By DANIEL HERATY
DEARBORN – A former 19th District Court Administrator was awarded over $700,000 in a civil case against a district judge that ended June 30.
Jurors announced their verdict for former court employee Julie Pucci that day in the case she filed against 19th District Court Judge Mark Somers and former Court Administrator Julie Pucci.
Pucci, in an email, said that the jury saw through Somers and that she is not the only one who will benefit from the decision.
“This victory is not only for me,” she said, “it’s for every employee, lawyer and defendant that has had to endure the abuses of Mark Somers. This was about an abuse of power by a self-righteous irresponsible chief judge.”
The jury of eight men and two women deliberated for about five hours, and agreed that Somers retaliated against Pucci by removing her from her position as deputy court administrator based on complaints she had made against him and on her relationship with Judge William Hultgren, also of the 19th District Court. The court dismissed a charge of gender discrimination.
“(We’re) elated,” Joel Sklar, attorney for Pucci, said. “The jury made the right call. The system worked the way it was supposed to.”
Hultgren also approved of the jury’s decision. He said that the monetary award was secondary.
“What’s more important is restoring Julie’s reputation,” he said.
The trial, heard by United States District Court Eastern District of Michigan Judge David Lawson, followed a lawsuit filed in the same district in 2007, which claimed that Somers did not give proper notice to Pucci when he eliminated her position in 2007, and that her removal was retaliation for Pucci filing a complaint against Somers for using religion behind the bench and on official court documents. The suit also claimed that Somers dismissed Pucci due to her relationship with Hultgren, with whom she was living at the time of her firing. The couple are now engaged to be married. Somers said that he was disappointed in the verdict, and that it was difficult to see a decision he made second-guessed years later. He said that he was glad to see that the gender discrimination charge dismissed and maintained that he was enacting a plan that was put in place years before. He also said that any talk of him appealing the decision is premature.
“I have the belief that I made the right decisions and that they were not improper,” Somers said, adding that he remains dedicated to the court.
“It’s a privilege and an honor to serve,” he said. “I look forward to coming in every day.”