Massie appealed the ruling to Chief Judge Timothy M. Kenny, who denied the motion, and the trial began before Giovan on Monday. It seems that remarkable zeal is not enough.Ann Mullen is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org