Law

Stories regarding the legal system

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.

user A7nubis / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

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.

Members of the so-called "Homrich 9" before their initial trial.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Why has a criminal misdemeanor case involving seven Detroit protesters been stalled for nearly nine months?

Those defendants and their lawyers want to know, and in a letter sent to Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway, they petition him to resolve the case “promptly.”

The defendants, part of the self-proclaimed “Homrich 9,” had briefly blocked contractors’ trucks tasked with shutting off water to Detroit homes.

State AG Bill Schuette wants to make sure no one can vote straight-ticket this November.
Theresa Thompson / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The battle surrounding straight ticket voting has taken a new turn. Attorney General Bill Scheutte filed an emergency motion today asking a federal appeals court to reinstate a ban on the practice in time for 

In July, a federal judge blocked the Michigan law that banned the practice of allowing voters to use a single mark on the ballot to vote for a political party’s entire slate of candidates. The judge said it violated voting rights of urban African-Americans who are most likely to use the option, and would likely lead to longer lines on Election Day.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A judge has agreed to consolidate the criminal cases against eight defendants related to the Flint water crisis.

Genesee District Judge Tracy Collier-Nix agreed to consolidate the criminal cases.  The cases involve current and former employees with the departments of Environmental Quality and Health and Human Services. The ruling only applies through the preliminary exam phase.

A spokeswoman with the Michigan Attorney General’s office calls the move “procedural”.  AG office spokeswoman Andrea Bitely says, ”All cases were consolidated for judicial economy.”

User: lanier67 / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Ann Arbor has become the first city in Michigan to join the nationwide Tobacco 21 initiative by raising the age to purchase tobacco to 21 years.

According to city council member Julie Grand, Ann Arbor has joined 180 communities around the country to raise the age to purchase tobacco from 18 to 21. The impetus for the change was a trend toward increasing rates of smoking among adults in Washtenaw County, combined with advocacy from members of the Tobacco 21 organization.

Public domain

More than 360 Michigan inmates have been dealt a setback.

The prisoners were all sentenced to automatic life without parole as teenagers. The U.S. Supreme Court says that's unconstitutional.

So local prosecutors were set to re-sentence those Michigan inmates. 

Attorneys for those prisoners objected. They worried local prosecutors would routinely seek life without parole during re-sentencing, and argued the Supreme Court decision should prevent that.

But Judge John Corbett O'Meara disagreed.

Traffic lights
Thomas Hawk / flickr http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Sit at enough stoplights, and chances are you will eventually have a person walk up to your car and ask for money. Firefighters do it for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The Knights of Columbus does it. Sometimes they give you little paper flowers or Tootsie Rolls.

But Attorney General Bill Schuette says this violates the Motor Vehicle Code. Schuette says unless money is exchanged for goods or services, the person soliciting is committing a civil infraction.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch at a Detroit rally promoting police-community ties.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Department of Justice is “ready to work” with Detroit and other cities to help ease tensions between police and many communities.

That was U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch’s message over the past two days in Detroit.

Lynch first spoke at a rally outside a Detroit police precinct for the National Night Out Tuesday. That annual event promotes improved police-community relations.

Lynch admits the country “has had some challenging times” with that lately, as high-profile violence has “frayed trust” between law enforcement and the communities they serve.

A Flint resident holds a jug of tainted Flint water.
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state official once in charge of keeping drinking water safe to drink in Michigan faces criminal charges.

The charges allege Liane Shekter-Smith covered up information that could have averted the Flint water crisis.

Smith is one of six state employees charged today with misconduct and neglect, among other things.

Derek Key / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard is warning against the possible release of some convicted teenage killers, saying it could spark an “unparalleled deadly crime spree.”

The US Supreme Court has ordered states to re-sentence all people sent to prison for mandatory life without parole as juveniles, saying that amounted to cruel and unusual punishment.

Brian Turner / Creative Commons http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

The University of Michigan has agreed to pay $165,000 to settle a lawsuit over a graduate student's dismissal from an engineering program in 2011.

The school struck a deal with Jennifer Dibbern before a June trial and after a judge dismissed many claims.

Dibbern  had accused the university of retaliating against her for union activity and efforts to change the campus anti-harassment policy.

The university denied any retaliation and said Dibbern wasn't making progress toward a degree after four years, among other problems.

user cohdra / MorgueFile.com

A Native American tribe in west Michigan has agreed to share revenue from its casino with the state as part of a dispute over online Lottery games. The Gun Lake tribe says the state broke a treaty when it started online lottery games. As a result, the tribe stopped half of its revenue sharing payments. Instead of sending the usual payments to the state, the tribe put them in an escrow account that will now be divided between the two.

Tracy Samilton / Michigan Radio

The first thing you notice about the street in front of Walter Hicks' home is it's peaceful.  There are lots of trees, chirping birds, and most of the lawns are mowed.  

But then you see that the houses on either side of Hicks' home are boarded up. And there are lots of boarded up homes all down the street. 

That doesn't seem to put even a little dent in his pride of ownership.

Michigan school boards are struggling to fill seats.
wikimedia user motown31 / http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

A former school supplies vendor who admitted defrauding the Detroit Public Schools will see his major assets seized by the federal government.

Norman Shy pleaded guilty to running a bribery and kickback scheme that defrauded the district of nearly $2.8 million, paying off principals and a district administrator with money he received for school supplies that were never delivered.

Shy’s plea agreement spelled out assets the government could seize to repay that.

Michigan State Police troopers head to Cleveland

Jul 17, 2016
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Cleveland is preparing for an estimated 50,000 visitors for the Republican National Convention. In an effort to help with security, traffic, and crowd control, the Michigan State Police Department is sending 100 troopers to the city for the week. Cleveland sent a request to MSP through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. The compact is the nation’s state to state mutual aid system.

prison cells
Thomas Hawk / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1rFrzRK

 You might remember the story in the news recently that told of the release of a young man who had been sentenced to life without parole.

Davontae Sanford was convicted and sentenced at age 14 for four murders. The courts recently found he was wrongfully convicted.

In 2012 the Supreme Court banned the use of mandatory life without parole sentences for juveniles. 

But that doesn't mean it's completely banned.

flickr user Joe Gratz / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

The Michigan Court of Appeals says convicted felons must be sentenced in person, and not via a video hookup between the jail and the courthouse.

Video links are commonly used for early procedures like arraignments, because it’s less expensive and more secure than moving defendants between the jail and the courthouse. 

Using video links for sentencing is still rare. But in this case out of Hillsdale County, defendant Trenity Heller was sentenced via video from jail while everyone else – including his lawyer – was at the courthouse.

iphone
iphone / Chuong Le [LeSy]

A new law will help victims of domestic violence get out of shared cell phone plans with their accused abusers. Prior to this law, victims did not have a way to cancel or change their cell phone plans unless they were the primary account holder. Under the new law, victims who have a personal protection order would be able to get a court order from a judge to cancel or transfer their cell phone or data plan that they share with an accused abuser. 

Carla Blinkhorn, CEO of the YWCA West Central Michigan, says cell phones can be dangerous for individuals in a violent relationship.

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