By DANIEL HERATY
DEARBORN – The attorney for former 19th District Court administrator Julie Pucci filed a motion Jan. 25 seeking to collect on damages stemming from a 2007 lawsuit against 19th District Court Judge Mark Somers.
In a motion for stay pending appeal filed Jan. 23 with the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, Somers sought to put a hold on payments owed to Pucci, who sued Somers in 2007, alleging he removed her position due to her romantic relationship with Judge William Hultgren.
“Somers filed a motion that was denied,” Pucci’s Detroit-based attorney Joel Sklar said Thursday. “What we’re doing is using the powers of federal rules and Michigan law to collect on the judgement.”
In June, a jury awarded Pucci over $700,000 in lost wages and damages. Coupled with attorney fees and post-judgement interest, the total judgement for Pucci is about $1.2 million.
Sklar’s motion claims that attorneys for Somers and Pucci met Jan. 10 and determined the city was interested in funding a settlement. Sklar said he sent an email to Somers’ attorney, state Assistant Attorney General Michael King, with a “gentleman’s agreement,” stating Somers’ wages would not be withheld until the settlement was paid by the city, who Sklar said is responsible for the settlement because it funds the court. According to published reports, a hold was placed on one of Somers’ paychecks Jan. 19 in the amount of $3,300. On Jan. 18, the city announced it will not pay the settlement, resulting in garnishment of Somers’ wages.
City Attorney Debra Walling said the city is not liable for the damages because Somers is a state employee, and that the city, the district court and Somers in his official capacity were dismissed as defendants from the 2007 lawsuit.
“The only defendant who went to trial was Mark Somers (as an individual),” she said. “There’s been nothing that suggests the city is liable at all.”
Sklar said the city’s position is mistaken.
“I think the city is entrenched in a position that is erroneous,” Sklar said. “Sooner or later, they’re going to have to cut a big check.”
King agreed, stating in the motion the payments should come from the city because Somers was acting in his official capacity when he removed Pucci. The motion also claims Somers would not be able to meet financial obligations if his wages are held.
“While the obligation to satisfy Plaintiff’s judgement is compelling,” the motion claims, “It does not necessitate the action of holding Defendant Chief Judge Somers’ entire earnings hostage …”
Sklar said Somers will likely see some financial strain, as with any judgement.
“Somers is like any citizen,” Sklar said. “His assets are subject to garnishment. When you have a judgement against you and there’s no stay, then the assets are gong to be seized.”
(Daniel Heraty can be reached at [email protected])