Bill Schuette

(courtesy Michigan Attorney General's office)

It's called Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action.

That's the case that has once again put Michigan in the spotlight of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Michigan's attorney general Bill Schuette was at the nation's highest court, defending the constitutionality of Proposal 2, which bans the use of affirmative action in admissions at public universities in Michigan, a constitutional amendment that passed by 58% of the state's voters in 2006.

Michigan Public Radio Network Lansing Bureau Chief, Rick Pluta has been covering today's arguments before the Supreme Court and he joined us today from Washington.

Listen to the full interview above.

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AG calls for state regulation for compounding centers

"Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is calling for tighter regulation of Michigan’s 470 compounding pharmacies. Compounding pharmacies mix customized medicines based on doctors’ prescriptions. A compounding pharmacy based in Massachusetts was responsible for the medication that caused a nationwide meningitis outbreak a year ago," Rick Pluta reports.

Mental health courts legislation moves forward

"Legislation meant to strengthen Michigan’s mental health courts system has cleared the state House. The alternative courts allow certain offenders with severe mental health issues to avoid jail time and have charges erased from public records. That’s if they participate in treatment programs under the supervision of a judge," Jake Neher reports.

House approves raising cost to request a recount

"The Michigan House has voted to make candidates pay more to request a recount of ballots cast in an election. The legislation would increase to $25 the per-precinct deposit required to initiate a recount of votes in state or local elections. It now costs $10 per precinct," the Associated Press reports.

Attorney General's office

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette wants the state to regulate and inspect drug compounding centers like the one that produced the medication that caused a nationwide meningitis outbreak a year ago.

At least 264 people were infected by an adulterated pain medication, and 19 died. Michigan suffered more casualties from the outbreak than any other state.

prweb.com

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - New legislation is being proposed to more closely regulate 470 compounding pharmacies in Michigan after a deadly outbreak of meningitis a year ago.

The infection of 264 Michigan residents, 17 who died, is blamed on contaminated steroids produced by a company in Massachusetts. But Michigan's attorney general, a top licensing official and a state senator say oversight of Michigan pharmacies should be strengthened to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

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Governor Snyder in China next week

Next week Governor Snyder will travel to Asia on a third economic development mission to the region.  MLive.com reports that he will visit China and Japan to “market the state's export offerings, promote Michigan as a tourist destination, and convince Chinese business leaders that Detroit, despite its bankruptcy filing, is still a good place to invest." Funds for the business trip come from the Michigan Economic Growth Foundation.

Building inspectors charged with bribery

Yesterday Michigan Attorney Bill Schuette charged seven Detroit building inspectors with bribery.  Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports that Schuette says “inspectors took bribes to overlook code violations – in some cases, going to the lengths of falsifying architectural plans.” An investigation led by the Southeast Michigan Public Corruption Task Force and the FBI led to yesterday’s charges.

Washtenaw program may provide ID cards for undocumented immigrants

Washtenaw County is considering a program that would issue identification cards to all its residents, including undocumented immigrants.  The Washtenaw County Board Chairman says that while undocumented immigrants are a large group of people affected by the ID program, they would not be the only ones to benefit.  Yousef Rabhi says “it could apply to immigrants; it could apply to folks that are homeless; it could apply to folks that are transgender and who don't believe that the male/female designation on the current state ID is representative of who they really are.”

 7 Detroit building inspectors face charges of accepting bribes, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Thursday.

Schuette said the inspectors, who altogether face 17 felony and misdemeanor counts, violated the public trust.

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Schuette will challenge re-sentencing for juvenile lifers

A federal judge says the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down automatic life sentences without parole applies to 363 inmates in Michigan. The judge says the ruling applies to every inmate sentenced as a child and entitles them to re-sentencing hearings. Attorney General Bill Schuette wants the ruling applied to only five Michigan inmates who challenged their cases in federal court, and to future cases. The American Civil Liberties Union disagrees and says the ruling applies to everyone affected. Rick Pluta has more.

U of M research shows association between autism and induced labor

“New University of Michigan research has found an association between autism and inducing or augmenting labor during childbirth. Researchers looked at the birth records of more than 600 thousand children and compared them to the children’s school records. They found a 35 percent increased chance of autism in boys whose mothers’ had their labor induced or augmented. Marie Lynn Miranda, a Pediatrics professor at U of M, says the data is worth further study, but it does not draw a direct link between inducing labor and autism,” Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports.

Lansing wants to cut ties with Russian sister city

“Officials in Lansing want to end their community's 'sister cities' relationship with the Russian city of St. Petersburg due to that country's anti-gay policies. The Lansing State Journal and MLive.com report Lansing City Council voted unanimously Monday calling for end to the relationship. A new Russian law is aimed at 'propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.' It imposes fines for organizations, plus stiffer penalties for propaganda online or in the media,” according to the Associated Press.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal judge says 363 inmates in Michigan prisons sentenced to life without parole as juveniles should get parole hearings.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that laws like Michigan’s that automatically send some juveniles to prison for life with no chance of parole are “cruel and unusual punishment.”

Attorney General Bill Schuette has been trying to limit the scope of the ruling to five inmates who challenged their sentences and to all future cases. He says families of murder victims deserved the certainty of knowing those sentences would stand.

user aMichiganMom / Flickr

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he’s prepared to defend the Detroit Institute of Arts collection in federal bankruptcy court. Schuette recently released an opinion that the artwork cannot be sold to satisfy the city’s creditors because it is held in a public trust.


Schuette spokesperson Joy Yearout says he’ll take that position in front of Judge Steven Rhodes if the city puts the collection on the table.

“If and when the issue of how the DIA’s charitable trusts are treated in bankruptcy comes up in court before Judge Rhodes, the attorney general will be prepared to defend the position that they should be protected,” Yearout said.

Last week, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette did something many found startling, especially those politically liberal. Schuette announced that in Detroit's bankruptcy filing he intended to intervene on behalf of those who have pensions coming.

AG's office

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says the state constitution protects Detroit pension benefits from being reduced or eliminated by the city’s bankruptcy.

Schuette says he will be in court Monday asking to join the case on behalf of pensioners.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes took control of lawsuits challenging the bankruptcy filing because it puts city pension benefits in jeopardy. But he has not ruled on the substance of the question, which is whether the benefits are shielded by protections in the Michigan Constitution.

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
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This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss the legality of Detroit's filing for bankruptcy, Judge Steven Rhodes and the first federal bankruptcy hearing today, and the fate of Buena Vista and Inkster school districts.

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and his wife report paying $128,000 in federal, state and local taxes in 2012, based on adjusted gross income of about $664,000.

The Republican voluntarily released a summary of his federal tax return Friday. He's not required to release the information but says he's doing it in the interest of transparency.

Rowse/DeBoer

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled, United States District Judge Bernard Friedman wants a case challenging Michigan's adoption laws and the state's ban against same-sex marriage to go forward.

Today, Judge Friedman denied the state of Michigan's attempt to dismiss the case. He cited the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings in his decision.

From Friedman's ruling:

"Construing the facts in the light most favorable to plaintiffs, and in view of the Supreme Court’s current statement of the law, this Court cannot say that plaintiffs’ claims for relief are without plausibility. Plaintiffs are entitled to their day in court and they shall have it."

Friedman wants both sides in the case to appear in court on July 10. More from the Associated Press:

Friedman says he wants to discuss a trial date. He says last week's U.S. Supreme Court decision probably will be cited by the plaintiffs as well as state attorneys who are defending Michigan's 2004 ban on gay marriage.

After last week's U.S. Supreme Court rulings, the power for states to define marriage was left intact.

But gay rights advocates were emboldened to continue with their challenges to state laws barring gay marriage.

At a hearing on the case earlier this year, the two sides presented their arguments to Friedman.

The Detroit Free Press' Brian Dickerson wrote that Friedman "has been telegraphing his profound skepticism" about Michigan's gay marriage ban.

Three months ago, in an extraordinary hearing held in the auditorium of the Wayne State University Law School, Friedman repeatedly challenged two lawyers from state Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office to explain what rational government purpose was served by treating same-sex couples differently. When the lawyers responded that Michigan had a legitimate interest in promoting “responsible procreation,” Friedman seemed more amused than persuaded, noting that many opposite-sex couples marry with no intention of conceiving or adopting children.

With the U.S. Supreme Court rulings striking down the Defense of Marriage Act and remanding California's Proposition 8 case back to the lower courts, Judge Friedman will have more precedent with which to make his judgment from.

In today's ruling, Friedman wrote about how he expects the Supreme Court rulings to be used in this case:

Defendants will no doubt cite to the relevant paragraphs of the majority opinion espousing the state’s “historic and essential authority to define the marital relation.”...They will couch the popular referendum that resulted in the passage of the MMA as “a proper exercise of [the state’s] sovereign authority within our federal system, all in the way that the Framers of the Constitution intended.”...

Friedman writes the plaintiffs, DeBoer and Rowse, will use the Supreme Court's ruling, along with other cases, to support their claims:

And why shouldn’t they? The Supreme Court has just invalidated a federal statute on equal protection grounds because it "place[d] same-sex couples in an unstable position of being in a second-tier marriage."...Moreover, and of particular importance to this case, the justices expressed concern that the natural consequence of such discriminatory legislation would not only lead to the relegation of same-sex relationships to a form of second-tier status, but impair the rights of “tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples” as well...This is exactly the type of harm plaintiffs seek to remedy in this case.


*This post has been updated.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan’s state constitutional amendment barring racial preferences in university admissions and other public institutions might be the next major case dealing with affirmative action laws in the United States.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided today not to decide a Texas affirmative action case where a white student challenged the University of Texas’s admission policy that includes race as one of its deciding factors. 

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Palisades returns to service

The Palisades Nuclear Power Plant in southwestern Michigan re-opened yesterday after finishing repairs to a tank that leaked slightly radioactive water into Lake Michigan. The plant has had nine shutdowns since September 2011; company spokeswoman Lindsay Rose says the tank has been redesigned to guard against future leaks. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission says there was no public health risk from the radioactive release.

Detroit's water department faces restructuring

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has big plans to restructure the city’s water department. It would largely keep the same governing structure, with representatives from Detroit and surrounding counties, but the authority would also pay Detroit to lease the department’s assets.

“Orr’s plan suggests that spinning the water department off to an authority would allow it refinance its debt, and borrow more readily for capital improvements,” Michigan Radio’s Sarah Cwiek reports.

MSU law professor running for Michigan attorney general

Michigan State University law professor, Mark Totten, announced yesterday that he is running for Michigan attorney general in 2014. Totten, a Democrat, used to be a federal prosecutor. Democrats will choose their attorney general candidate at a nominating convention next year; no other Democratic candidates have entered the race yet. Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette is expected to seek re-election.

The Michigan Supreme Court has declined to hear a challenge to the policy that allows live-in partners of state employees to be covered by their health coverage.

The court’s decision allows the policy to stand. 

The benefit was negotiated as part of most state employee contracts.

Attorney General Bill Schuette challenged the benefit arguing that providing insurance for live-in partners violates the state’s ban on recognition of same-sex marriage and civil unions.

Voters approved a ban on same-sex marriage in 2004.

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Mike Flanagan announces public work group on education

Mike Flanagan, the state's superintendent, announced the formation of his own public education work group at Governor Snyder's education summit in East Lansing yesterday. His announcement comes days after a Detroit News report uncovered a secret work group that included top aides to Governor Snyder and private sector representatives. Flanagan says the secret group  should be disbanded.

Flooding in Grand Rapids is receding

After the worst flood on record, Grand Rapids city officials are relieved that the Grand River is finally receding.

"There’s rain in forecast for Tuesday so conditions could change. But the National Weather Service predicts the river will go down as much as a foot per day until it gets back to normal levels on Thursday," Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reports.

Schuette says trust fund money off-limits for dredging

"Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says a trust fund for land purchases and improvements can't be used for harbor dredging. Schuette's opinion released Monday found that dredging is upkeep and can't be paid for with Natural Resources Trust Fund money...The Republican's opinion is considered binding unless reversed by the courts," the Associated Press reports.

Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Backers of a proposed casino in downtown Lansing are asking a federal appeals court to toss out a legal ruling that threatens to bring their plans to a halt. 

Last month a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ plans to build a $245 million casino in downtown Lansing.

Michigan’s attorney general sought the injunction claiming the tribe’s plans violated federal law and a state gambling compact.    

Marijuana plants
A7nubis / Creative Commons

The changes affect doctors, 131,000 medical marijuana patients and 27,000 caregivers, who grow the drug for patients.

These new changes were passed during the state legislature's lame-duck session last year. A super majority in the legislature approved the changes that affect the Medical Marijuana Act voters approved in 2008.

Changes for patients

Patients will have to prove they live in Michigan. They can do that through state ID, driver’s license, or voter’s registration card. Their medical marijuana cards will be good for two years instead of one.

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Kevyn Orr leaves salaries for Mayor Bing and City Council intact

The state's new emergency manager law, which goes into effect Thursday, eliminates salaries and benefits for elected municipal officials when an emergency manager is installed.

But as Michigan Radio’s Sarah Hulett reports, an order signed by Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr will leave the salaries of Mayor Dave Bing and the City Council members intact.

"Salaries range from more than $70,000 for council members to close to $160,000 for Mayor Dave Bing."

State Attorney General Bill Schuette calls for a grand jury investigation into meningitis outbreak

Michigan's attorney general is seeking a criminal investigation into the deaths of 17 residents from contaminated steroids supplied by a Massachusetts pharmaceutical company.

As Rick Pluta explains,

"The grand jury would have the power to compel witnesses to appear and testify, including people from the four Michigan clinics that administered the injections. And it could ask a Massachusetts court to order employees of the pharmacy that made the drug to cooperate."

Wolf hunt in Michigan may be put on hold

A group opposing the hunting of gray wolves is expected to deliver tens of thousands of petition signatures to the Secretary of State's office.

If enough of the signatures are certified, a statewide vote on the proposed wolf hunt will be placed on the ballot in 2014.

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In this week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss Michigan’s affirmative action case being taken up in the U.S. Supreme Court, how Attorney General Bill Schuette wants an in-depth investigation into the meningitis outbreak, and what Kevyn Orr has done in his first week as emergency manager for Detroit.

Courtesy of Bill Schuette

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has called for a grand jury investigation into an outbreak of meningitis and other illnesses caused by tainted steroids.

The contaminated medicine has been linked to 259 cases of illness and 14 deaths in the state.

The attorney general filed his request with the Michigan Court of Appeals. If the court says yes, a judge and up to 17 grand jurors would conduct the inquiry into whether any crimes were committed. The proceedings would be secret.

It’s an unusual step, but Schuette says the grand jury would have sweeping authority to do its job.

“Now, this grand jury can be empowered to fully investigate this human tragedy, these 14 deaths and painful illnesses, with the greatest power extended under Michigan law. "

The grand jury would meet in secret. It would have the power to compel people to appear and testify. And it could ask a Massachusetts court to order employees of the pharmacy that made the drug to cooperate.

The judge to lead the investigation and the grand jurors would be drawn from Macomb, Genesee, Livingston, and Grand Traverse counties.

Those counties are where the clinics that administered the contaminated steroid injections are located.

Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Plans for a casino in downtown Lansing are in jeopardy this evening.

The Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a $245 million casino next to Lansing’s convention center.  However, before the tribe could build the casino, the U.S. Department of the Interior would have to agree to take the land for the casino into trust.

But Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed a lawsuit trying to block the tribe's trust request.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

There’s a difference of opinion between Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and the American Civil Liberties Union on how prosecutors should handle a U.S. Supreme Court decision.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling struck down sentences of mandatory life without parole for juveniles.

Last month, a federal judge ruled that lifers sent to prison as juveniles are entitled to parole hearings.

Attorney General Schuette then sent a letter to prosecutors that says a federal judge’s opinion is not binding on them.

Schuette’s office did not return phone calls, but ACLU attorney Deborah LaBelle says the letter is out of bounds. She says the attorney general can appeal the decision, but he should not tell prosecutors to ignore it.

“They may disagree with that ruling. That’s fine. I understand, but it’s the law right now,” said LaBelle.

“Once a statute is unconstitutional, it can’t be enforced, and I would think the attorney general would know that, and so the parole board cannot deny jurisdiction to these youth,” she said.

LaBelle says legal arguments are due March 1 on how the state should handle requests for parole hearings by juvenile lifers.

Schuette has opposed extending the reach of the decision to the more than 350 Michigan prisoners sentenced as juveniles to life without parole.

He has said it’s not fair to force the families of murder victims to relive their tragedies.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Bill Schuette / Facebook.com

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has been arguing that seven of the eleven school board members on the Detroit school board are holding office illegally and he wants them removed.

He lost a challenge in court early this week.

Chastity Pratt Dawsey reports for the Detroit Free Press that "Wayne Circuit Court Judge John Gillis Jr. denied State Attorney General Bill Schuette’s motion for summary disposition and granted the school board’s motion, effectively allowing the school board to continue to hold office."

In a statement released today, the attorney for the school board, George Washington, called the lawsuit bogus:

George B. Washington, attorney for the Detroit School Board, said “We are glad that this lawsuit has been exposed as the bogus claim that it always was. Attorney General Schuette and Governor Snider [sic] filed this lawsuit to prevent the largely black and Latino citizens of Detroit from having any say over their own schools. The Attorney General should not appeal this decision and he and the Governor should stop trying to destroy elected government in the City of Detroit."

Schuette has argued that the Detroit school board members cannot be elected by district, because state law requires that a school district have 100,000 students or more to elect board members that way.

It's the difference between a "first class" school district, and a "general powers" school district.

He's argued that Detroit hasn’t met that threshold since 2008.

In his decision, Judge Gillis Jr. wrote that the state code does not address what should happen in a district where student enrollment has declined.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette.
Bill Schuette / Facebook.com

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

When you hear the term "human trafficking" and let yourself think about what that entails, you might think of it as something that happens overseas, perhaps in exotic places.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal judge in Grand Rapids will hear arguments Wednesday in a case that may determine if Lansing will get a downtown casino.

A year ago, the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians announced plans to build a casino that would wrap around Lansing’s downtown convention center.   The plan included the construction of a temporary casino along Michigan Ave.  

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette continues his effort to remove some Detroit school board members.

A Wayne County judge heard oral arguments Thursday about Schuette’s lawsuit to throw out seven board members elected by district.

Schuette says state law only allows so-called “first class” school districts to elect board members that way. He says Detroit hasn’t met that threshold since 2008.

School board attorney George Washington insists his clients followed the law "as the legislature wrote it."

Washington also noted the lawsuit was only filed in 2012, after Michigan’s emergency manager law was suspended.

“They were happy with the way the school board was elected, until they thought they might not have a financial manager," Washington said. "And then they said, ‘Well, we gotta get rid of the board. No matter what the law says, or what we’ve allowed to happen.'"

Michigan Court of Appeals
Mike Russell / Wikimedia Commons

A divided Michigan Court of Appeals has upheld extending health benefits to the live-in partners of state employees.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette challenged the state Civil Service Commission agreement with public employee unions.

Among other things, the attorney general says the policy violates Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions.

But the court’s majority said the policy makes no distinction between people in same-sex relationships and heterosexual live-in partners.        

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