The Ann Arbor News recently published text messages between Washtenaw County Judge Christopher Easthope and attorney Nadir Nassif indicating that the two of them smoked pot together had inappropriate conversations about ongoing cases. A Detroit News columnist called for Easthope to be removed from the bench, sparking a sharp rebuke from Michigan's top judge, Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, Justice Robert Young, Jr.
Easthope originally tendered his resignation, effective December 31, 2015, due to unspecified family reasons. The Ann Arbor News released the text messages between judge and lawyer, prompting Easthope to change his tune, admitting that the comments he made in the texts were "deeply offensive" and that he was "betraying the trust you put in me to uphold the dignity of this office."
Among the text revelations: Nassif and Easthope smoked marijuana together at least once, although when was not published; they drank together regularly; they engaged in what 2 legal consultants referred to as "disallowed ex parte communications," per an MLive report; he heard cases involving his friends; Easthope helped Nassif boost his $200,000 contract with the city of Ann Arbor and approval of an additional $203,000 to cover his "overage."
Easthope was removed from receiving bench assignments by 15th District Court Chief Judge Hines, meaning he cannot hear any cases. That action sparked Detroit News columnist Nolan Finley to publish an editorial where he called for Easthope to be removed from the bench prior to the December date. If Easthope admits his behavior was out of line and he cannot perform the duties of office, Finley reasoned, cut him loose now and save taxpayers from footing half-a-year's pay for the disgraced judge. Easthope's salary is $138,272.00/year.
Chief Justice Young Jr. countered Finley's insistence that Easthope be removed through a letter published in Finley's paper, the Detroit News. Justice Young Jr. insists on a proper procedure for the removal, which could only come from the legislature, the governor's office or from the Michigan Supreme Court via a recommendation by the Judicial Tenure Commission (JTC). The JTC has not begun an investigation and therefore are not in a position to make a recommendation, Justice Young Jr. argued, and until then there was no grounds for Easthope's pay to be withheld or his office to be vacated involuntarily.
The texts became part of the public record when Nassif faced charges of sexual assault and drug use. Presiding Judge Simpson later let Nassif off with a light sentence, but now faces an investigation by the JTC. The texts were obtained through a Freedom of Information request, revealing Easthope's many ethical errors.
From the Ann Arbor News:
At 9:54 p.m. on Dec. 23, 2012, Easthope texted Nassif: "Oh lord. Getting stoned with the lawyer who appears before you more than anyone? Of course I suppose (redacted) appears before you too. Oh well. We have to make sure (redacted) doesn't bail. (Redacted) says he's getting cold feet! I'm thinking 8:30? And I don't think it's rolled meaning we need rolling paper or a pipe."
A later text exchange between Nassif (NN) and Easthope (CE) on the very next morning reads:
NN: Haha. It was awesome. Dude ur arm thing was hilarious lol
CE: I was so stoned I kept watching the movie - my arm felt great! At work waiting for transport. I was carrying on a long stoner conversation with you and didn't know you were asleep.
NN: Haha awesome. I like passed out. Woke up and didn't realize u left lol.
There is currently no Attorney General's Office investigation into the matter, nor is there an active JTC inquiry into Easthope's behavior, per the media sources quoted.
Source: The Compassion Chronicles