michigan supreme court

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last month the ACLU’s lawsuit on behalf of eight Highland Park students was thrown out by the Michigan Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision.

The suit says the schools didn’t provide students with even basic literacy or math skills, and that therefore the state and the district should be held responsible for that failure.

But the court of appeals tossed the suit, basically because of three points.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Bridget McCormack.
Bridget Mary McCormack for Justice

In 2014, the Michigan Supreme Court has decided 52 cases, dealt with judicial misconduct, and endured another contentious election cycle.

But despite widespread perception of the court as a politically-driven institution split along ideological lines, things behind the scenes are actually quite “collegial and high-functioning,” according to Justice Bridget Mary McCormack.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

FLINT  (AP) - A worker's compensation claim in Michigan could require a full tank of gas.

  The Michigan Supreme Court says a person injured on the job has no right to have a worker's compensation hearing in the same county. The court recently reversed a decision from the state appeals court in the case of Lawrence Younkin, who injured his back in Genesee County.

  Younkin sued after officials consolidated offices and moved some hearings to Eaton County from Flint, a distance of roughly 70 miles.

bernsteinforjustice.com

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Richard Bernstein has put more than $1.8 million of his own money into his campaign for the Michigan Supreme Court.

  The disclosure was made Friday as candidates for a variety of political offices met a deadline to report campaign finances. Bernstein is an Oakland County lawyer who was nominated by the Democratic Party for an eight-year term on the Supreme Court.

Michigan Supreme Court

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss a new report saying a quarter of Michigan homeowners are still underwater on their mortgages, Republican congressional candidate David Trott’s rough week and the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision not to reconsider parole hearings for juvenile lifers.


The bottom of the ballot is often ignored. That’s where the non-partisan races are located and includes candidates running for Michigan Supreme Court. Bridge Magazine’s Truth Squad recently reviewed a radio ad being aired on behalf of two of the candidates running for the three open seats.

Incumbent Justices David Viviano and Brian Zahra were both put on the court by Gov. Rick Snyder.

A radio ad sponsored by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce makes this statement:

“Viviano and Zahra use common sense on Michigan’s Supreme Court. They’re rule-of-law judges.”

That statement colors the rest of the ad.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A watchdog group says $1.2 million has been spent on TV ads in Michigan’s Supreme Court judge races this year and more money is flowing in.

Michigan has three seats on the court on next month’s ballot.

Candidates have spent just under a million dollars themselves.   The Michigan Republican Party recently spent $200,000 to boost three GOP candidates.

Laurie Kinney is with Justice at Stake.    She says spending is rising as Election Day draws closer.

Michigan Hall of Justice
User NewCityOne / flickr.com

The Michigan Supreme Court begins its new session this week. 

The first arguments beginning today will concern several issues, including delinquent taxes, Michigan's open meetings law, and governmental immunity from lawsuits.

Actively, the court is stacking up new cases for the coming months. Thus far, the justices have agreed to hear arguments on safety standards on construction sites and whether an armed robbery defendant was denied his right to effective legal assistance.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Are the judges in? Attendance is being taken at Detroit's 36th District Court.

The Michigan Supreme Court wants regular updates on the court, which was recently returned to local management after severe financial problems and other woes were fixed.

The reports will cover much ground, from caseloads to finances. The court also must disclose the daily arrival time and attendance of judges.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s a lot of money being spent to elect Michigan’s Supreme Court justices.

The eight candidates running for three open slots on the Michigan Supreme Court have spent nearly $700,000 on TV ad buys as of this week.  

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court has ordered a judge to undergo a mental health exam.

The judge's name was not disclosed in an order released Friday. The judge's attorney, Brian Einhorn, says the judge went on leave earlier this year because of a physical problem and remains off the bench. He declined to elaborate.

The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission wants the judge suspended, but the Supreme Court didn't go that far. The court says the judge must be examined for "psychiatric disorders."

There is a long-established principle that whenever state law conflicts with a federal law, the federal law prevails. That’s been established by a long string of U.S. Supreme Court decisions, plus a little event called the Civil War.  

This is why, for example, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes could rule that the pensions of Detroit city workers and retirees could be cut, even though Michigan’s state constitution says they can’t be. Federal bankruptcy law prevails.

If this weren’t the case, it would mean that anything Congress or the U.S. Supreme Court did could be overruled by any state legislature, and our nation would become no more than a collection of 50 countries united in name only.

That’s something we all learned in civics class -- which makes the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision yesterday on life sentences for minors completely baffling.

Two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional to automatically sentence juveniles to life without the possibility of parole. However, some politicians who want to be seen as tough on crime, claimed this decision was not retroactive.

And yesterday, in a four to three vote, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed with them. The justices ruled that minors who were sentenced in Michigan to life without the possibility of parole still have no chance of a hearing – if they were sentenced before the nation’s highest court’s ruling.

Michigan Supreme Court

Stepparent adoption just became more difficult in the state of Michigan.

The Michigan Supreme Court has upheld a state law that says a stepparent cannot adopt a child if the biological parents share joint custody.

In the decision, Justice Brian Zahra wrote that stepparents wanting to do so would have to be married to a spouse with sole legal custody of the child. That means going back to court and petitioning for sole custody before the stepparent can adopt. 

Debra Keehn is a family law attorney in Ann Arbor. She said the added legal step is going to make adoption more difficult for families.
 
"All of that takes a lot of time and a lot of money and it puts a big financial burden, I think, on a family who’s trying to increase the security of a child."
 
The court ruled in the case of a couple who divorced in 2009.

The mother remarried a year later and petitioned to have her new husband adopt her child. She argued that the child's father had not made contact or sent any money in over two years. But the ruling said she would have to petition a court for sole custody of her child before her new husband could adopt.

The court's decision was unanimous.

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court soon will hear arguments in a dispute over whether convicts can be ordered to pay the operating costs of local courts.

Fred Cunningham is asking the Supreme Court to throw out a $1,000 bill that was part of his sentence for a drug crime in Allegan County, southwest of Grand Rapids.

Judges statewide have used their discretion to order local court costs, citing Michigan law. The attorney general's office is defending the practice, saying the Legislature could have restricted the meaning of the law but didn't.

user dbking / Flickr

Tomorrow, hearings challenging Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage begin in federal court.

Partners April DeBoer and Jayne Rouse are two nurses, living in Hazel Park. They’ve been raising three children together, but they cannot jointly adopt the children because of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The couple sued the state for the right to adopt jointly and eventually submitted a legal challenge to the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The hearings are expected to focus on whether Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional and whether children are harmed by being raised by same-sex parents.

Listen to April DeBoer speaking with All Things Considered Host, Jennifer White below:


Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court will consider a case tomorrow involving a grandparent’s right to have visitation with a grandchild.

In the case, the parents of a man whose parental rights to his two children were terminated sued for visitation. The man’s parental rights were terminated following allegations of physical abuse. He has since died.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a judge can ignore part of a state law that limits what a jury can consider as part of a criminal case.

The defendant in the case was charged with reckless driving that caused a fatality. His lawyer asked the judge to order the jury to consider a lesser charge. The judge agreed, even though state law specifically doesn’t allow that. The judge said the law violates the state constitution, and its separation of powers doctrine.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court has decided not to hear an appeal of a case involving libraries and guns.

Lansing’s library system had banned openly carried firearms in its branches. But the Court of Appeals found that violated a state law preventing local units of government from banning weapons.

Today, the state Supreme Court decided to let the lower court decision stand.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

1,300 Michiganders signed up for Obamacare in the first month of online exchange

"Health officials released a report yesterday showing that only about 1,300 Michigan residents managed to sign up for coverage through the troubled federally-run state health care exchange in its first month of operation," the Associated Press reports.

Michigan Supreme Court names Court of Claims judges

"The Michigan Supreme Court has moved quickly to name judges to serve on a revamped Court of Claims to hear major lawsuits filed against the state. A new law moves the Court of Claims from the Ingham County Circuit and makes it part of the Michigan Court of Appeals. The state Supreme Court tapped two judges originally appointed by a Republican governor and two appointed by a Democrat to serve on the new Court of Claims," Rick Pluta reports.

Senate approves bill for pot sales at pharmacies

"The state Senate has approved a bill that could clear the way for pharmacies to sell medical marijuana in Michigan. That’s if the federal government decides to regulate cannabis as a prescription drug," Jake Neher reports.

We’ve been focused so much on elections that many of us haven’t much noticed what’s been going on in Lansing.

Well, those who remember the unseeingly way Right to Work was rammed through the legislature in last year’s lame duck session, may find we’re about to get déjà vu all over again.

Republicans have just passed a bill to radically change the way in which judges are selected when citizens sue the state. Essentially, it allows the state Supreme Court to pick four judges from the Court of Appeals to hear these cases. 

The panel that hears lawsuits against the state, by the way, is called the Court of Claims. For many years, this function has been exercised by the circuit judges in Ingham County. That’s the county where Lansing and our state government are located, which has been logistically convenient. This bill will change that.

The Daily Record / Creative Commons

The Michigan Supreme Court has picked five projects to receive money for court innovations.

One project is a human trafficking court in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.  It will determine whether offenders in prostitution cases are victims of human trafficking. If so, the court will offer services, not jail time.

Another involves using social media and technology to improve court communication in various counties.

"The 2012 Supreme Court campaign was the most expensive and least transparent in history."

Yikes. 

That's the unflattering takeaway from a new report from a consortium of groups like the Brennan Center for Justice and the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. 

Of the $19 million dollars poured into the state's Supreme Court races, $13 million went to ads like the following.

John Ter Beek is a medical marijuana patient in Wyoming, MI
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear a challenge today to a local ordinance that bans medical marijuana despite an amendment to the state constitution that allows it.

The city of Wyoming, outside Grand Rapids, enacted the ordinance three years ago. It outlaws any activity that’s already prohibited by federal law. It was directed at the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana amendment, which conflicts with federal drug laws.

The city says it acted within its authority because federal laws trump state laws.

Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan Supreme Court / court.mi.gov

The State Bar of Michigan says it’s time to end anonymous campaign spending in elections for judges and Supreme Court justices.

The State Bar is asking Michigan’s top elections official to require committees that pay for so-called “issue ads” to reveal their donors. That would require Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to reverse a 2004 rule issued by her predecessor that says the independent committees can keep their donors secret.        

Bruce Cortade is the president of the State Bar of Michigan. He says anonymous campaign spending undermines confidence in the legal system, and it's growing more common.

There’s a little good news both from and about the Michigan Supreme Court. Yesterday, the court announced it is ordering all courts in the state to provide interpreters for people who have limited or no English-speaking skills.

This was followed by a joint press conference starring Chief Justice Robert Young, one of the state’s longest-serving and most conservative justices, and Justice Bridget McCormack, who is both the court’s most recently elected member and one of its most liberal.

Though they have often voted differently when deciding cases, the two justices clearly had a warm camaraderie yesterday, and that was notable. There have been times in recent years when some justices have launched personal public attacks against each other, which did nothing for the court’s reputation.

The order to provide certified translators is a huge step in the right direction, especially given our ongoing influx of Spanish-speaking and Middle Eastern immigrants.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A medical marijuana cardholder has appealed a drug possession conviction to the Michigan Supreme Court. The appeal seeks clarification on how the law views putting marijuana or its active ingredient into baked goods.

   Earl Caruthers hopes the state’s highest court will reverse the Michigan Court of Appeals in his case.  He was stopped with some THC-laced brownies in the back of his car. He also had some pot in plastic bags, and was driving on a suspended license. But he’s only challenging a conviction related to the brownies.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Detroit Police Department prepares for big changes

Detroit Police Chief James Craig intends to introduce a large departmental reorganization, reports Michigan Radio’s Sara Cwiek.  Craig announced last week that he will restore a version of the department’s gang squad.  Many administrative jobs will be filled by civilians so that more officers can return to field work.

CDC says obesity down among Michigan children

According to a new Center for Disease Control study fewer Michigan children qualify as obese.  Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports that the obesity rate among low-income preschool children dropped from 13.9% in 2008 to 13.2% in 2011.  Michigan ranks fifth in the nation for obesity rates.

Michigan Supreme Court returns custody to foster family

The Michigan Supreme Court has ordered that four children be returned to their foster family, reports Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta.  Custody was awarded to their grandmother last year by the Michigan Court of Appeals because state law gives automatic preference to relatives when parental rights are terminated.  The Supreme Court said that the children should be returned to the foster family until it makes a decision whether to hear the appeal.

Michigan Supreme Court
photo courtesy of the MI Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled the family of a man who committed suicide cannot sue the Kent County Sheriff’s Department for failing to carry out a court order that might have saved his life.

Stephan Bradley’s family says he might not have killed himself if deputies had acted on a warrant that he should be brought in for a psychiatric evaluation. Instead, nine days after the warrant was issued, Bradley committed suicide. An internal inquiry found department procedures were not followed.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by his sister was dismissed because governments cannot be sued for not doing a job as well is it should be done. The sister went back seeking a contempt of court judgment on the same grounds seeking similar damages. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that was essentially the same lawsuit and ruled local governments are still immune from that type of litigation.

Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Governor Jennifer Granholm exceeded her authority when she reversed her decision to commute the life sentence of a convicted murderer.

Matthew Makowski is serving a sentence of life without parole for murder and armed robbery. 

During her final days in office, Governor Granholm used her executive authority to commute his sentence to make him eligible for parole. The paperwork was filed and sent to the state Department of Corrections.

Michigan Supreme Court
photo courtesy of the MI Supreme Court

On Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court said it would not make an early ruling on the constitutionality of the state's new right-to-work law. Governor Snyder had asked the high court to decide the issue before the case made its way through lower courts.

The law was passed last December during a very controversial lame-duck legislative session. Under the law, workers cannot be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Chris Gautz, the Capitol Correspondent for Crain's Detroit Business joined us today to help break it down for us.

Listen to the full interview above.

Pages