ACLU

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In the wake of the shooting of Michael Brown in Missouri and the death of Eric Garner in New York, there's been a national and local conversation about body-worn cameras for cops. Here in Michigan, Ann Arbor is one of the more recent communities to bring up this discussion.

The positives of these cameras are obvious: They help the public hold police officers accountable for their actions, supply evidence for potential cases of misconduct, and hopefully help to restore some of the trust in law enforcement. 

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union is bringing a class-action lawsuit against Muskegon County on behalf of current and former female inmates at the jail.

ACLU attorney Miriam Auckerman alleges women at the jail are forced to shower and use the toilet in front of male guards. 

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.

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.

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. 

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.

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.

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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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.”

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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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Apr 2, 2013
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.

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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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.

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.”

Michigan's sex offenders could face annual fees

Mar 24, 2013
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.

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.

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

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson over her refusal to provide driver’s licenses to some young immigrants.

Last summer, President Obama unveiled the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. It gives undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children authorization to live and work here legally for a two-year period. There are an estimated 15,000 DACA-eligible young people in Michigan.

Michigan Sheriffs' Association

The ACLU of Michigan is suing Secretary of State Ruth Johnson over her decision to deny driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants with work permits granted under a new federal-deferred action plan.

The suit was brought on behalf of three young immigrants and One Michigan, a youth-led advocacy group.

There are approximately 15,000 young people in Michigan who are eligible for the federal program.

isabellacounty.org

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a class action lawsuit against Isabella County.

It says the county jail violates the constitutional rights of inmates with cells that are too crowded, and too few opportunities to exercise.

The federal lawsuit also says the jail discriminates against female inmates because they can’t participate in work assignments that could reduce their sentences.   

ACLU attorney Sarah Mehta filed the lawsuit.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

ACLU files challenge to state ruling banning election signs in bars and restaurants

"The American Civil Liberties Union filed a legal challenge to a state rule banning election campaign signs at bars and restaurants Thursday. The Michigan Liquor Control Commission rule forbids businesses with liquor licenses from displaying signs endorsing a political candidate or party," Jake Neher reports.

Rapid transit system to be built in Grand Rapids

"Michigan’s first bus rapid transit system will be built in the Grand Rapids area. Federal transportation officials signed the agreement Thursday. Bus rapid transit operates similar to light rail, but at a fraction of the cost. Buses will arrive at stops every ten minutes. They’ll have designated lanes and be able to shift traffic lights so they don’t have to slow down," Lindsey Smith reports.

Expansion of oil pipeline comes under fire in northern Michigan

"A planned expansion of an oil pipeline that passes through the Mackinac Straits is coming under fire. The National Wildlife Federation released a report opposing Enbridge Energy’s plans to increase the amount of oil passing through the straits. Beth Wallace is with the Federation. She fears the nearly 60 year old pipeline could rupture like another Enbridge pipeline near Marshall did in 2010. An Enbridge spokesman says the Calgary-based oil company is reviewing the Federation report," Steve Carmody reports.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union, the National Consumer Law Center and others have sued investment bank giant Morgan Stanley on behalf of five black Detroit homeowners.

Eight Highland Park school students returned to classes this week as plaintiffs against a school system they say has failed them. Their families and the ACLU say the school district and the state have  denied them the right to learn to read.

“It’s heartbreaking every day when you get up and people look in your face and say: oh, that’s that lady, her daughter can’t read,” says Michelle Johnson. Her daughter is heading into the 12th grade. But she can only read at about a fourth-grade level.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming will appeal a judge’s ruling that overturned its ban of medical marijuana. Wyoming is one of a handful of Michigan cities with an outright medical marijuanna ban. Others have instituted zoning restrictions.

Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt says city council worries that medical marijuana will increase crime and cause confusion for police.

Brian D. Hawkins / Creative Commons

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is urging local governments to review their laws regarding panhandling in light of a federal ruling handed down last week.

A federal judge ruled a state law banning panhandling in public places is unconstitutional.

But ACLU staff attorney Miriam Aukerman says one of her clients in that case, James Speet, was arrested for panhandling in Kentwood anyway.

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