Law

Law
11:43 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Dow Chemical plans to appeal a big class action suit decision

dow.com

A federal judge has slapped Midland-based Dow Chemical with a billion dollar judgment in a price fixing case. The company allegedly colluded with its competitors to fix the price of urethane.

The collusion allegedly occurred between 1998 and 2003. Urethane is used in automotive, construction, appliance and furniture products.

In February, a jury turned in a 400 million dollar verdict against Dow Chemical. This week, a federal judge tripled the penalty to $1.2 billion.   

Dow plans to appeal the verdict. BASF, Huntsman International and Lyondell Chemical Company have already reached out of court settlements with the plaintiffs.

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Law
5:36 pm
Thu May 16, 2013

Shelter for sexually trafficked girls launched in Grand Rapids

A group that opened the state's first shelter for underage victims of sex trafficking says there's a need for more such shelters.

Andy Soper is with the Manasseh Project, which opened the 12-bed shelter six months ago.

"We're seeing the growth in the young women getting back up to their grade level in school, working diligently on their therapy and their recovery process, getting jobs, so we're seeing progress and it's wonderful to see," Soper told Michigan Radio.

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Law
5:10 pm
Wed May 15, 2013

Don't know much about Detroit's new Chief of Police? Read this.

James Craig was named Detroit's Chief of Police today
LinkedIn

Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr named former Cincinnati Police Chief James Craig as Detroit's new Chief of Police.

Michigan Radio's Sarah Hulett attended the press conference, where Orr announced that Craig will begin July 1, 2013:

The new police chief of Michigan's largest city says he's committed to reducing violence and making the Detroit Police Department a premier police agency.

This announcement followed the plan that Orr outlined in his 45-day report on Detroit's economic status. 

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Law
10:50 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

NAACP files lawsuit against emergency manager law

Detroit Branch NAACP President Rev. Wendell Anthony announces the federal lawsuit challenging Michigan's emegency manager law.
NAACP

Michigan's controversial law that allows the state to take over the finances of cash-strapped cities is the subject of yet another lawsuit.

The Detroit branch of the NAACP filed the lawsuit in federal court today. It claims the state's emergency manager law is unconstitutional.

“It's fundamentally about our right to vote, and our right, as constitutionally guaranteed, to select and elect our own publicly elected officials,” said Detroit branch President Rev. Wendell Anthony.

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Law
12:15 pm
Mon May 13, 2013

Understanding the new ruling on teachers' union dues

In the classroom.
Mercedes Mejia Michigan Radio

This past Thursday, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the State of Michigan can proceed with Public Act 53, a law prohibiting school districts from deducting union dues from teachers’ paychecks.

The 2-1 ruling overturned a Detroit federal court preliminary injunction that ruled in favor of the unions. In June of 2012, U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood issued the preliminary injunction against Public Act 53.

With the new ruling, public schools are no longer required to deduct the union dues from the paychecks of teachers and other school employees.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Thursday's opinion read: “The act merely directs one kind of public employer to use its resources for its core mission, rather than the collection of union dues.” 

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Law
11:55 am
Sat May 11, 2013

Lawsuit next week to challenge Michigan's emergency manager law

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Leaders of the Detroit branch of the NAACP say they'll file a lawsuit next week challenging Michigan's emergency manager law.

The law has allowed Gov. Rick Snyder to put managers in Detroit and other struggling cities and school districts. Critics plan to talk Monday outside the federal courthouse in Detroit.

Other legal challenges have not been successful. An Ingham County judge in April threw out a lawsuit that claimed lawmakers violated the Open Meetings Act when it approved the bill in December.

Law
4:20 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

Southeast Michigan restaurant settles ADA suit

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A suburban Detroit restaurant is paying a high price for refusing to serve a family of five. The federal government sued .alleging the restaurant violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

The incident occurred in 2011.

The manager of the Golden Corral in Westland asked a family of five to leave his restaurant after other diners complained about the appearance of the children’s skin. 

The family’s four children suffer from a genetic disorder (epidermolysis bullosa) that makes their skin blister.  

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Stateside
3:48 pm
Wed May 8, 2013

Building better security screening systems

Could radar be used in future screening systems?
user g7ahn Flickr

In the aftermath of school shootings, theater shootings, and bombings, the question of security screening has become real and important.

How do we balance privacy concerns and rights with the need to screen for potential threats?

A University of Michigan professor is working on that challenge: building a better security detector.

Dr Kamal Sarabondi is a professor of electrical engineering, and he's the director of the Radiation Laboratory at the University of Michigan.

He's gotten funding from the U.S. Department of Defense and is developing a long-range radar technology as a means to detect a concealed object. He explains what it is and how it differs from what we have today.

Listen to the full interview above.

Law
1:46 pm
Tue May 7, 2013

Flint family of jailed former Marine in Iran gets letters

Amir Hekmati (file photo)
Hekmati family

DETROIT (AP) - The family of a former Marine detained in Iran for nearly two years says he's finally receiving visits from an uncle there and has been able to send letters to immediate family members in the United States.

The Flint Journal reports Amir Hekmati's family holds out hope the developments could signal some movement toward the 29-year-old's release and eventual return to Michigan.

Sarah Hekmati says the letters are "the first time he's been directly able to express his thoughts." Hekmati's family says he went to Iran in 2011 to visit his grandmothers.

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Law
1:00 am
Tue May 7, 2013

State lawmakers to discuss proposed fixes to Michigan's "broken" indigent defense system

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The State Senate Judiciary Committee takes up bills today that would greatly change Michigan’s indigent defense system.   

James Samuels is the president of the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan.    He says the current system Michigan uses to provide attorneys for poor defendants is “broken”.

Samuels likes the proposed changes, including the way attorneys get contracts to represent indigent defendants.

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Law
12:35 am
Sun May 5, 2013

Gov. Snyder declares May 5-11 Arson Awareness Week

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Gov. Rick Snyder is urging residents to help prevent arson fires in Michigan's communities.

Snyder has proclaimed May 5-11 Arson Awareness Week in Michigan. This year's theme is "Reducing Residential Arson."

The state says that residential arson fires throughout Michigan resulted in more than $10 million in property losses last year. There were 782 residential arson fires in the state in 2012.

Law
12:55 pm
Thu May 2, 2013

Detroit federal court officials look to improve jury diversity

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Gerald Rosen, at lectern, says changes to the juror selection process should improve jury diversity.
Sarah Hulett Michigan Radio

The federal court that serves 32 counties in the eastern half of Michigan is changing its juror selection process in the hopes of improving jury diversity.

Judges on the bench say one of the main problems is a high rate of "undeliverable" mail in ZIP codes where minorities live. So starting this month, when mailings to potential jurors come back to the court, another mailing will go out to the same ZIP code.

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Law
5:31 pm
Tue April 30, 2013

Student loan payments may be tax credits

State Representative Andy Schor

Student loan payments may be applied as tax credits if a new bill in Lansing becomes law. Democratic State Representative Andy Schor is sponsoring the legislation. 

He says “it’s the start of keeping that talent here and reversing the brain drain as we create some of the places where they want to be.”

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Law
5:04 pm
Tue April 30, 2013

Smoking or possessing pot in Grand Rapids now 'decriminalized'

Protestors march in December 2012, when the city was first blocked from implementing the charter change.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Nearly six months after Grand Rapids voters passed a charter amendment to decriminalize marijuana, the city is implementing the change this week. You can read the rules here.

The delay comes in part because the Kent County prosecutor sued the city when it tried to implement the change in December.

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Stateside
4:33 pm
Wed April 24, 2013

Proposed state bill seeks to decriminalize marijuana

Possession of one ounce or less of marijuana would be a civil infraction under a proposed Michigan law
user Laughing Squid Creative Commons

State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) formally announced legislation today that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Under House Bill 4623, being caught possessing less than one ounce of marijuana would result in a civil infraction with a fine, but not jail time.

Currently, Michigan's law classifies marijuana possession as a misdemeanor with the possibility of a heavy fine and jail time.

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Law
4:20 pm
Mon April 22, 2013

Tribe appeals injunction blocking Lansing casino project

Artist's conception of the proposed Kewadin Lansing casino
Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

Backers of a proposed casino in downtown Lansing are asking a federal appeals court to toss out a legal ruling that threatens to bring their plans to a halt. 

Last month a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Sault Ste Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians’ plans to build a $245 million casino in downtown Lansing.

Michigan’s attorney general sought the injunction claiming the tribe’s plans violated federal law and a state gambling compact.    

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Law
4:16 pm
Wed April 17, 2013

Supreme Court case about a little known law could be a big deal for Michigan's kids

A few members of the Burrows family, who hope a new state law will make experiences like theirs more rare.

Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court heard oral arguments on a case involving the Indian Child Welfare Act.

The law is designed to make sure Native American children in the child welfare system stay connected with their tribes.  

The court's decision will affect Michigan, as the state recently passed a stronger version of Indian Child Welfare Act.

I produced a story on these laws and the people they affect for State of Opportunity.

You can listen to the full version here.

And for those with limited time, here are three important points to know about this story:

  • Congress passed the Indian Child Welfare Act 35 years ago to put a stop to private and state workers taking Indian children away from their homes and tribes often with little reason other than a desire to assimilate them to white and Christian culture. Many families in Michigan are still dealing with the effects of this, including Judge Alli Greenleaf Maldonado who tells her personal story of her mother and her grandmother being removed from their homes. 
  • A Michigan law that is clearer and stronger than the federal law was passed in January with almost unanimous, bi-partisan support. The abusive practices of the past have stopped, but Indian children are still over-represented in the state's child welfare system.
  • Some child welfare advocates are looking to Michigan's law, the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act, as a model for the state because it takes a different approach to child welfare. It tries to keep children out of the state system in the first place. The law requires child welfare workers to work actively with parents to make changes that will benefit their children. The law also allows Indian children to have their cases in a smaller and more personal tribal system.  But the success of the law depends on everyone knowing the law and following it. Many people have concerns, like the Burrows family, who personally experienced a devastating loss when the law was applied incorrectly. 

Read more about the personal stories behind this law and why people have hope it can change Michigan's child welfare system at State of Opportunity

Law
9:40 am
Mon April 15, 2013

Judge holds self in contempt for his smartphone

(file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

IONIA, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan judge whose smartphone disrupted a hearing in his own courtroom has held himself in contempt and paid $25 for the infraction.

The Sentinel-Standard of Ionia and MLive.com report Judge Raymond Voet has a posted policy at Ionia County 64A District Court. It states that electronic devices causing a disturbance during court sessions will result in the owner being cited with contempt.

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Law
1:17 pm
Sun April 14, 2013

Unmanned drones on the minds of Michigan lawmakers

Michigan state capitol building, Lansing Michigan (file photo)
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan lawmakers take up drone legislation this week.

The unmanned aircraft have proven effective in war, but some are concerned they may violate the rights of Michiganders.

Unmanned drones offer a new way to see the world. The drones can help police departments keep an eye on criminals, give state agencies a different way to survey state land and even help local school administrators watch students on the playground.

But there is concern that drones could be abused.

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Law
1:55 pm
Fri April 12, 2013

Closed state prison to reopen in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) - A state prison on Detroit's east side will be reopened as a temporary detention center for anyone arrested in the city.

Mayor Dave Bing's office says the summer opening of the Mound Correctional Facility will free up about 40 police officers for street patrols. It was closed by the state in January 2012.

Officers currently are assigned to five police lockup facilities and a holding unit at Detroit Receiving Hospital where people who are arrested are held until their arraignments. Prisoners then are released to the Wayne County sheriff's office.

Bing's office says the five police lockups will be closed and that the Mound facility will hold up to 200 people.

The city launched an initiative last month that focuses on crime hot spots, drug arrests and enforcing traffic laws.

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