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Stories regarding the legal system

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. 

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.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

KINCHELOE, Mich. (AP) - Michigan correctional officials say about 150 inmates have been moved from an Upper Peninsula prison to other prisons after a protest that led to damage in housing units.

  Officials said in a statement the Saturday morning protest started peacefully, with about 400 prisoners marching in the yard of Kinross Correctional Facility. The protests were intended to coincide with the 45th anniversary of an inmates' rebellion at the Attica prison in western New York that left 32 inmates and 11 workers dead.

QUINN DOMBROWSKI / FLICKR - HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

DETROIT (AP) - Secretary of State Ruth Johnson and other Michigan officials are warning of the consequences of buying alcohol for minors.

The "21 to Buy, Not Supply" marketing campaign, which targets college students, was launched this week at an event at Wayne State University in Detroit.

Johnson says "there is too much risk" for people who turn 21 and are asked to buy alcohol for their friends.

"The government is able to take people's property even though they might actually not have done anything wrong," Jarrett Skorup told us.
MI State Police

Last year, Michigan tightened requirements for civil asset forfeiture.

That's the law that allows the government to seize property when someone is accused of a crime even if they're not convicted.

This started as part of the war against drugs. It's become a lucrative tool for cash-strapped police departments and prosecutors. 

Laws passed last year require more transparency, but do not abolish civil asset forfeiture. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A growing number of Flint officials are raising concerns about a court order blocking the state health department from talking directly with Genesee County health agencies.

The state health department is part of a criminal probe into the Flint water crisis. The court order is part of the investigation, with the intent of protecting potential evidence. 

Garretttaggs55 / wikipedia commons

Medical marijuana clinics in Michigan would have to be licensed and pay sales taxes under bills adopted by the state Senate.

The licensing would be handled by local governments, which could also set conditions such as hours of operation or where the clinics can be located.

The Senate votes were a surprise as the question of how to deal with the proliferation of medical marijuana clinics has languished for months.

User thinkpanama / Flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Peer pressure is often cited for regretful behavior, but now an ex-principal is using it to explain why he stole almost $59,000 from the school district that employed him.    

Steve Carmody

Court hearings into criminal charges in the Flint water crisis will drag on well into 2017.

Eight current and former state workers with the departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services face a variety of criminal charges related to Flint’s lead-tainted tap water. The defendants are accused of concealing and manipulating evidence, failing to take action to protect the safety of city drinking water, and neglect of duty.

But they won’t stand trial anytime soon. 

MyTudut / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The former school supplies vendor who led a conspiracy to defraud Detroit Public Schools received a five-year prison sentence Tuesday.

Norman Shy had pleaded guilty to running the years-long scheme with some Detroit school principals and an administrator.

They agreed to fix invoices so that Shy was paid for supplies he never provided. In return, they got a cut of his profits.

Charles Lews
Michigan Department of Corrections

A 59-year-old Detroit man convicted of murder at age 17 deserves a new sentence, his supporters argued Tuesday before a hearing in Wayne County Circuit Court.

Charles Lewis is one of 367 “juvenile lifers” in Michigan — prisoners who were sentenced to automatic life without parole as minors.

The U.S. Supreme Court has recently ruled that unconstitutional in most cases, and ordered juvenile lifers a meaningful chance at meaningful parole. 

Ryan Grimes/Michigan Radio

The sex offender registry is a popular tool. A lot of folks keep tabs on people moving into their neighborhood, just in case. It makes people feel safer.   

The United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that laws regarding Michigan's sex offender registry cannot be applied retroactively. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

An Ingham County judge has issued a temporary restraining order blocking a Lansing hotel from evicting nearly 100 homeless people.  

The owners of the Magnuson Hotel say they want to close for needed renovations.

But the city of Lansing sought the injunction to delay the closing by up to 120 days, saying it needs that much time to relocate dozens of homeless men, women and children living there.

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

There will be a new round of court filings this week in the battle to get marijuana legalization on the November ballot. The MI Legalize campaign is expected to file a set of motions Tuesday in an effort to get the case settled in time for the November 2016 election.

Last June, MI Legalize filed a lawsuit with the Michigan Court of Claims challenging a signature rule. The rule says any signatures for a petition gathered outside a 180-day window are invalid. Although MI Legalize had enough signatures to get on the November ballot, too many of them were outside the 180-day window.

Car accident
Ted Abbott/Flickr

A group of insurance companies that sets a mandatory car insurance fee does not have to say how it comes up with that fee. That decision came today from the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The Michigan Catastrophic Claims Association was created by an act of the Legislature, but it’s run by insurance companies. This year, the MCCA collects $160 on every insured vehicle. The money is used to pay the most-expensive medical bills of victims of car crashes.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

The state Department of Health and Human Services is asking the Michigan Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court order blocking it from communicating with local officials in Flint.   

The protective order was issued by a Genesee County Circuit Court judge as part of the Attorney General’s investigation into possible criminal activity in the Flint Water Crisis. To date, nine current and former state and local government employees have been criminally charged, including several from the state health department. 

The Michigan Supreme Court has seen a sudden rise in unanimous decisions during the 2015-2016 term.
Flickr user Joe Gratz / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

Michigan cannot apply changes to the state’s sex offender registry law retroactively. That ruling came today from a federal appeals court. But the court also went further and said the law is flawed in many other ways and isn’t working the way it’s supposed to.

Miriam Aukerman is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. She says the Legislature should take another look at the law.

Michigan Department of Corrections

Update 5:30 p.m.:

The Michigan Department of Corrections says Johnny Rodgers is back in custody following an arrest this afternoon.

Original post 3:35 p.m.:

The search is on for a convicted felon who was mistakenly released from a suburban Detroit jail on Wednesday evening.

Johnny Rodgers is serving a seven- to 15-year sentence for assault with intent to commit murder, armed robbery and felony firearms charges in Wayne County.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

State lawmakers are looking at the effectiveness of a Michigan State Police program aimed at reducing violent crime.

Since 2012, through the Secure Cities program, state troopers have helped cities like Detroit and Flint with day-to-day patrol and investigations.

On Wednesday, Capt. Gene Kapp told the state Senate Appropriations Committee the program is working in some of Michigan’s most violent communities.

stevendepolo / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The architect of a bribery-and-kickback scheme in the Detroit Public Schools deserves to spend almost six years behind bars, at the least.

Or, he’s a “compassionate” and “devoted” person who, “despite his greed-filled actions in latter years, was an honest, upright businessman for the bulk of his career,” and merits leniency.

Those are dueling descriptions of Norman Shy found in sentencing memorandums from both federal prosecutors and Shy’s lawyer.

pixabay

Thousands of disabled people in Michigan may soon be able to save up to $100,000 without jeopardizing their federal social security disability payments and other benefits like SNAP.

Lt. Governor Brian Calley says he believes the federal program, called MI-ABLE in Michigan, is the most important program to help disabled people since the Americans With Disabilities Act was passed in 1990.

It applies to those who were disabled or blind before age 26.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

  LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The prosecution of current and former state employees for their role in Flint's lead-contaminated water crisis likely will face an early test over whether one of the most serious charges can even be levied against the middle- and lower-level government officials.

  All eight workers charged so far, five from the Department of Environmental Quality and three with the Department of Health and Human Services, face a misconduct in office charge. The felony carries a maximum five-year prison term.

Flickr user Rich Renomeron/Flickr / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

A person who wanted to transition from a male to female identity has lost a lawsuit against her former employer.

RG & GR Harris Funeral Home fired Aimee Stephens for planning to dress as a female at work.

The owner said he believes gender is an immutable, God-given gift.

Attorneys for Stephens say the ruling will make it nearly impossible to enforce any civil rights law, if an employer can say the law is against its religious beliefs.

Attorneys for the funeral home say the ruling is a victory for religious liberty, and a check on government intrusion.

Emily Dievendorf, president of the Lansing Association for Human Rights, joined Stateside today and said this ruling could lead to “pretty far-reaching implications” for both transgender people and others in the workplace.

Marijuana plants.
user A7nubis / flickr - http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

If it has roots and leaves, in Michigan, it’s a plant. That’s the legal definition now that the Michigan Court of Appeals has made a ruling in a medical marijuana case.

           

Lorenzo Ventura was challenging charges that he exceeded the number of plants he was legally allowed under Michigan’s medical marijuana law. He was convicted and sentenced to two years of probation and 120 hours of community service.

 

The law adopted eight years by voters ago does not provide a definition. The dictionary did not offer any guidance in this instance.

 

The Michigan Supreme Court has seen a sudden rise in unanimous decisions during the 2015-2016 term.
Flickr user Joe Gratz / HTTP://J.MP/1SPGCL0

The old spiritual “Kumbaya” is a song of congregation and harmony. And it’s for this reason that the Michigan Supreme Court has earned the tag “The Kumbaya Court” from court-watchers due to an increase in the number of cases decided unanimously.

Through the 2015-2016 term, 81% of arguments held before the court have been unanimous decisions. In the previous two terms, only a little more than 50% of cases were decided unanimously.

 

Why the sudden rise in unanimous decisions?

Wikipedia

Update: 1:54 p.m. August 16

The City of Sterling Heights says animosity toward Muslims played no role in its decision to unanimously deny a permit to the American Islamic Community Center for a new mosque. 

The city says its decision was based solely on "established land use criteria."

Original Post:

The American Islamic Community Center is suing Sterling Heights for denying it a permit to the American Islamic Community Center to build a mosque.

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