michigan supreme court

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.

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