Law

Law
12:03 am
Fri July 6, 2012

Young offenders say database marks them with scarlet letter

Zachary Payne has a rap sheet that reads like it belongs to someone who’s spent more than 18 years on this earth.

“Four Minor in Possessions,” he recounts, “two retail frauds, resisting arrest, assaulting a police officer, assault and battery, like two or three domestic violences, and a couple other ones I can’t remember.”

Payne might not be able to remember them. But the Internet does.

ICHAT is the name of an online database that anyone with ten dollars can check, and they do - especially employers, looking to vet potential hires.

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Law
4:58 pm
Wed July 4, 2012

Appeals Court reinstates case against former Highland Park emergency manager

The state Court of Appeals has reinstated an embezzlement case against the former emergency manager for Highland Park.

Arthur Blackwell II is accused of taking $264,000 in payments that were not authorized by state officials.

The appeals court decision reverses a lower court ruling - which had dismissed the case. The lower court agreed with Blackwell - who said as the city's emergency manager, he had the authority to sign the checks to himself. The appeals court says there's enough evidence that Blackwell acted improperly to try him.

Blackwell was appointed to fix Highland Park's finances in 2005, by then-governor Jennifer Granholm. 

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy says she's pleased with the appeals court decision.

Law
10:25 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

Is foster care in Michigan getting better?

Some of the games for young people at the Ruth Ellis House, a place for homeless youth.

Michigan’s foster care system is huge, the sixth biggest in the country. So many kids in the system were being abused, neglected or just forgotten about under the state’s care that a group called Children’s Rights sued the state to force it to change in 2006. Two years ago, the state entered into a court settlement and is now being monitored as it makes changes to its child welfare system.

Toni Williams grew up in foster care. She spent almost her whole life in the system, from the time she was a baby until a year ago when the state says she became too old for the system. Williams was 20. Under recent legislation some young people in Michigan can now receive transitional services until 21.

Williams just graduated from high school and is going to community college in the fall where she’s going to study to be a childcare provider and maybe work with the foster system.

“The reason why is because I know what it feels like, you know, to not have your family," says Williams. "You know what I’m saying? So it’s actually a good feeling to know that there’s someone out here who is willing to take a place for being a mother, or a father.”

Williams knows somebody needs to step up and be there for kids who need love, and guidance. The state for too long, was not stepping up.

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Law
4:36 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

Elections officials refuse to block ballot question

The state Court of Appeals, seen here, could be the next stop for a business group that’s trying to keep a proposal to protect collective bargaining off the November ballot.
user BotMultichil Wikimedia Commons

The state Court of Appeals could be the next stop for a business group that’s trying to keep a proposal to protect collective bargaining off the November ballot. That’s after state elections officials said they don’t have the legal authority to block the question.
    
The business-backed group Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution asked the Secretary of State to rule a question not eligible to appear on the ballot – even though the union-backed petition drive collected 650,000 names. That’s double the number needed. But the business group says the question itself is broad and sweeping when it should be narrow in scope.

The ballot question would amend the state constitution to guarantee collective bargaining rights and preempt a right-to-work law in Michigan. It would also roll back Republican-sponsored efforts to limit union fundraising and organizing.

The state’s election director says in a letter that the law does not give the Secretary of State the authority to unilaterally declare a question invalid. Attorneys say they may seek a court order to keep the question off the ballot.

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Law
4:29 pm
Mon July 2, 2012

Senator: Public defenders representing children, mentally ill should be specialists

user mconnors MorgueFile.com

State lawmakers are in the process of drafting legislation to make sure people who cannot afford attorneys get adequate legal representation in criminal court. One of the complaints about Michigan’s system is it does not ensure public defenders have the skills and experience they need to properly represent their clients.

State Senator Bruce Caswell served on the governor’s commission on indigent defense. He says the system has to recognize the special needs of defendants who are children or people with mental health issues.

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Law
1:01 am
Sat June 30, 2012

Michigan's ban on K2 and other synthetic drugs starts Sunday

Michigan's ban on K2 and other synthetic drugs starts July 1st, 2012
missionunity.org

Starting July 1, Michigan head shops and convenience stores will have to stop selling K2, Spice and other popular synthetic drugs.

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Law
2:54 pm
Fri June 29, 2012

Font size fight over EM referendum may reach Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Hall of Justice, in which the Michigan Supreme Court might hear the petition font case.
user Subterranean Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility has been trying to block a statewide referendum on Michigan’s emergency manager law. Today, the group filed a request asking the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling earlier this month that would allow voters to decide on emergency managers.

The group says a mistake in the font size that pro-referendum campaigners Stand Up for Democracy used in a portion of the text of their petitions was too small under regulations. 

Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility believes the font size is reason enough to keep the emergency manager referendum off the November ballot.

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Commentary
10:37 am
Fri June 29, 2012

Commentary: Playing by the rules

I wonder how Attorney General Bill Schuette would react if I told him, “Well, I know smoking marijuana is illegal, and I know you are against it. However, an amendment to make it legal might be  on the ballot this November. So, until we know how all that turns out, I think I will act as if the current law wasn’t there.“

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Law
5:26 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Michigan Supreme Court rejects claim jury was not impartial in Kent County rape case

Ramon Bryant
Michigan Dept. of Corrections

The Michigan Supreme Court has reinstated the conviction of a Kent County man who claimed he was denied a fair trial because of the racial makeup of his jury.  

 

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Law
3:53 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Medical marijuana patient wins round in Michigan Court of Appeals

kconnors MorgueFile

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of an Ottawa County man who was arrested for marijuana possession even though he had been approved for the use of medical marijuana.

James Nicholson was a passenger in a parked vehicle when he was arrested last year.

He told police he hadn't received his medical marijuana card yet, but he did have a copy of his application -- just not with him.

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Law
3:30 pm
Thu June 28, 2012

Supreme Court upholds almost all of health care law, what's next for Michigan?

Some states want the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the Asian carp fight.
US Supreme Court

Update 3:30 p.m.

The battle over the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act doesn't end with today's Supreme Court ruling that upheld almost all of the law.

It now moves to November's election, as the Twitterverse shows:

[View the story "Debate over healthcare law moves to November" on Storify]

1:55 p.m.

In the lead-up to today's Supreme Court decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act, Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R- Marshall) insisted on waiting to to set up a health care insurance exchange in the state until the ruling came down, despite the governor's wishes to move forward with establishing a statewide exchange.

In a statement released today, Bolger expressed his disappointment in SCOTUS' decision, but also that the state house plans to create a health insurance exchange.

He said:

"I could not be more upset that the Supreme Court has upheld this massive attack on Michigan’s working-class families and mandates for insurance coverage that citizens have repeatedly objected to. I am mad and disappointed, but we remain committed to fighting for Michigan’s future...

"We will work with Gov. Snyder and the state Senate to see that Michiganders have access to healthcare that is marketplace-driven and provides competition, transparency and common sense options.

"Having the state establish a healthcare exchange is not something we wish to do, but we cannot stand idly by and hand over our citizens’ healthcare to an overreaching federal bureaucracy. We will focus on putting people first and protecting them from this massive tax increase on Michigan’s working families.”

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Law
5:14 pm
Wed June 27, 2012

Court says state agency can impose welfare time limits

The Michigan Court of Appeals says the state Department of Human Services can cut off cash assistance welfare benefits to people who hit the federal time limit – even if they have time remaining on their state benefits.

The ruling was a mixed bag, but mostly bad news for the people fighting a state policy regarding time limits for cash assistance. The rules for cash assistance are complicated. There’s federal as well as state money that goes into the payments.

The Court of Appeals said the Michigan Department of Human Services can decide whether it wants to operate under the state’s time limits on cash assistance or the federal limits. That means the agency may order an end to the payments after a family has reached the federal 60-month cap on benefits, even if that family would still qualify under the state’s separate time limits. But the court also said the department never went through the state’s process for making a new rule, which it has to do to end the state’s portion of the benefit.

Either side could appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

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Law
5:03 pm
Wed June 27, 2012

Court says Michigan and U.S. constitutions include right to bear tasers

A handheld stun gun which discharges high-voltages to penetrate clothing, followed by low-voltages to cause Neuromuscular Incapacitation.
user Rama Wikimedia Commons

A court has ruled Michigan’s ban on private citizens owning Tasers and stun guns violates the right to bear arms that is protected in the state and federal constitutions.

Michigan’s ban on Tasers and stun guns will be relaxed come August. That’s when a new state law will allow people with concealed weapons permits to carry the devices. These cases date back to 2011 and 2010. A convenience store worker was arrested for carrying a stun gun on the job; another person was arrested in his home for possession of an illegal weapon.

The non-lethal devices rely on a surge of electricity to disable their targets. The Michigan Court of Appeals says the weapons are not sufficiently dangerous or unusual to be banned. The court did not address restrictions like Michigan’s new concealed weapon license requirements.

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Law
2:01 pm
Wed June 27, 2012

Appeals Court says Mich. 5-year welfare limit OK

The Michigan Court of Appeals
Mike Russell Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Court of Appeals says state officials can take away welfare benefits under a five-year federal limit even if recipients still qualify for cash assistance under state law.

The ruling released today overturns a Genesee Circuit Court decision that state Human Services Director Maura Corrigan lacked authority to enforce the five-year limit.

Michigan has its own four-year limit, but it doesn't count months where someone with a disability can't work or where family members are caring for a disabled spouse or child and can't hold an outside job.

The Appeals Court also says Corrigan violated the Administrative Procedures Act where state funds were involved.

The Department of Human Services is reviewing the opinion. A message seeking comment was left for the Center for Civil Justice, which brought the suit.

Law
11:57 am
Wed June 27, 2012

Appeals court strikes down Michigan stun gun ban

user jasonesbain wikimedia commons

BAY CITY, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan appeals court says the state can't stop people from owning stun guns.

A three-judge panel at the court says the Michigan and U.S. constitutions allow people to bear arms. The court says a total prohibition on stun guns can't stand.

The decision released Wednesday involved cases from Bay City and Muskegon. In Bay City, a store employee was carrying a stun gun while he worked behind the counter. In Muskegon, a stun gun was seized from a man at his home.

A new Michigan law that takes effect in August would allow people to have stun guns if they also have a permit to carry a concealed weapon. That law was not at issue in the cases at the appeals court.

Law
2:23 am
Wed June 27, 2012

In Holland, mixed response on protections for LGBT community

"Ignorance is not bliss," Resident Bin Lim said in response to those opposed to exanding protections to include sexual orientation and gender identity. "Fear is the big elephant in the room."
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Civil Rights Department heard more than two hours of testimony Tuesday night about whether the state should expand protections to gay, bisexual and transgender people. It’s a hot issue in Holland. More than 200 people packed Holland City Hall.

State law bans discrimination in housing and employment based on some factors - like race, gender, and national origin. But there are no such protections for people who are gay or transgender. That means a landlord, condo association or employer can legally discriminate based on a person’s gender identity or sexual orientation.

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Law
7:09 pm
Tue June 26, 2012

Mistrial declared in Detroit corruption case

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - A federal judge has declared a mistrial in the bid-rigging trial of a Detroit contractor whose business flourished when Kwame Kilpatrick was mayor.

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Law
5:21 pm
Tue June 26, 2012

Michigan prepares to re-sentence juvenile lifers

Bellamy Creek Correctional Facility
Michigan Department of Corrections Facebook.com

Arrangements are being made to return more than 350 Michigan inmates to the courts where they were sentenced. The prisoners will get new sentences under a U.S. Supreme Court decision this week. The court struck down mandatory sentences of life without parole for people convicted of crimes committed when they were juveniles.
    
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is advising the state Department of Corrections on how to proceed. He says Michigan will comply with the ruling, but prosecutors will make sure judges are reminded of the crimes the inmates were part of.

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Law
4:47 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

State laws allowing life sentences without parole for juveniles unconstitutional

The U.S. Supreme Court
User kconnors MorgueFile.com

The U.S. Supreme Court this morning struck down state laws that allow juveniles to be sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole. The ruling says life without parole for crimes that occurred when a felon was younger than 18 is excessive and violates the Eighth Amendment.

Michigan is one of several states that allowed juveniles to be sentenced to life without parole. The state has more than 350 people in state prisons serving life without parole for crimes committed as juveniles.

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Law
12:52 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

Abuelazam gets life without parole, other Flint stabbing cases remain

Mug shot of Elias Abuelazam
Arlington, Virginia Police Department

A prosecutor handling charges from a 2010 stabbing spree in the Flint area says he'll talk to victims and relatives about offering plea deals to close the remaining cases.

Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton says he needs to balance their feelings with the costs of taking eight more cases to trial. Elias Abuelazam was sentenced to life in prison without parole Monday, a month after being convicted in the first murder trial.

Abuelazam still faces two murder trials and six attempted murder trials. He's also charged with attempted murder in Toledo, Ohio.

It's not known if the 35-year-old Abuelazam is even interested in settling the remaining cases. The next court hearing won't occur until near Labor Day.

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