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Three years after her lover murdered his pregnant wife, Judge Susan Chrzanowski returned to the bench with plans to pursue a new career. Recently welcomed back to her Warren, Mich., courtroom by friends, family, flowers and a banner, Chrzanowski, 35, spent a relatively uneventful first day back on the job. Obviously pleased to return to work, she heard about a dozen traffic cases by 11 a.m. “It was like being back after battling a very long journey or war,” she said last week. “There were a lot of defeats or heartaches while you were gone, but when you got back it just felt right.” SHORT-LIVED RETURN But Chrzanowski’s return will be short-lived. Shaken by sanctions imposed by the Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission and the Michigan Supreme Court during the past two years, she decided before her return not to run for re-election in November. She will return to private practice. A former assistant Oakland County, Mich., prosecutor who won a six-year term on the bench by the time she was 30, Chrzanowski watched as her career became yet another victim of attorney Michael Fletcher, with whom she was having an affair. After Fletcher’s wife was shot to death in 1999, police questioned Chrzanowski, who initially denied their affair. Fletcher, who said his wife committed suicide, was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Although Chrzanowski said she has never commented on the case, she said of the verdict: “I believe in the jury system. It’s not for me to question the system.” The system, however, grilled Chrzanowski repeatedly over the past two years, upbraiding her for assigning Fletcher 56 court-appointed cases without disclosing their relationship. Fletcher was paid $16,000 for representing indigent defendants. Macomb County, Mich., prosecutor Carl Marlinga’s complaint to authorities led to Chrzanowski’s suspension from the bench. Marlinga later said anything beyond a reprimand or 30-day suspension for Chrzanowski would be a miscarriage of justice, but authorities suspended her for 17 months with pay. The Michigan Supreme Court later ruled that she should be suspended for another year without pay, but reduced the suspension to six months without pay because of the earlier paid suspension. Explaining its action, the court cited the cases Chrzanowski assigned to Fletcher, her failure to disclose their relationship and false statements she made to police. Chrzanowski did not contest the first two charges, but denied lying to police. The Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission nevertheless suspended Chrzanowski’s law license for 90 days. The suspension ended on June 30. “I’ve always admitted that I should not have given appointments and there were errors there, but everything took on a life of its own with the murder,” Chrzanowski said.

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