michigan supreme court

Michigan Supreme Court
photo courtesy of the MI Supreme Court

The State Supreme Court began hearing cases this week with a full bench.

With Governor Snyder's appointment of new Justice David Viviano to replace former Justice Diane Hathaway, it was the first time in some six weeks that the court has had seven sitting justices.

Of course, Diane Hathway had to step down from the court in January and has since pleaded guilty to a federal bank fraud charge in connection with a family real estate deal. Detroit News columnist Laura Berman had been giving a lot of thought to the appointment of Justice Viviano, and her column in Tuesday's Detroit News reflects her disappointment in Governor Snyder's  choice of a man to replace Diane Hathaway. We now have five men and two women on the Supreme Court. Click the audio link above to hear the full interview.

Michigan Supreme Court

Michigan’s Supreme Court is now streaming oral arguments live on the web.

The court has been broadcasting its caseload since 1996 through Michigan Government Television.  When that service stopped in December, the court decided streaming was the right solution.

Michigan's Capitol.
Graham Davis / flickr

Each week we speak with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Governor Snyder has chosen his replacement for the Michigan Supreme Court. Judge David Viviano fills the seat left open after the resignation of Diane Hathaway after a bank fraud scandal involving the short sale of property in Grosse Pointe.

And, the Michigan Republican and Democratic parties elected their leadership. The Democratic party saw its longtime chair, Mark Brewer, concede victory to Lon Johnson. What could Johnson's leadership mean for the Democratic party in Michigan?

Yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder finally filled the vacancy on the Michigan Supreme Court created when disgraced Justice Diane Hathaway resigned last month, just before pleading guilty to felony bank fraud. His pick was a mild surprise; David Viviano, the young chief circuit judge in Macomb County.

Later that afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised that the governor called me to explain the process by which he made this appointment. I suspect this was because I have talked and written a lot about the Michigan Supreme Court, which didn’t have the highest reputation, even before the Hathaway scandal.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Governor Snyder chooses a Republican judge to replace Supreme Court Justice Hathaway

"Governor Rick Snyder has picked a Republican judge from Macomb County to fill a vacancy on the Michigan Supreme Court. Judge David Viviano replaces Justice Diane Hathaway, who resigned in disgrace as she faced bank fraud charges," Rick Pluta reports.
 

Michigan moves forward with health care exchange

"A bill to set up a state website where people can shop for health insurance has passed its first hurdle in the state Legislature. A House panel Wednesday voted to accept more than $30 million from Washington to set up the health care exchange. It would be a partnership between the state and the federal government under the Affordable Care Act," Jake Neher reports.

Schmidt and Bolger case extended

A one person grand jury is extending an investigation until August into a political party switch scheme involving then Rep. Roy Schmidt and House Speaker Jase Bolger. As the Associated Press reports,

"Representative Roy Schmidt's switch to the GOP last May came under scrutiny when he offered money to a political novice to run as a Democrat against him. Democrats say Bolger possibly conspired to obstruct justice, though a Kent County prosecutor said no crimes were committed."

http://www.macombcountymi.gov

Governor Snyder has appointed a new Justice to the state Supreme Court.

The appointment comes after former Justice Diane Hathaway resigned last month after being indicted for bank fraud.

For many Court watchers, Chief Judge of the Macomb County Circuit David Viviano is a surprise pick.

Rick Pluta,  Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network was at the announcement. He spoke with us to tell us more about Judge Viviano.

To hear the full story click the audio link above.

A task force says electing Michigan Supreme Court justices should not be as partisan, or as much about money, as other political offices. But according to one watchdog group, last year the Michigan Supreme Court campaign was the most expensive, most secretive judicial election in America. Several recommendations to get some of the politics and secret money out of the Supreme Court elections were ignored by the legislature last year.

It’s coming up on a year since the Judicial Selection Task Force issued a report recommending changes to how we elect Michigan Supreme Court justices. Since then we elected three to the bench. Although the candidates ran on the non-partisan section of the ballot, politics was involved from the beginning.

“Michigan is unusual in that our Supreme Court race is so partisan. The candidates are nominated at a party convention,” said Susan Smith, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. Continuing, she said, “And, even though it doesn’t say on the ballot how they got nominated or which party nominated them, it’s really a farce, then, to put it up as a non-partisan election.”

And if politics is not far removed from electing Supreme Court justices, neither is money.

Flickr/lavocado

A Republican state lawmaker has introduced legislation to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan.

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled the state’s medical marijuana law does not allow dispensaries.

State Representative Mike Callton says that’s a hole in the law that needs to be fixed because it creates an unfair hardship on terminally ill people.

“The problem”, he said, “if there’s 126,000 patients in Michigan right now, and only one in three has a caregiver. So the Supreme Court ruling, by taking out the dispensaries, and I can see that it wasn’t in the law, it either leaves patients without caregivers to either go underground or go without.”

“This cancer patient, this AIDS patient should be able to go right to a provisionary center – which my bill is creating – and get that prescription filled right away, get rid of that nausea, get that appetite back, keep that weight up, and have that quality of life even though you’re dying,” said Callton.

Callton says his bill would also reduce the illegal sale of marijuana because people who grow more than they need could provide it to other patients through a dispensary.

The legislation would allow local governments to outlaw dispensaries.  

Similar legislation failed to win approval last year, but Callton says legislators from both parties seem to be more accepting of the idea in this term.

The medical marijuana law was adopted overwhelmingly by voters in 2008.

The Michigan Supreme Court says police officers do not have to stop talking to a suspect once the right to remain silent is invoked.

Kadeem White was a 17-year-old charged with murder and armed robbery who said he didn’t want to talk once he was read his Miranda rights.

The detective stopped asking questions, but carried on his side of the conversation expressing concern about the missing gun used in the crime until White blurted out a confession.

The trial court said the detective’s actions were the functional equivalent of carrying on the interrogation after White asserted his right to remain silent.

The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the lower court, saying the detective lived up to his constitutional responsibilities and it was White’s decision to break his silence.

The state Supreme Court agreed, although it was a closely divided three-to-two decision.

michigan.gov

DETROIT (AP) -The state agency that monitors judges for misconduct is dropping its complaint against Diane Hathaway now that she's no longer on the Michigan Supreme Court.

The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission said Tuesday there's nothing to gain. Hathaway pleaded guilty last week to federal bank fraud for shifting properties and failing to disclose assets while trying to dump her Detroit-area home in a short sale. She could go to prison and lose her law license.

The commission filed an ethics complaint against Hathaway and sought her suspension on Jan. 7 while she was still on the Supreme Court. That led to news that Hathaway had quietly filed retirement papers in December and was planning to quit on Jan. 21.

She was charged with fraud three days before leaving the court.

official portrait

A former Jackson County district judge has pleaded guilty to four counts of willful neglect of duty. The charges are misdemeanors.

The Michigan Supreme Court removed Judge James Justin from the bench a year ago. Justin was suspended in 2010 due to allegations of misconduct.

Justin was accused of fixing speeding and other traffic tickets issued to his wife and his court officers.

Former justice Diane Hathaway will face bank fraud charge next week

Jan 23, 2013
michigan.gov

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway will face a federal bank fraud charge in a United States District Court in Ann Arbor next Tuesday.

The charge was filed as criminal “information,” meaning Hathaway has negotiated with prosecutors and is likely to plead guilty, the Detroit News reports.

michigan.gov

As Justice Diane Hathaway officially resigns from the Michigan Supreme Court today, Governor Rick Snyder says he is considering her replacement.

Hathaway’s resignation comes after federal prosecutors charged the justice with bank fraud in connection with a 2011 real estate deal.

Michigan Supreme Court justice charged with fraud

Jan 19, 2013
michigan.gov

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway has been charged with bank fraud just a few days before quitting the state's highest court. The charge was filed Friday and titled as a criminal "information," which means a guilty plea is expected in federal court.

A young reporter once asked me how you could tell if a someone was really retiring of their own free will, or being fired. “Well,” I said, “When someone prominent retires, they often announce it well in advance, and they honor them with a dinner. When someone suddenly leaves at ten in the morning on Tuesday, allegedly to spend more time with their family, they’ve been fired.” 

Yesterday, we learned that Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway is “retiring” from the court, barely halfway through her first term. Her retirement was announced right after the Judicial Tenure Commission lodged a formal complaint against her.

That complaint is perhaps the most damning against a sitting judge I’ve ever seen. It claims she violated federal and state laws against fraud, federal money laundering and tax laws, and constitute “conduct that is contrary to justice, ethics, honesty, or good morals.”

None of this comes as much of a surprise. Last spring, WXYZ-TV in Detroit first reported irregularities in the sale of a house she and her husband owned in Grosse Pointe Park.

Two months ago, federal authorities then sued Hathaway and her husband, who is also a lawyer, and have attempted to seize a home they own in Florida for fraudulently hiding real estate they owned in order to get a bank to write off a large mortgage.

The Michigan Supreme Court opens its 2012 session this week.
Subterranean / Flickr

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly retired this week.

The 74-year-old Kelly couldn't run again because the State Constitution bars judicial candidates from seeking office if they're over 70 years of age.

Justice Kelly stated her satisfaction with her time served in Michigan.

“I’ve been delighted to help shape the law in this state…I think the courts made some good decisions over the years,” she said.

Official portrait

DETROIT (AP) - Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly is retiring Tuesday, but not by choice.

The 74-year-old Kelly couldn't run again because the state Constitution bars judicial candidates from seeking office if they're 70 or older. She hopes voters someday will eliminate that restriction.

Kelly was chief justice for two years, but the Democrat has spent most of her 16 years in the minority on the Supreme Court. Conservative Republicans control the court, 4-3.

michigan.gov

A story broke yesterday that Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway had cleared out her office at the Hall of Justice. 

Many took this as a sign that Justice Hathaway was preparing to resign from the court amid an FBI investigation into her real-estate dealings.

But Hathaway denied the claims that her office had be cleared or that she was planning to resign.

michigan.gov

Wednesday, November 21st, 12:38 p.m.

We began a new post on this story here. Here's an update from the Associated Press:

The lawyer for a Michigan Supreme Court justice accused of fraud says she'll file a claim to keep a Florida home out of the hands of the government.

Steve Fishman offered brief comments Wednesday, two days after prosecutors sued to take control of a house owned by Justice Diane Hathaway and husband Michael Kingsley.

The government says they temporarily transferred the home to a relative while trying to negotiate a short sale on a Michigan property. After the sale went through, and mortgage debt was erased, the Florida home went back to Hathaway and Kingsley.

The government says ING  Bank was cheated.

Fishman declined to respond to the fraud allegation but says Hathaway and Kingsley will fight to keep the property in Windermere, Fla.

No criminal charges have been filed.

Tuesday, November 20th 6:16 p.m.

The U.S. Attorney has filed a civil complaint against Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway and her husband, accusing them of fraud in a series of real estate transactions that allowed them to broker a short sale. The complaint seeks the forfeiture of the couple's of the couple’s $750,000 Florida home.

3:17 p.m.

MPRN's Rick Pluta spoke with Michigan Radio's Cynthia Canty about his report that Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway has cleaned out of her office. Hathaway has denied the report.

"Clearly the easiest way to settle the question once and for all would be to look in the office.... I was told I would have to get permission from Justice Hathaway.... I called her office and was told simply 'your questions have been answered,'" said Pluta.

You can listen to Pluta's conversation with Canty below.

2:00 p.m.

This message was sent by Marcia M. McBrien, Public Information Officer at the Michigan Supreme Court: 

Please be advised that Justice Hathaway has sent the other justices and Court staff an e-mail stating that the rumors that she is going to resign are NOT true.

12:40 p.m.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway and her attorney say it's not true that she is about to resign, or that she has cleared out her Lansing office.

"She is not resigning. Period," says criminal attorney Steve Fishman, who represents Hathaway as she is investigated over real estate transactions. "Rumors of her resignation are greatly exaggerated."

Hathaway also sent an e-mail to Michigan Supreme Court employees saying she is not resigning.

Fishman and a woman identifying herself as Hathaway's senior law clerk says a junior law clerk moved out of Hathaway's office at the Michigan Hall of Justice last week.

11:32 a.m.

A source inside the state Hall of Justice confirms that Justice Diane Hathaway has cleaned out her Lansing office and the locker where she keeps her robe at the Michigan Supreme Court.

Hathaway is reportedly under investigation by the FBI over real estates transactions. She has not communicated officially with the state Supreme Court whether she intends to resign.

*Clarification - We updated our headline to reflect the new information we've learned from the court.

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

Voters returned two incumbents to the state Supreme Court in yesterday’s election, but there will also be a new face on the state’s highest court.

This is the third time Justice Stephen Markman has won an election to the state Supreme Court.

He wrote the 2008 opinion that says Michigan’s amendment banning gay marriage also outlaws public employers from offering same-sex domestic partner benefits.

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