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Suspended Detroit judge sues court, alleges discrimination, harassment

A suspended Detroit judge filed a $10 million federal lawsuit Tuesday against a former chief 36th District Court judge and the court itself, alleging she was subjected to discrimination and harassment that included being denied the use of staff toilet facilities at the courthouse.

Judge Kahlilia Davis, who is at the center of a misconduct complaint filed by the Judicial Tenure Commission, filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Detroit, alleging former Chief Judge Nancy Blount refused to accommodate her health needs, including refusing her request for a "heavy weight" toilet, and that court staff "aggressively and improperly" questioned her about the reasons for a medical leave she took three years ago.

Davis' suit says the questions violated federal medical privacy, (HIPAA) laws.

The lawsuit also contains complaints by Davis about a myriad of personnel issues and alleged incidents she said were meant to harass and demean her, including her reassignment from the Landlord/Tenant Docket to Small Claims Court.

She said she was denied a secretary for her courtroom and not given training on video equipment to ensure proceedings were recorded in her courtroom.

Davis was elected to the 36th District bench in 2016, while Blount was chief judge from 2013-19. William McConico was appointed as head judge in January. Blount did not immediately respond Tuesday afternoon to messages seeking comment.

In her 37-page lawsuit, Davis contends Blount sent her emails regarding personnel issues and operations to "harass, humiliate and intimidate" her.

Davis says her mistreatment began shortly after she was elected to the bench and asked for some medical forms for new employees from Blount's office.

According to Davis, when she returned to work from a medical leave in March 2017, she was asked about her medical issue and sent for an medical examination to a physical therapist, not a medical doctor, selected by Blount.

About a month before her reported return to work, Davis requested a heavy-duty toilet for support and heavy-duty chairs as well for her office. Davis alleges Blount "demanded" Davis provide a medical diagnosis explaining why she needed them and why she had been off for six weeks.

Davis said she was told in June 2017 that she could not use the bathroom on the courthouse's fourth floor, where her courtroom was located, "until accommodations were made."

In another bathroom complaint, Davis alleges that four months later, she told Blount in an email that she took water pills and needed to be reassigned to a courtroom closer to her chambers to have easier access to a restroom.

"Plaintiff’s email further explained that she was not able to get to the restroom fast enough that day and subsequently urinated on herself," according to the lawsuit.

"Despite this plea, Defendant Blount refused to make this reasonable and minor accommodation. On October 20, 2017, seven days after the request for a courtroom change, ... Blount issued an order removing Plaintiff from hearing all cases ... as part of her continued campaign to intimidate, harass, humiliate, demoralize, and embarrass Plaintiff."

Davis also alleges she was denied the use of the judges' entrance to the courthouse in February 2019 and was forced to walk a longer distance to her courtroom, causing pain and further physical problems that caused her to need a wheelchair.

The suit alleges Davis had a torn rotator cuff but was initially denied the request for a heavy-duty wheelchair and for a court security guard to push the wheelchair for her.

Davis contends in her lawsuit that Blount's alleged mistreatment of her "resulted in depression, emotional and physical distress, mental and physical anguish, humiliation, loss of reputation and embarrassment, and the physical manifestations of these problems."

The lawsuit also maintains that Blount "violated Plaintiff’s civil rights by creating and implementing policies that resulted in Plaintiff receiving disparate treatment from the other judges similarly situated. Davis was treated differently than her fellow judges."  

The suspended judge is the subject of a judicial misconduct complaint filed against her in March by the Judicial Tenure Commission. The commission has accused Davis of not using official recording equipment while hearing cases in her courtroom in early 2019.

The commission's complaint against Davis contends Davis "disconnected, damaged, disabled, did not activate, or otherwise rendered inoperative, the video recording equipment" in her courtroom.

Davis was suspended with pay in June while awaiting further proceedings by the commission.

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