Stories regarding the legal system


LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A lawyer says Michigan's top public health official is a target in the criminal investigation of Flint's water crisis.

  Nick Lyon, director of the state Department of Health and Human Services, received a letter in early September from investigators indicating he is a focus, his attorney Larry Willey said Tuesday.

  Eight current or former state employees and one Flint worker have been charged in Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette's probe.


Most people would not voluntarily stand in a line-up, but one in two American adults is currently in a law enforcement face recognition system. That's according to a report released today by the Center for Privacy & Technology at Georgetown University's law school.

The report says the Michigan State Police can perform face recognition searches on all Michigan drivers license and state ID photos - not just mug shots. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

This week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan will announce plans for a new class action lawsuit related to the Flint water crisis.

The ACLU’s new lawsuit will focus on the education rights of Flint area school-age children and what is needed to ensure their right to free and quality education.

Dean Reynolds
via Facebook

An elected official from suburban Detroit faces a federal bribery charge, in what is apparently the first prosecution to emerge from a “long-running” investigation into alleged corruption in Macomb County.

Dean Reynolds is a Clinton Township Trustee. He’s accused of taking between $50.000-70,000 in bribes from a businessman who had a contract with the township.

Researchers at Virginia Tech received samples of Flint water (both clear and discolored) from residents. Dr. Edwards and his team there were among the first to call attention to lead contamination in Flint's water.
Flint Water Study / Facebook

A Flint resident is asking the Ingham County Circuit court to convene a one-person grand jury to investigate Governor Rick Snyder’s role in the Flint water crisis.

Keri Webber’s complaint says the governor unilaterally approved spending two million dollars on lawyers in violation of state law and the Michigan Constitution. The complaint says the governor can’t approve a contract in which he has a personal stake.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A complaint filed in Ingham County calls for a grand jury investigation into Governor Rick Snyder’s spending on a legal defense team. It accuses him of misconduct and abusing taxpayer dollars.

The legal action takes aim at Governor Snyder’s hiring of a private law firm to look out for his interests as state, federal, and county prosecutors conduct criminal investigations into the Flint water crisis.

The complaint says the governor violated the Michigan Constitution and state procurement laws by unilaterally approving a contract that he has a personal stake in.

Charles Lewis at a hearing in Wayne County Circuit Court.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Detroit man sentenced to life without parole for a 1977 murder is entitled to a new sentence.

But efforts just to start that process have stalled again because of missing court files.

Charles Lewis was only 17 when he was convicted in the robbery-murder of an off-duty Detroit police officer.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in two recent cases that sentencing juveniles to life without parole is unconstitutional, except in the “rarest” cases.

Lewis is one of more than 300 Michigan “juvenile lifers” now awaiting re-sentencing, which should mean at least a shot at parole.

cop car
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A Detroit man is facing a terrorism charge for making threats against police officers on social media.

Nehru Gowan Littleton, 40, made a series of threats against police officers on Facebook in July, according to Detroit Police. They included statements like “All lives can’t matter until Black Lives matter!!!! Kill all white cops!!!”

That amounts to a “terroristic threat” under Michigan law, according to state Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is bringing the charges.

The clinic will take on more cases involving Shaken Baby Syndrome
User anitapatterson / Morguefile /

Some parents and caretakers in prison for child abuse may get their cases reopened if the University of Michigan Innocence Clinic believes they were wrongfully convicted for inducing “shaken baby syndrome."

SBS is when a child sustains serious, possibly even deadly, head trauma after being violently shaken. It can cause internal bleeding in the brain and behind the eyes, as well as neck and spinal cord damage.   

Chief Johnson says these old badges were found in storage
steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s police department is looking to add dozens of reserve officers to its ranks.

The first 30 volunteers will undergo training starting later this month.  

Police Chief Tim Johnson says the reserve officers will play an important role.

“We need to bridge that gap between the citizens and the police department,” says Johnson.

The citizen volunteers will fill in-house roles and on occasion assist officers in the field. Johnson says the reserve officers will carry weapons.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Flint’s mayor hopes a new court ruling will allow the city to finally end its trash dispute.

For the third time, the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling preventing Flint mayor Karen Weaver from choosing the city’s garbage hauler.

For months, Weaver wanted the city to hire Rizzo Environmental Services to empty its trash cans. But a majority of the city council wanted to keep the old trash company, Republic Services, and took the mayor to court.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

There’s a court fight underway over Michigan’s ban on voters taking “selfies” with their ballots.

Michigan does not allow people to take pictures in polling places.  State officials say the photo ban helps protect against intimidation and vote buying.

Attorney Steve Klein filed the challenge in the US District Court in Grand Rapids. He says enthusiastic voters are already posting “ballot selfies” using their mobile phones with no idea they might be breaking the law.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The Flint police department is expanding its K9 division.

The specially trained dogs are used to track suspects and find illegal drugs.

Flint police chief Tim Johnson credits his department’s four-legged officers with helping reduce crime in the city. Johnson says the dogs do things two-legged officers can’t.

“Let’s face it, even when it comes to tracking a suspect that has committed a crime, and gotten away before we had a chance to get in pursuit of him, a dog it enables us to track him,” says Johnson.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A Flint city councilman is facing a charge of driving under the influence.  

Councilman Wantwaz Davis is facing a misdemeanor charge following an accident September 3.

Davis refused a breathalyzer at the scene, but prosecutors say a blood test shows he was above the legal limit for alcohol.

Davis claims he crashed his car while he was being chased by two other vehicles.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A new garbage hauler will once again be picking up trash in Flint.

On Thursday, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed a lower court order blocking Mayor Karen Weaver from hiring her pick to empty Flint’s trash cans.

Rizzo was picking up Flint trash on Monday. But a judge issued an injunction blocking the mayor from hiring Rizzo without the Flint city council’s approval.

Weaver’s choice of Rizzo Environmental Services has been opposed by a majority of the Flint city council.   The council voted to keep the old contractor on the job.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Violent crime dropped in three Michigan cities known for their problems with violence.

Detroit, Flint, and Saginaw have long been ranked high on the FBI’s violent crime list.

But new stats released this week showed violent crime dropped by double-digits in all three cities. From 2014 to 2015, violent crime declined in Detroit (13%), Flint (14.3%) and Saginaw (18.1%).

All three cities have been part of a special Michigan State Police program targeting high-crime areas with stepped-up law enforcement and community engagement.

Antonio Cosme feels the city is trying to make an example of him, and fellow artist William Lucka
Courtesy of Raiz Up


When does graffiti cross the line from artistic political statement to crime?

That’s the question raised in the criminal charges leveled against Antonio Cosme. In November 2014, he allegedly spray painted “Free The Water,” with the image of a fist, on the side of a water tower in Highland Park.

A year and a half passed, and Cosme was charged with malicious destruction of property and trespassing. His pre-trial date is this Friday. He is currently raising money to support the court fees.

Steve Jurvetson / Flickr

Tesla, the electric car company based in California, is suing Michigan over its law that prohibits direct-to-consumer sales of cars. 

In 2014, the Michigan state legislature essentially Tesla-proofed an existing law at the urging of auto dealers. 

The law makes it clear that car companies can sell their products only through licensed dealers. Tesla sells its cars directly to consumers out of stores it owns. 

Tesla says the Michigan law violates its constitutional right to due process and equal protection, as well as restricting interstate commerce. 

David Stojcevski
Courtesy Photo / Stojcevski family

“The evidence does not support a federal criminal civil rights prosecution.”

That’s what the government has told Macomb County officials after investigating the death of David Stojcevski.

Stojcevski died in 2014, after a 16-day stint in the Macomb County jail, where he had been serving 30 days on a reckless driving charge.

The cause of death: “acute withdrawal” from prescription drugs.

Harrowing video recorded in the run-up to his death showed Stojcevski behaving erratically and growing visibly emaciated during that time.

Flint river
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Amidst the headlines about Attorney General Schuette's criminal investigation and charges filed in the Flint water disaster, there is another legal story unfolding.

Four separate civil lawsuits were filed on behalf of thousands of Flint residents between November of last year and this past April. And, as we mark one year since the breadth and depth of the Flint water crisis became known to the world, we decided to measure the progress of these suits.

user Joshuashearn / wikimedia commons

A man who was once hospitalized for depression cannot legally buy a gun in Michigan – at least not without a court fight. That’s the decision handed down recently by a federal appeals court.

Michigan resident Clifford Tyler was turned away by a gun dealer after a background check revealed his history of being hospitalized for depression. Tyler is 74, and his hospitalization was more than 30 years ago following a divorce. Tyler says he has not had any mental health issues since.

A Tesla supercharging station at a Meijer store in Ann Arbor.
Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

In an administrative hearing, the state of Michigan denied electric car company Tesla of California a dealership license that would permit it to sell cars here.

No one was surprised by the denial, including Tesla.

In 2014, Michigan car dealers successfully lobbied the state Legislature to essentially Tesla-proof a Michigan law that forbids auto manufacturers from selling cars directly to consumers. 

That's Tesla's business model, and dealers see it as an existential threat. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump came to Flint today and toured the city's water plant.

The facility has not been operational since last fall, after the city switched back to Detroit water following a catastrophic move to pump water from the Flint River. The city failed to properly treat the river water, leading to a lead contamination crisis for the city of 100,000.  

Also in Flint yesterday, for the first time, a Michigan state employee was convicted for actions related to the water crisis. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Court of Appeals has agreed to hear a dispute between the Michigan health department and authorities who are investigating crimes in the Flint water crisis.

Gov. Rick Snyder is challenging an order by a judge that prohibits McLaren Hospital and the Genesee County Health Department from talking to the state about new cases of Legionnaire's disease.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Prosecutors say there is a link between Flint’s use of the Flint River as its drinking water source and a deadly Legionnaires Disease outbreak. 

The link was announced during a court hearing that saw another former government worker plead to charges in the city’s drinking water crisis. 

According to Craig Mauger, Meijer was one of several entities that donated to the Senate Republican Campaign Committee on the day a senate panel began considering whether to block local plastic bag regulation.
Wikimedia Commons /

State lawmakers want to make sure your city won’t tax or ban plastic grocery and retail bags.

A State House committee heard testimony Tuesday about a bill that would prevent cities from banning or taxing plastic bags. The bill has already been passed by the State Senate and is waiting for a decision from the House.

No city in Michigan actively bans or taxes the use of plastic bags right now. A Washtenaw County 10-cent fee on plastic bags at retailers is scheduled to begin on Earth Day in 2017.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

A federal lawsuit alleges the chairman of Michigan State University’s Board of Trustees is running a “racketeering enterprise” in Lansing. The suit targets Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero and MSU Board of Trustees Chairman Joel Ferguson, among others.

“This is about an elaborate extortion scheme over a project that some say is worth as much at $380 million,” attorney Mike Cox said.

Cox filed the suit on behalf of two businessmen who pitched the development project in 2012. But he says Ferguson used his political influence to win the project instead.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Learning conditions in many Detroit schools are so bad, they violate students’ basic rights under the U.S. Constitution.

That’s what a new federal lawsuit contends. It was filed on behalf of students at five of the lowest-performing Detroit schools, including one charter school.

The suit cites an ongoing lack of basic educational resources, including teachers, that together deny children of their “constitutional right to literacy.”

A protest held by the Graduate Employees and Students Organization protest at Yale in 2005, calling for the return of collective bargaining rights that were taken away from graduate student employees the year before.
Public Domain

The National Labor Relations Board has done a complete about-face. 

The Board recently voted three to one that graduate students who work as teaching or research assistants at private universities are indeed employees, and they have a right to collective bargaining. 

That ruling overturns a 2004 Bush-era ruling that took those bargaining rights away. 

Michigan Attorney General's office

There is speculation that another person criminally charged in the Flint water crisis will agree to cooperate with prosecutors.