ACLU

Law
7:41 am
Tue May 13, 2014

Hearing Tuesday to explore “military style” tracking devices used by Oakland County Sheriff’s Office

State Rep. Tom McMillin (file photo)
Credit gophouse.org

Later this morning a legislative oversight committee will discuss a new secretive cell phone tracking device the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department is using.

Not much is known about the device.

It can reportedly trick nearby cell phones into providing data to the police. It can be helpful in tracking people, like missing children and fugitives, but it’s not clear how much more information is collected and what the sheriff’s department does with it.

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Stateside
3:36 pm
Thu January 2, 2014

ACLU says Catholic hospitals put women's health at risk

Moshe Reuveni Flickr

The ACLU is suing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of a Michigan woman. At the heart of the issue is whether women can get appropriate medical care at a Catholic hospital.

This is becoming more important because more secular hospitals are merging with Catholic-affiliated health care providers. By our count, of the 187 hospitals in Michigan, 26 of them are Catholic. That's 14%.

*Listen to our interview above.

Law
3:12 pm
Tue October 29, 2013

ACLU warns 84 Michigan cities and towns to change their local panhandling laws

Ernest Sims was one of the plaintiffs in the case. He was ticketed and arrested in Grand Rapids, Michigan for panhandling.
ACLU-Michigan

Dozens of Michigan communities are getting letters from the American Civil Liberties Union warning them that their anti-panhandling laws may be unconstitutional.

Over the summer, a federal appeals court ruled Michigan’s anti-panhandling law was unconstitutional. 

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Law
4:28 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

Panhandlers get $6,800 to settle free speech lawsuit with City of Grand Rapids

A federal appeals panel ruled Michigan's old law against panhandling unconstitutional in August 2013.
Brian D. Hawkins Creative Commons

Two men who successfully fought the state's panhandling law after being arrested in Grand Rapids in 2011 for panhandling will each get more than $6,000 as part of a $48,000 settlement with the city.

Judges on the 6th circuit court of appeals called the state law prohibiting panhandling unconstitutional, because it was overly broad and infringed on the right to free speech.

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Politics & Government
11:26 am
Thu September 26, 2013

Group: Detroit riverfront restrictions reasonable

Detroit's riverfront walkway.
Gerri Trager Flickr

The nonprofit group that manages Detroit's riverfront walkway says its restrictions on organized activities including protests are reasonable.

The Detroit River Front Conservancy on Thursday released a statement after the American Civil Liberties Union earlier this week said the group was violating the First Amendment by preventing people from holding protests. The conservancy says that's not the case.

The ACLU said a security guard ordered a small group of people taking part in an anti-war march along the Detroit River Walk last summer to stop. The ACLU said that that violated the free speech rights of the group Women in Black, and it asked the conservancy to change its policy.

Women in Black said it wants to march at the river Saturday afternoon. The conservancy said Thursday it welcomes the planned march.

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Law
3:16 pm
Thu September 19, 2013

ACLU asks for wider federal probe of Saginaw's police department

A screenshot from the cell phone video which shows Milton Hall being shot and killed by Saginaw Police officers.
CNN

Civil libertarians are calling on the U.S. Justice Department to expand a probe into the Saginaw Police Department.

The Justice Department has been examining the case of Milton Hall. He's a mentally ill homeless man who was gunned down by six Saginaw police officers as he threatened them with a knife.

The case has raised questions about how the department deals with African-Americans.

Mark Fancher is with the American Civil Liberties Union. He says his office has received several allegations that Saginaw police officers operate in a racially biased manner.

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Politics & Government
8:25 am
Thu August 22, 2013

In this morning’s news: Detroit primary recount, ACLU suit, and the Occupiers

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

State of Michigan will re-count Detroit ballots
A state election panel will be tasked with certifying the results from the Detroit mayoral primary.  This comes after the Wayne County election board refused to certify the votes.  Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta reports that the county will have to pay the costs of having the state re-tabulate the ballots. 

FBI may continue to use demographic information
A federal appeals court has sided with the FBI in a case about racial and ethnic mapping.  The Detroit chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit against the FBI because it refuses to share information about its use of demographic data in investigations.  Michigan Radio’s Rina Miller reports that “a federal appeals court says the FBI is allowed to withhold some information so that criminals and terrorists don't know what the bureau is looking into.”

Occupy comes to Kalamazoo
The Occupy movement is back in Michigan this week.  Activists from around the country will take over a park in downtown Kalamazoo to bring attention to issues ranging from the economy to racism.  Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports that “unlike other Occupy events, the activists say no one will be sleeping overnight in Kalamazoo’s Bronson Park.”

Politics & Government
7:45 am
Thu August 15, 2013

In this morning's news: Michigan roads, panhandling laws, and the Wayne County jail

Morning News Roundup, Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
User: Brother O'Mara Flickr

State Senate delays road legislation

Leaders in the state Senate say that plans to fix Michigan roads aren't likely to appear on the November ballot.  Governor Rick Snyder has pushed to raise registration fees and gas taxes to pay for road repairs.  Michigan Radio's Jake Neher reports that lawmakers are instead favoring an increased sales tax to raise the money. 

Michigan's panhandling ban overturned

Yesterday a federal appeals court struck down Michigan's ban on panhandling. The American Civil Liberties Union filed the suit in 2011 on behalf of two Grand Rapids men who had been repeatedly penalized for begging in public.  Michigan Radio's Mark Brush reports the court ruled that "begging, panhandling, or asking for money in a public place is protected as free speech under the First Amendment."

Fate of new Wayne County jail debated

Wayne County officials are considering scrapping a half-finished jail construction.  Michigan Radio's Sarah Cwiek reports that Governor Rick Snyder is pushing for the county to stop the project, sell the property, and lease an older state-owned jail facility.  The Detroit Free Press also reports that the Wayne County Building Authority is considering firing the project manager who authorized "more than $42 million in major changes without the needed written approval of the Building Authority."

Education
6:03 pm
Mon July 29, 2013

Detroit teacher faces controversial termination by the EAA

Brooke Harris was fired from her teaching position by the EAA
Credit Support for teacher Brooke Harris Facebook Page

One year ago, Brooke Harris made headlines when she was fired from her teaching job in Flint for helping students create a fundraiser for the family of Trayvon Martin.

Now, Harris is in trouble with another employer.

Earlier this month, she was fired from her teaching position at Detroit's Mumford High School. That's one of the schools under the Education Achievement Authority (EAA). It's a new state-run district that oversees the lowest-performing schools in Detroit.

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Politics & Government
9:24 am
Thu June 6, 2013

Commentary: Could Right-to-Work be overturned?

As virtually everyone knows, a bill making Michigan a Right-to-Work state was rammed through the legislature in a single day during a so-called lame-duck session last December.

Not only were there were no committee hearings and no real debate: The Capitol Building in Lansing was closed to the public for what were said to be “safety reasons.”

The way in which this bill was passed has sparked a great deal of outrage, not all of it from groups automatically opposed to right to work legislation. The law, by the way, outlaws the so-called union shop, and means no worker can be forced to join or pay a fee to be represented by a union, in any public or private industry.

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Politics & Government
7:33 am
Thu May 2, 2013

In this morning’s news: welfare bills, ACLU suit in Grand Rapids, Peters running for Senate

User: Brother O'Mara flickr

House passes welfare reform bills

“The state House has passed bills to revoke welfare benefits based on drug use and persistent school absences. One bill would allow suspicion-based drug testing, which could lead to families losing their cash assistance ... Another measure would allow suspicion-based drug testing of welfare recipients ... The bill got bi-partisan support in the House,” Jake Neher reports.

ACLU files suit against Grand Rapids police

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued Grand Rapids authorities for routinely making unconstitutional arrests for trespassing on property of businesses open to the public.

“ACLU Attorney Miriam Aukerman says city police have long urged businesses to sign a ‘letter of intent to prosecute trespassers.’ Then, they use that letter as an excuse to arrest people they decide are trespassing on business properties,” Michigan Radio’s Tracy Samilton reports.

Gary Peters officially announces run for Senate

Three-term Democratic Congressman Gary Peters became the first major candidate to kick off a campaign for Michigan’s soon-to-be vacant U.S. Senate seat. The seat will be left empty after Senator Carl Levin steps down in 2014. Several Republican candidates are also considering running.

Law
5:10 pm
Thu April 4, 2013

West Michigan cattle farmer can keep his signs critical of socialism, President Obama

Vernon Verduin (middle) talks about his case after a judge's ruling Thursday.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

On Thursday a Kent County district court judge ruled in favor of a farmer with two huge political signs on his property. The signs are critical of socialism and President Obama.

Gaines Township argued what the signs say is not at issue, just the size of them. Under local zoning laws, people can have commercial signs up to 32 square feet, political signs up to 20 square feet.

The township issued Vernon Verduin a citation, since his signs are much larger than 20 square feet. One can see the signs from a nearby freeway.

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Politics & Government
10:15 am
Thu April 4, 2013

Commentary: The courts and right to work

Lessenberry commentary for 4/4/13

One thing was clear from the moment right to work was rammed through the legislature in a single day. Lawsuits were inevitable. Not just because of the controversial nature of the law, but the way in which it happened. And yesterday, opponents won their first small, but potentially significant victory.

The ACLU, joined by a number of Democratic legislators and others, sued the state, saying the right to work law should be declared null and void because the way in which the law was passed violated the state Open Meetings Act.

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Law
3:23 pm
Tue April 2, 2013

Lawsuit to toss out right-to-work goes to court this week

Right to work protests
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

An Ingham County Judge tomorrow will decide whether to let an anti-right-to-work lawsuit go forward.

The ACLU of Michigan says the new state law should be tossed out because it was passed in violation of the Open Meetings Act. The suit says lawmakers deliberately locked members of the public out of the state Capitol as the legislation was introduced and passed in December.

ACLU Attorney Dan Korobkin says members of the state House sent staffers to fill public seats in the gallery.

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Law
9:19 am
Tue April 2, 2013

Legal battle over free speech brewing on a West Michigan cattle farm

Vernon Verduin's signs still sit in the cow pasture, near M-6 in Gaines Township.
Julia Henshaw ACLU

“I can summarize it in common language; what’s more important, egg McMuffins or political speech?”  attorney Howard Van Den Heuvel said.

His client, cattle farmer Vernon Verduin, posted two huge signs critical of President Obama and socialism back in September. One of the signs reads “Marxism/Socialism=Poverty & Hunger,” the other “Obama’s ‘mission accomplished’ 8% unemployment 16 trillion debt.”

Van Den Heuvel says the township cited Verduin after two anonymous complaints. Gaines Township ordinance has a 20-square-foot limit on the size of “political signs” and a 32-square-foot limit on “commercial signs.”

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Politics & Government
12:23 pm
Tue March 26, 2013

Congressman Amash and Michigan ACLU talk wiretaps, drones, and gay marriage

Congressman Justin Amash
Courtesy photo facebook.com

Congressman Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) says libertarian leaning Republicans like himself are having an impact on federal policies involving people’s civil rights. He made the remarks at a town hall meeting Monday night hosted by the American Civil Liberties Union in Grand Rapids.

He points to US Senator Rand Paul’s 13-hour-long filibuster of John Brennan’s nomination as director of the Central Intelligence Agency. That filibuster was, in part, to raise awareness about the ambiguity in the rules governing the use of unmanned drones on American soil.

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Politics & Government
6:00 am
Mon March 25, 2013

ACLU and Republican Congressman to talk drones in America and indefinite detention

A pair of drones in launch position from the flight deck of the USS Underwood. This is a live-fire drone exercise in the Pacific Ocean.
Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stuart Phillips Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Congressman Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) and the American Civil Liberties Union are teaming up to talk about national security.

Amash is more libertarian than many Republicans. While he and the ACLU don’t see eye to eye on everything, ACLU of Michigan Deputy Director Mary Bejian called Amash “one of the ACLU’s strongest allies in congress on these important national security issues.”

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Politics & Government
3:15 pm
Sun March 24, 2013

Michigan's sex offenders could face annual fees

Credit Flickr user borman818

A bill to require the more than 40,000 people on Michigan's sex offender registry to pay an annual fee is igniting a debate over who should bear the costs for operating the system that tracks offenders.

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Newsmaker Interviews
4:42 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

Advocates say juvenile prisoners are at risk

user FatMandy flickr

Michigan is one of 25 states that allow convicted teens, under the age of 18, to be imprisoned with adults.

Attorney Deborah LaBelle is a juvenile justice advocate with the ACLU. She estimates nearly 200,000 children have been abused in adult prisons. LaBelle recently returned from Washington, D.C. where the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted a hearing on this issue with representatives from the U.S. State Department. The hearing focused on the physical, sexual, and psychological abuse experienced by children when housed with adults in prisons.

"In addition to the physical and psychological harm that's going on, putting children in the adult facilitates also results in them losing the very two things that makes them children: education and contact with their family and parents," LaBelle said in this interview with Jennifer White.

You can listen to the full interview above.

Politics & Government
4:19 pm
Thu January 31, 2013

Labor unions and Michigan ACLU file suit against right-to-work legislation

Police vehicles line up outside the state capitol during right-to-work protests
david_shane flickr

Several labor unions and the Michigan ACLU have filed a lawsuit in Ingham County Court to overturn Michigan's right-to-work legislation.

This is several days after Gov. Rick Snyder requested that the Michigan Supreme Court review the constitutionality of the law.

The lawsuit argues that the closure of the Capitol to the public during the  passage of  the right-to-work legislation was in violation of  the First Amendment and the Michigan Constitution.

It specifically cites the violation of the Open Meetings Act, which states that meetings of a governing body are open to the public unless the meeting is held in a "closed session."

The lawsuit is amended from an earlier complaint filed Dec. 6 2012 after state police blocked off entry to the Capitol.

Police said the closure was a safety precaution, but opponents argue it prevented public input during the session.

Here is what members of the ACLU said in their press release:

“Rushing controversial bills through a lame duck session is a bad way to make public policy under the best of circumstances; doing so on such important issues while the public is shut out of the debate every step of the way is illegal and shameful,” said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “We have a sacred right to peacefully assemble and petition our government. When there is dissent and emotions are running high, our elected leaders should encourage more open debate, not close the doors to concerned voters.”

The lawsuit does not address the actual content of the right-to-work law rather the manner in which the law was passed.

The court brief currently sits in front of County Circuit Judge William Collette for review.

- Marlon Phillips, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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