Law

Stories regarding the legal system

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Gun owners in Michigan would be able to carry a concealed weapon without a permit under a package of bills introduced this week in  Lansing.

Rep. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, sponsor of one of the bills, said the permit requirement and related fees put an undue burden on lawful gun owners who want to conceal carry for self defense. 

"It's really just making sure that we're protecting the rights of law-abiding citizens," said Runestad. "Criminals will never adhere to any laws."

public domain

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger has filed a lawsuit on behalf of four people who contracted Legionnaire's disease after being treated at a Flint hospital.

One of the four subsequently died.

The lawsuit claims the state of Michigan is liable for providing unsafe water to the hospital.  It also alleges that McLaren's hospital in Flint knew its water, air and cooling systems had high levels of legionella bacteria.

McLaren officials say they have not seen the lawsuit yet. 

William Melendez in court.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - A Detroit-area police officer whose beating of a motorist was captured on dashcam video has been sentenced to at least 13 months in prison for assault.

   William Melendez was an Inkster police officer a year ago when he stopped Floyd Dent, who was pulled from his car after rolling through a stop sign and punched in the head 16 times.

   In a statement a family member read in court Tuesday, the 58-year-old Dent says Melendez stopped him because he was a "black man in a Cadillac."

   Melendez told a judge he's "truly sorry."

Sen. Peters is hoping a bipartisan push will secure federal resources to assist in Michigan's efforts in Flint
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The FBI has now joined the investigation into the contamination of Flint’s drinking water. That’s in addition to the U.S. Prosecutor and State Attorney General Bill Schuette.

The announcement comes in advance of tomorrow’s House committee hearing on the public health disaster.

In the meantime, leaders at local, state and federal levels are trying to piece together money and strategies to get the lead out of the water and to help the children who have been exposed to lead.

Darwin Bell / Creative Commons

In January 2015, at the same time state officials were downplaying risks to Flint residents over their water, state employees in offices in downtown Flint were supplied with water coolers.

Progress Michigan released emails showing the state began providing state employees in Flint with alternative drinking water in January 2015.

Progress Michigan’s Hugh Madden says it shows a double standard.

flickr user Joe Gratz / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Thanks to an opinion handed down Monday by the U.S. Supreme Court, some 350 Michigan prison inmates woke up today with a new view on life.

In a six-to-three decision, the High Court ruled that all prisoners who have been sentenced to life without parole for crimes committed as minors should be given a chance to seek parole.

Deborah LaBelle is an Ann Arbor-based attorney and director of the Juvenile Life Without Parole Initiative with the ACLU.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

After many months of finger-pointing, there’s an effort underway in Michigan to determine just who’s at fault for the city of Flint’s drinking water crisis.

Michigan’s Attorney General has now appointed a special counsel to investigate how the city’s tap water became contaminated with lead.

People in Flint have spent nearly two years drinking bottled water.

For almost as long, there’s been a demand that someone be held accountable for the decisions that left their tap water undrinkable.

Today, Michigan’s Attorney General took a step in that direction.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

A judge has denied the Detroit Public Schools’ efforts to stop teacher sickouts.

The district says those sickouts amount to illegal strikes.

But Michigan Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens again declined to issue a restraining order today.

Stephens said the district needs to prove the sickouts are strikes. She also questioned whether the Court of Claims is the proper venue for the case.

But many DPS teachers say they have no other way to force action as the district spirals into decay and insolvency.

Microsoft Images

More than 300 Michigan inmates sentenced as minors to life without parole could get a second chance at early release. That’s under a U.S. Supreme Court ruling handed down Monday.

In 2012, the court ruled that sentencing minors to mandatory life in prison without the chance for parole was cruel and unusual. But it left it up to states to decide whether people sentenced before then should get resentencing hearings. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled they shouldn’t.

But now the U.S. Supreme Court says all so-called juvenile lifers should be able to argue for early release.

Kate Wells / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools has lost an initial bid to stop frustrated teachers from staging repeated sickout protests.

Angry about classroom conditions, low pay and Lansing’s inaction in the face of near-insolvency, DPS teachers staged their largest sickout yet Wednesday, closing 88 schools.

The district, headed by state-appointed emergency manager Darnell Earley, went to the Michigan Court of Claims to get a restraining order the same day.

Judge Cynthia Stephens has now denied that initial request.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder may have to go under oath about the Flint water crisis, if some class-action attorneys have their way.

A trio of class-action lawsuits have been filed in the Flint water crisis. Among other things, the suits are demanding the state create a special fund to cover damages related to the crisis.     

Attorney Michael Pitt says the crisis is the state’s responsibility.

“When I went to kindergarten, my kindergarten teacher said ‘if you make the mess, you clean it up,’” says Pitt.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There are questions being raised about Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s plans to investigate Flint’s water crisis.

Schuette issued a press release this morning announcing his decision to open an investigation into Flint’s lead-tainted drinking water.

Attorney General's office

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is launching an investigation into Flint’s water crisis.

Flint’s drinking water was contaminated with lead after the city’s tap water was switched to the Flint River in 2014.

The Attorney General says his investigation will see if any state laws were violated. 

Governor Snyder has acknowledged that mistakes were made that allowed corrosive Flint River water to damage the city’s pipes which in turn leeched lead into the water.

Schuette promises his investigation will proceed “without fear or favor.”

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The sister of a Michigan man held in an Iranian prison for four years will be a guest at Tuesday’s State of the Union address.

Last year, Flint Congressman Dan Kildee’s guest seat at the annual speech by the president was left empty as a protest against the continued imprisonment of Amir Hekmati. 

This year, his sister Sarah will fill the seat at the State of the Union. 

Hekmati was arrested on spying charges during a trip to Tehran to visit relatives four years ago.    He denies the charges.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s contaminated drinking water is now the subject of an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department.

Gina Balaya is a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Michigan. She confirmed the investigation today. 

“(The U.S. Attorney’s office) is working closely with the EPA” on the investigation "to address the concerns of Flint residents," says Balaya.  

She declined to comment further on the investigation.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Protesters shut down a busy stretch of Michigan Avenue in front of Dearborn Police headquarters Monday night.

They want more answers about the police shooting death of Kevin Matthews.

A Dearborn officer shot and killed Matthews, who was unarmed, after a car and foot chase that ended in Detroit last month. Matthews was reportedly wanted on a larceny charge.

The still-unidentified Dearborn officer says the two scuffled before the shooting.

But Matthews’ family says that’s only one side of the story. They maintain Matthews was mentally ill, but harmless.

Ann Arbor plans its first-ever deer cull this year.
Rodney Campbell / Flickr - http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A group of Ann Arbor residents passionately opposed to a planned deer cull have filed a 92-page lawsuit to try to stop it.

Ann Arbor has hired marksmen with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services to try to reduce a growing deer population.  The deer are eating almost everything in people's yards and nature areas in some parts of the city.

The lawsuit contends the city doesn't have the legal authority to order a cull. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court is proposing a rule that would strengthen the ban on sending poor people to jail if they can't afford to pay fines.

Some District Court judges continue to order so-called pay-or-stay sentences, although the U.S. Supreme Court banned the practice in the 1980s.

The proposed rule says a judge cannot send someone to jail for failing to pay a fine unless the defendant can afford it without significant hardship. Judges could come up with a payment plan or waive all or part of the money owed.

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

2016 could bring major changes to the way Michigan treats marijuana.

There are three campaigns hoping to put legalization of recreational marijuana on the November ballot. Two of those groups – who appear to be raising significant money and have been collecting signatures for months – would tax and regulate marijuana for personal use for people 21 and older.

flickr user Joe Gratz

A federal judge has given some Wayne County homeowners suing over alleged illegal foreclosures a partial, early victory.

U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy granted a temporary restraining owner protecting three families from eviction at least through mid-January.

The families are part of a larger federal lawsuit that alleges officials from Wayne County and several Detroit suburbs illegally “conspired” to seize their homes through tax foreclosure, and sell them off to private developers.

Handguns.
user Ben Re / Flickr

Gun owners would face harsh penalties for storing guns where minors can access them. That’s under a new bill in the state House.

Twenty House Democrats have signed on to House Bill 5195. Gun owners could face felony charges and get up to five years behind bars and a fine of up to $5,000 if a minor gets hold of a gun and injures or kills someone – including his or herself.

Family photo

A watchdog group is calling for a Michigan State Police investigation into a fatal police shooting in Detroit last week.

A Dearborn police officer, whose name hasn’t been released, reportedly tried to arrest 35-year-old Kevin Matthews on Dec. 23.

Dearborn police say Matthews escaped their custody after being detained for suspected larceny earlier that day. He was also wanted on a misdemeanor warrant in a different city.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

Eighteen people are suing Wayne County and several Detroit suburbs, alleging their homes were illegally taken in a tax foreclosure process that amounted to a “thinly veiled scheme” for “private profit.”

All the homeowner-plaintiffs in this case had their properties foreclosed by Wayne County over back taxes.

And in each case the cities they lived in, exercising their “right of first refusal” under Michigan tax law, reclaimed the properties before they could go to auction. The cities then sold the homes to developers.

Michigan State Police

A group of criminal defense attorneys says the Michigan State Police (MSP) should no longer oversee the state crime lab.

“We in Michigan accept the idea we’ve got a Michigan State Police crime lab. That is inherently problematic. But we accept it, because that’s how it is,” said attorney Michael Komorn, who specializes in defending medical marijuana patients.

Komorn and attorney Neil Rockind recently filed a federal complaint against the lab in hopes that it will spark an independent investigation into a new crime lab policy dealing with synthetic THC.

Medical Marijuana
Dank Depot / Creative Commons http://tinyurl.com/oall5zn

Medical marijuana could be a big topic of discussion for state lawmakers in 2016.

Bills in the state Senate would create protections for dispensaries and people who use non-smokable forms of medical marijuana, such as baked items and oils.

Now, Democratic state Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing, has introduced a new bill that would ban employers from firing workers for having a medical marijuana card.

Singh says firings have become a problem in many states where medical marijuana is legal.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The police chief in Lansing is defending his officers in the fatal shooting of a 24-year-old man who was killed after a two-hour standoff, a house fire and an exchange of gunfire.

  Chief Mike Yankowski says, "We have a justified police shooting at this time."

  The victim was identified as Terrozza Griffin of Lansing, who was suspected of a home invasion Thursday night. After two hours, officers noticed a fire and entered the home but were met with gunfire.

cafegulistan.com

A southwestern Michigan cafe owner who the U.S. government says hid his ties to a group labeled a terrorist organization has been granted a 90-day extension of a deferral that has kept him from being deported.

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that the Department of Homeland Security gave Ibrahim Parlak the extension Wednesday. His two-year deportation deferral was to expire at midnight Thursday.

http://msutoday.msu.edu/news/2015/msu-supply-chain-ranked-first-in-the-nation/

Michigan State University must release the names of 300 student-athletes listed in police reports as suspects in criminal investigations. That’s under a Michigan Supreme Court order issued today.

ESPN requested the records under the Michigan Freedom of Information Act for a series on whether college-athletes suspected of crimes get special treatment.

MSU provided campus police reports, but redacted the names of student-athletes named as suspects.

MSU said, unless they’re actually charged, that’s an unwarranted invasion of privacy.

Muslim woman sues former workplace for discrimination

Dec 23, 2015
Justice statue
Flickr user Jack / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A Muslim woman from Dearborn has filed a lawsuit against her former employer for religious discrimination.

The complaint says Terry Ali, who wears a hijab, was hired as a medical receptionist at Livonia Dermatology. Ali began the new job one day before the mass shooting in San Bernadino earlier this month.

The day after the shooting, Ali's supervisor pulled her aside and asked "if she was satisfied with the job." The supervisor also asked if Ali could contact her previous employer and ask for her old job back.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to look at the case of a man who's on the sex offender list for life, although his conviction was erased nearly 20 years ago.

  The man was 19 when he was charged with kissing and groping a 12-year-old girl in Wayne County. He pleaded guilty, but his conviction was completely erased in 1997 after he completed three years of probation. A law grants certain breaks to young offenders who stay out of trouble.

  Nonetheless, he's on the sex offender registry.

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