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Former Michigan Supreme Court justice pleads guilty to fraud

Retired Michigan Supreme Court justice Diane Hathaway pleaded guilty on Tuesday to felony bank fraud as part of a plea agreement [text, PDF]. The charges arose [Detroit Free Press report] from Hathaway deeding her home in Florida to a relative while negotiating a short sale on the home, resulting in a $600,000 debt they owed to their bank being erased. The bank fraud charge against Hathaway alleges that she made false statements to the bank, fraudulently transferred property to others and failed to disclose available cash. Hathaway negotiated a plea agreement that allows for sentencing of up to 18 months in prison, three to five years of supervised release, fined up to $30,000 and pay restitution of up to $90,000. Hathaway is expected to be sentenced on May 28.

The charges were filed [JURIST report] earlier this month as a result of a Detroit news investigative report [WXYZ report]. Judicial corruption has become a growing issue internationally. In October the UN called on nations around the world to do more to combat judicial corruption [JURIST report], stating that it is a human rights issue because it can deprive people of their due process rights. It also said keeping the judiciary free from corruption is critical to "strengthen judicial credibility and independence." In 2010 the World Justice Project [advocacy website] released a report [JURIST report] ranking countries by their adherence to rule of law, which used factors such as level of corruption, rights and access to judicial remedies. The results of the report showed a trend that rule of law was lacking more in poorer countries than it was in countries with stronger economies.

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