Law

Law
3:35 pm
Wed September 12, 2012

U.S. Labor Department wins back pay for bakery staff

DETROIT (AP) - The U.S. Labor Department says a Detroit-based bakery chain has agreed to pay $63,000 in back wages to 21 employees whom it wrongly classified as independent contractors.

The agency said Wednesday that its investigation found that Sheila's Bakery LLC committed violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act at its three locations.

The agency says the misclassification of the workers deprived them of federally mandated overtime pay at time-and-a-half when they worked more than 40 hours in a week. Instead, they got a flat hourly rate or a flat weekly salary of $340 to $400.

The government says it loses substantial amounts of income, Social Security and Medicare tax payments because of the misclassification of employees as contractors.

Law
1:08 pm
Wed September 12, 2012

Four ideas for dealing with poverty, from the man who inspired the welfare reform movement

American Enterprise Institute

Libertarian author and commentator Charles Murray sat down with State of Opportunity's Dustin Dwyer yesterday to discuss his new book, Coming Apart, which highlights the growing stratification of wealth in America. 

Read more
Crime
12:35 pm
Tue September 11, 2012

Michigan State Police close in on Capitol vandalism suspect

The Capitol was vandalized early Thursday morning.
user mattileo flickr

The Michigan State Police say there is a single suspect in a vandalism spree last week that included the state Capitol building in Lansing. Officers also found graffiti early Thursday morning in downtown Lansing and at Lansing Community College.

State Police Lieutenant Kyle Bowman says there is still no arrest, but that should come soon.

“We’ll be submitting our portion of the report for our investigation to the Ingham County prosecutor’s office sometime this week," Bowman says.

Investigators aren’t releasing any information about the suspect yet.

Officers last week found two stick figures spray-painted on the Capitol’s front columns and a message reading “Give art a chance” on a war memorial on the Capitol lawn.

Police say the suspect could face felony charges for malicious destruction of property.

Workers at the Capitol are still trying to remove the spray paint. They say damages could range between a thousand and several thousand dollars.

Law
9:07 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

MSU study suggests unsuspected source of potential cyber attacks

Michigan State University researchers are developing a profile of individuals who carry out ‘cyber-attacks’ on government websites.

The results may help law enforcement identify who might be behind future attacks.

MSU criminal justice professor Thomas Holt asked hundreds of American and international college students about their feelings about being hypothetical ‘civilian cyber-warriors’, individuals who use the internet to attack or disable government computers.

Read more
Law
7:08 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

Lawmakers to look at legal aid for poor defendants

steakpinball flickr

Michigan's public defender system is consistently rated one of the worst in the country.

But this week, the House Judiciary Committee will consider creating a commission to establish standards for indigent defense.

Marcela Westrate is with the Michigan Campaign for Justice.

She says there are a host of reasons why poor criminal defendants don't always receive good legal help in this state.

"We don't have any statewide training requirements right now," said Westrate. "There's also things like consistency, where the same attorney represents a client until the completion of a case."

The commission would set the standards for Michigan's 83 counties - which each have their own public defender systems. Westrate says she hopes the commission could have new standards in place by the end of next year.

Law
12:38 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

Group says driving-while-texting laws don't help, calls for complete ban

Is he texting or dialing?
C. Todd Lopez Photo courtesy of U.S. Army

All states should ban drivers from using hand-held cell phones, according to a new recommendation by the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Only 10 states ban the use of handheld cell phones while driving.

Michigan is not one of them.

But it does have laws against sending a text while driving.

Jonathan Adkins, with the Governors Highway Safety Association, says the texting laws aren't doing as much good as they should.

"States are having some difficulty enforcing texting bans, if you have a texting only ban, it's very easy for a driver to say, oh, I was dialing my phone, I'm allowed to do that, I'm allowed to be on my phone, I'm just not allowed to text on it," says Adkins.

Adkins says banning the use of handheld cell phones altogether would solve that problem.  The safety group is also calling for tougher laws against driving while on drugs.

Law
4:00 am
Mon September 10, 2012

Final phase in Hamtramck construction project to put discrimination case to rest

The longest-running housing discrimination case in the U.S. is coming to an end.

A federal court in the early 1970s said Hamtramck had targeted African-American homes for demolition in the name of urban renewal. The city agreed to build 200 homes for the plaintiffs. And 40 years later, they're finally going to be finished.

"It's a huge deal for the city," said Jason Friedmann, the city's community and economic development director. "We're pretty proud of the fact that we're making right the problems that did occur in the past, and we're excited to give these plaintiffs a new opportunity in the city of Hamtramck."

Plaintiffs and their descendants get first dibs on the homes.

"Some of them are great-grandchildren of the original plaintiffs," said Friedman. "Quite a few of them still live in the Detroit area, but we have one person moving in from from California, and I believe there's another person actually moving from overseas."
 
Friedman says the city's fulfillment of its legal obligations will also lift a court-ordered ban on city-owned residential property sales. He says the ban has put a stranglehold on the city's development for 40 years.

Law
9:32 am
Thu September 6, 2012

Jury selection today for Kilpatrick trial, juror biases to be vetted

Former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.
Michigan Radio

Today at 9 a.m., jury selection officially began for the federal government's case against Kwame M. Kilpatrick, Bobby W. Ferguson, Bernard N. Kilpatrick, and Victor M. Mercado.

The four defendants are charged with public corruption for rigging water contracts and extorting city contractors through the mayor's office for personal gain.

The trial is expected to last 18 weeks.

The court describe's today's proceedings:

Read more
Law
5:34 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

Wyoming will appeal court’s decision overruling city’s medical marijuana ban

John Ter Beek sued the City of Wyoming over the medical marijuana ban. He's pictured in his small grow room in the basement of his Wyoming home in 2010.
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming will appeal a judge’s ruling that overturned its ban of medical marijuana. Wyoming is one of a handful of Michigan cities with an outright medical marijuanna ban. Others have instituted zoning restrictions.

Wyoming City Manager Curtis Holt says city council worries that medical marijuana will increase crime and cause confusion for police.

Read more
Law
1:02 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

Owners of M-22 logo promise to "go down fighting"

State route M-22 winds through Michigan's scenic Leelanau County.
Larry Page wikimedia commons

Several years ago, brothers Matt and Keegan Myers had an idea - capitalize on the love people have for the Leelanau County area by selling t-shirts, hats, coffee cups, bumper stickers, wine, and other items with the state highway M-22 logo on them.

State highway M-22 winds through the scenic coastal areas northwest of Traverse City, and along the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan's "pinkie."

Read more
Law
5:01 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

No answers yet in police shooting of mentally-ill man

Police officers fatally shot a mentally-ill Saginaw man
taliesin Morgue File

Two months after Saginaw police fatally shot a mentally-ill man, his family and community are still calling for answers.

On July 1st, Milton Hall was gunned down in a parking lot during a confrontation with police. It was captured on a cell phone video and made national headlines, with some media reporting the officers fired 46 times.

Hall reportedly held a knife, though the video appears to show he was several feet away when police opened fire.

Read more
Law
5:20 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Lansing surveillance cameras an invasion of privacy, ACLU and neighborhood group claim

alvimann MorgueFile

Residents of some Lansing neighborhoods say they worry that police surveillance cameras may be invading their privacy. 

The cameras were first installed in 2008  and are in now 13 locations.

Randy Watkins is a member of a Lansing group called the Coalition Against Monitoring and Surveillance.

He says an American Civil Liberties Union report bears out the group's concerns. He also claims the cameras target mainly African American neighborhoods.

Read more
Law
5:17 pm
Wed August 29, 2012

Panhandler who won free speech case arrested anyway, for panhandling

A federal judge in Grand Rapids ruled a Michigan law banning panhandling is unconstitutional.
Brian D. Hawkins Creative Commons

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is urging local governments to review their laws regarding panhandling in light of a federal ruling handed down last week.

A federal judge ruled a state law banning panhandling in public places is unconstitutional.

But ACLU staff attorney Miriam Aukerman says one of her clients in that case, James Speet, was arrested for panhandling in Kentwood anyway.

Read more
Law
10:19 am
Tue August 28, 2012

Judge says Michigan's panhandling law violates the Constitution

A federal judge in Grand Rapids says a Michigan law that bans panhandling in public places "on its face" violates the First Amendment.... and the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause.

The judge made the ruling Friday in a civil suit by two Grand Rapids men arrested last year for begging.

The men were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

A Grand Rapids City Attorney says her office will analyze the judge's opinion before deciding whether to appeal.

4:23 pm
Mon August 27, 2012

Couple living the high life with money from Detroit pension fund?

Lead in text: 
Faberge eggs, Rodin sculptures, and a mountainside resort in Costa Rica. These are just some of the treasures being sought by Detroit pension fund lawyers. They're accusing George and Teresa Kastanes of bilking $5 million from a January 2008 pension fund investment deal. The Detroit News reports no criminal charges have been filed.
Detroit - A South Carolina couple accused of stealing $5 million from a Detroit pension fund lived lavishly, shopped for a $1.5 million Caribbean vacation home and splurged on jeweled Russian eggs and statues created by famed French sculptor Auguste Rodin, according to federal court records.
Law
6:23 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

Kalamazoo non-profit tries to help answer questions about deferred deportation option

A non-profit organization in Kalamazoo is trying to help young undocumented immigrants sort through a new federal process that could prevent them from getting deported.

The director of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the process earlier this month.

Lori Mercedes is the Executive Director of the Kalamazoo-based Hispanic American Council. She says many immigrants have been calling with questions about the process but are nervous about exposing their legal status.

“This brought it up to the light and forced a conversation about it. It made it into an issue; now we have to talk about it,” Mercedes said. “It’s exciting…we can tell our kids go ahead and dream and have hope. There is hope for you after all.”

Read more
Law
11:27 am
Fri August 24, 2012

Inmates in Oakland County jail released due to overcrowding

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard says releasing more than 200 prisoners from the overcrowded  County Jail could have been avoided,  if judges had used alternative sentencing.

He  tells The Detroit News he sent a letter to judges earlier this month, notifying them of the "jail emergency and asking for cooperation to help avoid it."

Michigan law requires sentence reductions if prisoners don't pose a high risk.

Bouchard says beds are being used by inmates who don't need to be in jail, and could have been punished differently, avoiding the problem.

Law
10:30 am
Fri August 24, 2012

Pastor in West Michigan accused of embezzling more than $100,000

MLive reports the Pastor of a church with around 750 members confessed to turning in receipts for reimbursement that were never approved.

More from MLive:

Read more
3:26 pm
Thu August 23, 2012

Michigan inmate challenges former governor Granholm's commutation reversal

Lead in text: 
A fascinating story about a last second reversal by former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm. At the end of her term as governor in 2010, Granholm had signed an order commuting Matthew Makowski's sentence of life without parole. Makowski was convicted of first degree murder for setting up a robbery of a co-worker in 1988. But after she was contacted by the victim's family, Granholm reversed her order. Now lawyers are arguing whether she had the authority to rescind her original order.
LANSING, Mich. - Three days before Christmas 2010, a Michigan inmate got a remarkable gift: Gov. Jennifer Granholm said she would commute his life sentence for first-degree murder, ensuring his release after two decades in prison for setting up a robbery that led to the fatal stabbing of a co-worker.
Law
5:01 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Bing hopes judge will lift injunction on 12-hour police shifts

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing
Mayor's Office City of Detroit

Detroit Mayor Dave Bing says a judge’s order blocking 12-hour shifts for police officers will make it harder to balance the budget and keep the city safe.

"Absolutely. No doubt about it," he said. "I think some of the initiatives that we were putting forward was for two different reasons – once again, to make sure we stay within our budget, but also to keep as many police officers on the street as we possibly could and keeping them in the neighborhoods. So this doesn’t help."

Read more

Pages