Bill Schuette

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Update: The U.S. Supreme Court declined to take up the issue of gay marriage this session. Read more about this decision's implications here.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is optimistic the U.S. Supreme Court will agree to take up the question of gay marriage this year.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan students have a new way to report potential threats in state schools.

Starting this fall, students who believe they have information about potential criminal activities at schools can use the OK-2-Say hotline to call, text or email tips to law enforcement.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton joined other officials at a Flint area school today to promote the statewide program.

Photo courtesy of Michigan's Attorney General office / michigan.gov

A report by the Michigan Attorney General's office has found both human and technology failures played a part in the prison escape of a convicted murderer.

Michael Elliot slipped out of the Ionia Correctional Facility last February 2 by crawling under fences during a heavy snowfall. He wore white clothes to blend into the snow. He was captured about 24 hours later in Indiana.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Michigan veterans and active duty military families now have new resources to help handle legal issues. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette released two new legal guides Thursday.

“Sometimes trying to help veterans in transition coming back from a deployment, it can get a bit complicated,” said Schuette.

“It could be anything from child custody to divorce to employment issues, what have you. And so what we’re trying to do is put out a practical guide to try to help veterans across Michigan.”

Marijuana plant.
bobdoran / Flickr

The state attorney general is not saying why he opposes bills that would ease restrictions on medical marijuana in Michigan. Some top lawmakers are now urging Bill Schuette to detail his concerns.

World Resources Institute

You might recall that earlier this year Michigan’s attorney general filed charges against two energy giants.

Encana Oil and Gas USA and Chesapeake Energy were accused of colluding to lower the price of land leases for oil and gas exploration.

Last Friday, a Michigan Cheboygan County District Court judge ruled that Chesapeake Energy Corp must face a criminal trial, citing evidence of a conspiracy between the companies.

Reuters quoted Judge Maria Barton of Michigan’s Cheboygan County District Court:

"The direct and circumstantial evidence established that the parties did in fact strike an agreement to bid-rig the State sale." 

Part of that evidence could have come from Encana Oil. That company struck a plea deal with the State of Michigan in exchange for its help in Michigan's anti-trust case Chesapeake Energy. Encana also agreed to pay a $5 million fine.

This past May, MPRN's Rick Pluta reported:

 If Encana lives up to its end of the bargain, the state will drop other criminal charges at a sentencing hearing in 11 months.

Chesapeake Energy is the nation’s second-largest producer of natural gas.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is jumping in the fight to prevent one of Detroit’s major creditors from accessing the personal financial records of city retirees.

Bond insurer Syncora Guarantee Inc. is on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars if Detroit’s plan for exiting bankruptcy moves forward.

The budget approved last week by state lawmakers includes money to help prosecute some sexual assault cases. The $3 million allocation will go toward prosecutions that stem from testing old rape kits.

More than 11,000 unprocessed rape kits were found in an abandoned Detroit Police crime lab in 2009. Since then, Michigan State Police and county prosecutors have struggled to process the backlog. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office will get to divvy up those funds.

“The appropriation calls for us to develop a plan for how the money will be spent, and that’s what we’re working on right now,” said office spokeswoman Joy Yearout. Yearout said there was no formal deadline for submitting that plan, but the office is “fast-tracking” the process.

The current fiscal year’s budget included $4 million to help speed the process of testing those rape kits. “The next step will be investigation and prosecution that will result from that testing,” said Yearout.

Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

As expected, Michigan’s attorney general has dropped an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to block a Lansing casino project.

But the legal fight is far from finished.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state of Michigan could not sue the Bay Mills tribe to block it from operating a casino located off its reservation. The court ruled that the tribe has sovereign immunity.

The state was using the same legal strategy in an appeal in a case involving a proposed Lansing casino.

Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

A U.S. Supreme Court decision this week may pave the way for casino gambling in Michigan’s capitol city.

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero says a $245 million casino project has been “cleared for takeoff” by the high court’s decision in a different casino case.

State officials sued to close an off-reservation casino opened by the Bay Mills tribe. But the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday ruled against the state of Michigan, saying the tribe has sovereign immunity.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court says Michigan can't block the opening of an American Indian casino.

The high court on Monday disagreed with state officials who want to shutter the Bay Mills Indian Community's casino about 90 miles south of its Upper Peninsula reservation. Michigan argues that the tribe opened the casino in 2010 without permission from the U.S. government and in violation of a state compact.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Backers of same-sex marriage are launching what an education campaign that could eventually evolve into a ballot effort to reverse Michigan’s constitutional ban on gay marriage.

Emily Dievendorf is part of the “Michigan for Marriage” campaign. She says Michiganders need to understand why gays and lesbians want the same ability to marry as heterosexuals. 

NWF / screenshot from YouTube video

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — Michigan's attorney general and chief environmental regulator have asked the company that owns two oil pipelines stretched beneath an ecologically sensitive area of the Great Lakes for evidence that the 61-year-old lines are properly maintained and in good condition.

Attorney General Bill Schuette and Dan Wyant, director of the state Department of Environmental Quality, posed a lengthy series of questions and requested stacks of documentation in a letter sent Tuesday to Enbridge Inc. and made public Wednesday. They said the pipelines, which run beneath the Straits of Mackinac — the waterway linking Lakes Huron and Michigan — pose a unique safety risk.

"Because of where they are, any failure will have exceptional, indeed catastrophic effects," their letter said. "And because the magnitude of the resulting harm is so great, there is no margin for error. It is imperative we pursue a proactive, comprehensive approach to ensure this risk is minimized, and work together to prevent tragedy before it strikes."

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Clean air advocates in Michigan are cheering a U.S. Supreme Court decision that will allow stricter regulation of coal-fired power plants.

The high court decided this week to overturn a lower court ruling and allow the Environmental Protection Agency to slap new limits on pollution from power plants.

Michigan Attorney General

  State Attorney General Bill Schuette has asked a federal appeals court to put the legal challenge to Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage on a fast track. Schuette is defending Michigan’s ban.

Schuette’s filed a motion with the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to skip a hearing before a three judge panel and go directly to the entire 15-judge court. That could shave months, maybe as much as a year, off the appeals process. Schuette says the question needs to settled regardless of who wins in the end. 

Michigan Attorney General's office

Michigan’s Attorney General says a Detroit man defrauded more than 100 people in southeast Michigan with a fake mortgage rescue scam.

Bill Schuette says Anthony Carta ran the scam through a phony religious organization called Freedom by Faith Ministries.

Carta promised homeowners facing foreclosure he’d settle up with their mortgage lenders, for a fee. But he would pocket that money instead.

Carta is accused of stealing more than $300,000 this way. He’s being charged with conducting a criminal enterprise and two other felonies.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette kicked off his reelection campaign today in his hometown of Midland.

In his speech, Schuette touted his record in office, including efforts to combat human trafficking and protect pensions.

“A record that’s strong and clear. It’s a record of being a voice for victims. A voice for the constitution and a voice for Michigan,” says Schuette. “It’s a long election and I’m going to win. I’m going to take my case to the citizens across the state of Michigan.”

Schuette didn’t directly address the controversy over same-sex marriage.

There’s an old joke that says Republicans are the party in favor of local control, except when they aren’t, which is to say when local governments do something Republicans in the Legislature don’t like – for example, providing what they see as excessive health benefits to their employees.

Now it seems that the GOP is also the party which is aggressively in favor of the free market – except when it isn’t. And it is often convenient to be in favor of regulation in favor of the public interest in an election year.

Few remember this today, but 24 years ago, Bill Schuette, now Michigan’s Attorney General, gave up a safe seat in Congress in an attempt to defeat U.S. Senator Carl Levin.

Mark Totten was a 16-year-old kid growing up in Kalamazoo back then. Had he been able to, he would have voted for Schuette. His family was solidly Republican.

However, politics weren’t on Totten’s agenda then. As a teenager, his plan was to go to the seminary and become a Baptist minister. Totten went to a small Christian college in Ohio, but his views gradually started to change.

Making the world a better place continued to be important to him, but he realized the Republican Party didn’t represent his values. Totten became a Democrat, and then did something astonishing.

We are one week, halfway through, the trial in federal court in Detroit centering on the challenge to Michigan’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. The arguments are supposed to go on for another week, and then we’ll wait for the judge’s decision. But the case’s mere existence, the fact that it’s occurring, is having an effect on the political landscape in Michigan.

And, it should be noted that these hearings are not taking place within a vacuum. Just this week we saw two more gay marriage rulings. Texas’ ban on same-sex marriage was struck down and Kentucky was ordered to recognize same-sex marriages performed in other states.

There is also another federal case underway here in Michigan that is challenging the state’s refusal to allow live-in partner benefits for public employees. It’s the mechanism that was created to allow same-sex couples to use their benefits to cover partners and children who would otherwise be denied coverage under Michigan’s marriage amendment, approved by voters in a statewide election 10 years ago.

Scott Beale / Flickr

The "Designated Survivor" is the person from the President’s Cabinet who sits out the big, official political gatherings – like the State of the Union speech, or a Presidential Inauguration.

That survivor would be there if something unthinkable happens. The government would still go on. Someone would be in charge.

So that got us thinking about Michigan: What does Michigan do if a catastrophe wipes out the top echelons of state government?

Does Michigan have a plan?

Well, yes! It’s the “Emergency Interim Executive Succession Act.” Public Act 202 of 1959 reads:

“If the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, the elected Secretary of State, the elected Attorney General, the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and Speaker of the House of representatives are not able or are unavailable to exercise the powers and discharge the duties of the governor because of a disaster, the available emergency interim successor highest in order of succession shall exercise the powers and discharge the duties of the office of governor.”

In the case of the unthinkable – whether it’s zombies, or an attack on the state - if the entire line of succession is wiped out or incapacitated, there is still a plan for someone to be in charge.

Center for Disease Control

Michigan was hit hard by the fungal meningitis outbreak, which stemmed from tainted steroids from the New England Compounding Center. According to the Center for Disease Control, 264 cases have been reported in the state – more than 100 more than any other state in the nation.

Victims and their families are urged to file claims for possible compensation through a $100 million victim compensation fund created by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Massachusetts; however, time is running short.

The Republican angst over gay rights continues this week.

Driven and riven by the continuing commentary on the topic by Michigan’s Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema, in this case on AIDS and partner benefits. “Folks they want free medical because they’re dying between the ages of 30 and 44 years old… For me it’s a moral issue. It’s a biblical issue,” Agema told a local Republican holiday gathering last week in West Michigan (thanks to the Herald Palladium for audio of remarks).

And, as they often do, Agema’s comments have already gotten a lot of attention; inciting what has become a now-predictable ritual of condemnation from Democrats and Republicans. However, Republicans are complaining not so much about what Agema said but, instead, how he said it.

This is not the first time that Dave Agema has made comments like this. There is a history here. Agema has always made it plain he considers homosexuality to be nothing but a deviant lifestyle. His detractors say he’s a bigot. His supporters - and he certainly has them within the state Republican Party - say he’s a truth-teller. In fact, former state Representative Jack Hoogendyk, a prominent Tea Party leader, recently called him “a prophet.”

Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

A federal appeals court has lifted an injunction that was standing in the way of a casino in downtown Lansing.

The Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians wants to build a casino next to Lansing’s convention center.

Michigan’s Attorney General asked for and got a federal court to prevent the tribe from moving ahead with its plans. The attorney general says the tribe’s casino would violate agreements between the state and Michigan’s Native American tribes.

People voting
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson says she's asked the state Attorney General's office to investigate 10 people who aren't U.S. citizens but have voted in past Michigan elections.

MLive reports the letter to Bill Schuette calls for an "investigation, and if appropriate, prosecution."

The Secretary of State's office says the people are from Kent, Macomb, Oakland, Roscommon and Wayne counties. Names of those involved haven't been released, but Johnson's office says they voted in presidential and gubernatorial elections in the past decade.

Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout says they received the letter from Johnson and the referrals are under review.

The 10 people area some of 600 people who earlier were verified as not being U.S. citizens by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

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Michigan’s Attorney General has decided to appeal a federal judge’s order that would require parole hearings for more than 300 juvenile offenders serving life sentences.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that sentencing juvenile offenders to automatic life without parole constituted “cruel and unusual” punishment. 

 CORRECTION: The headline was changed to avoid an inadvertent pun.

There are about 350 in Michigan who screwed up badly when they were teenagers. Most took part in murders. All are serving life without the possibility of parole.

Some of these young killers are probably vicious psychopaths who should never be allowed back into society. Others, however, were scared and stupid kids who, in some cases, did nothing except be there when an older friend, or, in a number of cases, a boyfriend, committed some terrible crime.

But they were all sentenced under Michigan law to life without the possibility of parole, and two years ago, you could have said, that was that. Except that isn’t the law anymore.

Seventeen months ago, the United States Supreme Court ruled that laws automatically requiring a life sentence without the possibility of parole for kids under 18 are unconstitutional.

Courtesy of Bill Schuette

A state task force says a new approach is needed to address human trafficking in Michigan.

Among its recommendations: Minors who are sold for sex or cheap labor should not be charged with prostitution, delinquency or some other crime.

“A 15-year-old girl who is forced to have sex is a victim and not a criminal,” says state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who convened the commission. “Everyone needs to understand this.”

Advocates who participated say that means doing more than just changing laws. 

“How can we get them into that category of victim and out of that category of criminal?” says Bridgette Carr of the Human Trafficking Clinic at the University of Michigan.

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has decided that future donors to his nonprofit "social welfare" fund should be disclosed to the public.

The decision announced late Friday comes in the wake of Governor Rick Snyder's decision to dissolve his 501c4 fund and create a new one.

Schuette's On Duty for Michigan fund has been able to legally accept unlimited amounts of money from anonymous donors. Fund board member Gary Gordon says the money has "reduced the burden on taxpayers" and improved the effectiveness of Schuette's office.

Prospective brides and grooms in same-sex relationships could not be blamed for feeling jilted this week – not by their partners, but by the Eastern U.S. District Court in Detroit.

They expected this would be their day - that Judge Bernard Friedman would strike down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage, and they would be among the first gay and lesbian couples in Michigan to tie the knot.

Instead, disappointment. Anger. Tears, in some cases. Big expectations dashed because Judge Friedman did not uphold or strike down the amendment, which was approved by Michigan voters in 2004 by a pretty commanding majority.

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