GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Math Teacher Jamila Williams is facing four counts of Criminal Sexual Conduct in Kent County after detectives said she admitted to having a sexual relationship with male 15 and 16-year-old students who were in her class at University Prep Academy in Grand Rapids.
She turned herself in Thursday and was booked in the Kent County Jail. Her first court date may have taken longer than usual, however, because of family ties.
Williams is the daughter of Anita Hitchcock, an assistant attorney for the city of Grand Rapids.
Because many of the 61st District Court judges in Grand Rapids might know Jamila’s mother, it’s likely the case had to be sent to district court in Wyoming.
Cooley Law School Professor Curt Benson said that usually the first step in a situation like this is for the judge to recuse themselves.
Benson said in most instances, the judges will do it on their own initiative, basically saying, “‘Hey, I know the person and it creates a bias or the appearance of a bias and I`m not comfortable sitting on this case’.”
He says it’s a little unusual that the whole district court bench in downtown Grand Rapids had to recuse, but he said if a member of Williams’ family is a city attorney, it makes sense.
“City attorneys handle misdemeanor cases, city ordinance cases and those are all conducted in the district court.” Benson said. “That`s why the entire district court bench would have to recuse itself but not thecircuit court.”
The process to change to a different court can take a little more effortbecause a request to transfer the case must be sent to the Michigan SupremeCourt Administrative Office in Lansing for approval.
After that, the paperwork can be sent to the new court, in this case, Wyoming.
It’s expected if the case is bound over, it will go back downtown Grand Rapids for circuit court because Benson said the judges at that level rarely work with the city attorneys.
“Presumably there`s no conflict on the circuit bench,” Benson said.
The city attorney’s office acknowledged that they were aware of the relationship to the case, but couldn’t provide any further comment as of Friday evening.