Law

Stories regarding the legal system

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Devices that can be used to steal someone’s personal information when they use a credit card are now illegal in Michigan. Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation Thursday banning the sale, purchase, or use of so-called “skimmer” devices.

Proponents of the measure say skimmers can be installed relatively easily on ATMs and other credit card readers. Under the new law, offenders will face felony charges that could come with up to five years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

AdeptDrivers / Creative Commons

A state lawmaker says the threat of losing driving privileges would be a good way to discourage kids from skipping school.

Families who receive state aid can lose their benefits if their child repeatedly skips school. It’s a policy some legislators want to codify in law.

A state lawmaker wants to make it illegal to seize people's assets if they have not been convicted of a crime.

Right now in Michigan, law enforcement can seize your car, your house, or other things you own as part of an investigation, even if it results in no criminal charges.

The bill’s sponsor says that runs afoul of the basic things we learn in grade-school civics.

“Innocent until proven guilty, unreasonable search and seizure, due process, all of these core constitutional principles are evoked when you're talking about a process where the government is taking a citizen's assets and there is no finding of any guilt,” says State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor).

According to a Michigan State Police report, asset seizures brought in $22.4 million for state and local law enforcement agencies in 2012.

A spokeswoman for the state police says the department is reviewing the legislation and has not yet taken a position on it.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - A federal judge in Iowa has dismissed a Michigan couple's lawsuit that claimed butter flavorings in microwave popcorn left the husband with lung disease.

U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett ruled Tuesday that Michigan's three-year statute of limitations barred the lawsuit brought by David and Barbara Stults of Grand Rapids.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - A Detroit-area judge wants a federal appeals court to intervene in a lawsuit linked to the accidental consumption of alcohol by a child at a Detroit Tigers game.

The parents of Leo Ratte are suing Judge Judy Hartsfield. In 2008, the 7-year-old boy was temporarily removed from them when his father mistakenly gave him Mike's Hard Lemonade at Comerica Park.

(courtesy Michigan Attorney General's office)

The U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has delayed an order that Michigan make a plan to hold parole hearings for prisoners sentenced as juveniles to life in prison for murder.

A federal judge ruled last month that Michigan is taking too long to comply with a U.S. Supreme Court decision. It said automatic life without parole for juveniles is “cruel and unusual punishment.”  

Deborah LaBelle is the attorney representing a group of juvenile lifers who sued the state. She says the Sixth Circuit decision is a disappointment.

Flickr/Art G

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - State Natural Resources officials say two Bay County men face charges after a cougar was illegally killed in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

Officials say Friday in a release that conservation officers arrested the men after receiving a tip that the cat was killed at a hunting camp in northeast Schoolcraft County.

The case will be turned over to the county prosecutor.

Donald Harrison / Flickr

Jackson, Michigan was home to one of the largest prisons in the world – the Michigan State Prison, later renamed the State Prison of Southern Michigan.

We went on a tour of the old prison with Jackson Historic Prison Tours. While there we met some former prisoners and prison staff, and decided to follow up with them afterwards.

Listen to their powerful stories above.

Family photo

The Dearborn Heights homeowner who shot an unarmed teenager on his front porch has been bound over for trial.

Theodore Wafer will face trial for second-degree murder, manslaughter, and a felony firearms charge in 19-year-old Renisha McBride’s death.

Dearborn Heights judge David Turfe ruled Thursday the case can proceed after nearly two days of expert and witness testimony.

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.

Last month (November 15), Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced her office would charge 54-year-old Theodore Wafer with second degree murder in the death of 19-year-old Renisha McBride.

Wafer shot McBride in the face while she stood on his front porch in the early morning hours of November 2.

Today, there's a preliminary hearing in a Wayne County district court to determine whether there's enough evidence against Wafer for a trial. Judge David Turfe could make his determination at the end of today's hearing.

Detroit bankruptcy judge Steven Rhodes.
John Meiu / Detroit Legal News Publishing LLC

The judge in Detroit’s bankruptcy case says creditors can appeal his recent eligibility ruling directly to a higher federal court.

Judge Steven Rhodes ruled earlier this month that Detroit is eligible to proceed with its historic bankruptcy case.

He also ruled that city pensions can be cut in federal bankruptcy court — despite a public pension guarantee in Michigan’s state constitution.

City unions, pension funds and retiree groups immediately said they intended to appeal both decisions.

Photo courtesy of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

On the first anniversary of the Newtown, Conn., school shootings, Michigan mothers will join moms from 34 other states in commemorating the lives lost to gun violence, and to encourage others to speak out.

It's been one year since 20-year-old Adam Lanza fatally shot 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School before taking his own life.

Linda Brundage leads the Michigan chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and says despite some new security measures at schools, not enough has been done to prevent a similar tragedy.

User Eljoja / Flickr

Medical marijuana patients in Michigan would have more ways to legally obtain and consume cannabis under three bills that cleared the state House today. One bill would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate again in Michigan.

State Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) introduced the legislation. He says it’s critical for many patients to have safe access to marijuana right away.

“If either you grow your own or a caregiver grows your own, it takes four to six months before it’s medicine,” said Callton. “Many of these people – especially if they’re cancer patients that are trying to maintain appetite – many of them may be dead by the time their medicine is ready.”

The House also approved a bill that would let patients use edible or topical forms of medical marijuana, and another that could clear the way for pharmacies to sell medical marijuana in Michigan.

All three bills now go to the state Senate.

taliesin / MorgueFile

Michigan's history and social studies teachers may be required to include specific topics for an annual "Patriot Week."

The Senate this week passed a trio of bills that would require public schools to focus on the U.S. Constitution and other founding documents for one week every year.

Rick Pluta / Michigan Public Radio

Wednesday's vote by the Legislature to enact a law to require people to buy separate health policies to cover abortions may not be the final word on the question.

There are meetings underway to organize a referendum challenge. Abortion rights advocates are putting together a coalition to launch a petition drive. They want to challenge the new law with a referendum on the ballot next November.

Morguefile

Ann Arbor mayor John Hieftje vetoed last week's repeal of Ann Arbor's crosswalk ordinance. This leaves Ann Arbor's controversial crosswalk ordinance unchanged. 

The ordinance  requires drivers to yield to pedestrians waiting on the curb to enter  a crosswalk as well as to those who are already in the crosswalk.

Ann Arbor City Council voted 6-4 to repeal the crosswalk ordinance on December 2.  Eight votes are needed to override the mayor's veto.  It doesn't appear there are enough votes for that.

Morgue File

A Michigan lawmaker wants gas stations and convenience stores to improve security for late-night workers.

State Representative Collene Lamonte (D-Montague) announced today that she had introduced a bill to require gas stations and convenience stores operating between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. to schedule at least two people to work during those hours -- or to install and maintain security cameras.

cdc.gov

Mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies in public have every right to do so in Michigan. But not everyone's clear about the law.

Women cannot be told to leave a business or public transportation in order to breast feed their baby. Just because it may make some people uncomfortable, Michigan law is on the mother's side.

Several cases made recent headlines, including a woman who was told to get off a public bus because she was breastfeeding her baby.

HOWELL, Mich. (AP) - Sheriff Bob Bezotte says overcrowding has forced the Livingston County Jail to sleep some female inmates on the floor of a small cell with a single toilet.

The Livingston County Daily Press & Argus of Howell reports Saturday that Bezotte sent an email and photo showing the sleeping conditions to county commissioners.

The newspaper says it received the email and photo Friday through the Freedom of Information Act.

C Simmons / Flickr

A bill that would make it easier for phone companies to end traditional landline service in Michigan has cleared the state Senate.

AARP of Michigan and other groups worry the measure threatens affordable and reliable phone service. They say it could put some Michiganders at risk if they lose emergency medical alert systems available with traditional landlines.

But Senate Bill 636 still got overwhelming bipartisan support in the state Senate.

ACLU of Michigan

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Fair Housing Center of Southeastern Michigan  have asked the Inkster Housing Commission to drop its effort to evict a pregnant woman from one of its apartments. They say the Commission is evicting her because of domestic violence she has suffered while a tenant.

Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

  In a case being watched nationwide, a federal bankruptcy judge in Detroit today ruled that the city is eligible for Chapter Nine municipal bankruptcy protection.

Judge Steven Rhodes also surprised some when he ruled that the city’s pensions can be cut.

The word spread quickly among a group of protestors outside the federal courthouse in Detroit.

Morguefile

Ann Arbor's City Council voted 6-4 Monday night to repeal its controversial crosswalk ordinance.  The rule requires drivers to stop if a pedestrian is waiting on the curb to enter a crosswalk.

But it looks like the rule won't change.

The Mayor of Ann Arbor, John Hieftje, says he will veto the repeal before it has a chance to take effect.

He thinks the current law makes things safer for pedestrians. 

aclumich.org

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal lawsuit on Friday against the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of a pregnant Michigan woman who miscarried.

The suit claims that Tamesha Means was denied appropriate medical treatment at Mercy Health Partners in Muskegon, because the Catholic hospital is required to comply with religious directives written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The ACLU says the religious directives prohibit the hospital from providing the applicable standard of care or from informing patients about appropriate treatment options.

Mercy Health Partners is the only hospital in Means' county.

Official portrait

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. 

Wikimedia

The United States Supreme Court will hear today in a fight over a tribal casino in a small, northern

Michigan town. But there’s more than a casino at stake. The case revolves around the sovereign right of tribal governments to be immune from lawsuits.

The Bay Mills tribe wants to open a casino more than 100 miles from its reservation in Chippewa County in the eastern Upper Peninsula. The state of Michigan says it can’t, and sued in federal court to stop it.

U.S. Justice Department

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Don Davis is retiring after 40 years as a federal prosecutor in western Michigan.

Davis is a well-known lawyer in Grand Rapids. He's spent his career at the U.S. Attorney's Office there and served as head of the office for four years before President Barack Obama finally got a nominee approved by the U.S. Senate in 2012.

MLive.com says Davis disclosed his retirement in a letter to colleagues Friday.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a judge can ignore part of a state law that limits what a jury can consider as part of a criminal case.

The defendant in the case was charged with reckless driving that caused a fatality. His lawyer asked the judge to order the jury to consider a lesser charge. The judge agreed, even though state law specifically doesn’t allow that. The judge said the law violates the state constitution, and its separation of powers doctrine.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Can workers who are fired in Michigan for using medical marijuana get unemployment benefits?

The state appeals court has agreed to tackle the issue in the months ahead. One case involves a hospital employee in Charlotte, Michigan, while another involves a forklift driver in Grand Rapids.

Jenine Kemp and Rick Braska were fired after their employers learned they used medical marijuana. Drug use violated company policy.

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