Law

Stories regarding the legal system

static416 / Creative Commons

A bill that’s working its way through the state House would make large-scale dog breeders register with the state. “Large scale” would be any breeder with 15 or more female dogs used for breeding puppies.

The Obama administration is telling local police not to disclose details about powerful new surveillance devices they obtained from the federal government.

That's according to the Associated Press.

The devices were developed to monitor enemy cell phone communications on the battlefield. 

Now, the devices, known by the nicknames, "Hailstorm," and "Stingray," are being used as a domestic law enforcement tool.   

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear two more medical marijuana cases. Two medical marijuana cardholders want the state’s highest court to rule that a voter-approved law shields them from criminal charges.

In both cases, the defendants say the fact that they have medical marijuana cards should protect them from prosecution even if they did not abide by the letter of the law.

In one case, a cardholder who was also allowed to provide marijuana to two patients was charged after he sold pot to an undercover police officer posing as a patient. In the other case, the cardholder had more marijuana than he needed for his patients, and the plants were not kept in a separate locked location.

They both say the medical marijuana law offers sweeping protections to state-issued cardholders from criminal charges. Michigan’s medical marijuana statute was approved by an overwhelming majority of the state’s voters in 2008. More than 130 thousand Michigan residents have registered for cards. 

Governor Rick Snyder's statement after a federal court overturns Michigan's ban on same sex marriage in March 2014.

Flckr

Legislation in the state House proposed by state Rep. Thomas Hooker, R-Byron Center, would require abortion providers to use ultrasound to detect a fetus's heartbeat – and offer the woman a chance to hear it.

That bill has the support of Right to Life of Michigan.

But the group does not support Hooker's two other bills that make it a crime to perform an abortion after a heartbeat is detected.

Ultrasound can generally detect a heartbeat at about seven weeks.

Vu Bui / Flickr

Friends, partners or neighbors in Michigan who make legal medical decisions for a person when alive are not allowed the same right when the person passes away.

House Bill 5162 would change that by allowing someone who is not related to the individual to be designated as his or her funeral representative.

Anita Clos, assistant director of medical social work at the University of Michigan, says social workers witness the trauma families experience because of the way current law works.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Dozens of people are suing General Motors over its ignition switch problem.

Texas attorney Bob Hilliard represents about 70 families suing GM in a variety of state and federal courts.

He says his clients were “stunned” to hear GM CEO Mary Barra admit the problem was a result of "incompetence and neglect."

“I don’t think that GM can come into a court of law anymore and argue it wasn’t their fault,” says Hilliard.  He says the only thing GM can argue now is “what is the value of the loss.”

Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

As expected, Michigan’s attorney general has dropped an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to block a Lansing casino project.

But the legal fight is far from finished.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the state of Michigan could not sue the Bay Mills tribe to block it from operating a casino located off its reservation. The court ruled that the tribe has sovereign immunity.

The state was using the same legal strategy in an appeal in a case involving a proposed Lansing casino.

Jennifer Guerra

For a kid caught stealing a $30 bracelet from a store,  juvenile court would likely be the next stop.

But a "teen court" program in Detroit gives some teenagers a chance to avoid the juvenile justice system. It's one of about 1,000 programs across the country.

The teen court model still doles out consequences for kids who break the law, but the idea behind it is less about punishment and more about getting kids on the right path. Teenagers are involved in every aspect of the program. They are "lawyers" and "jury members," not just defendants.

Michigan Supreme Court
photo courtesy of the MI Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled a practice by the state's child welfare system is unconstitutional. 

Yesterday the State Supreme Court struck down a 12-year-old rule they said violated the constitution because it allowed the state to punish both parents for abuse or neglect of a child for whom only one parent was responsible, even when parents were not living together.

The court ruling that put Detroit Congressman John Conyers back on the primary ballot is also a victory for voting rights advocates.

A federal judge recently declared a Michigan law that required petition circulators to be registered voters unconstitutional.

Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office has now opted not to appeal.

Samantha Wolf and Martha Rutledge are among the plaintiffs in the ACLU's case. They said, "we were so excited when we got married, but it felt like such a blow to have that taken away so soon."
ACLU

The ACLU of Michigan has filed a lawsuit that seeks to force Michigan to recognize the marriages of around 300 same-sex couples.

The couples married on Saturday, March 22 after a federal judge struck down Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage the day before. Several county clerks had opened their offices to allow the marriages to go forward. A federal appeals court later issued a stay on the ruling, which put a hold on any more marriages from taking place.

And Gov. Snyder later announced that the state would not recognize the marriages that took place on that Saturday.

From the ACLU’s press release:

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of eight same-sex couples who were married after a federal judge struck down the state’s ban and before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals put the decision on hold.

"As a matter of law and fundamental fairness, the state is obligated to extend the protections that flow from marriage to all those who celebrated their weddings last month," said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director.

The ACLU has more on the families who have joined the lawsuit. You can read more here.

Detroit Institute of Arts

The Detroit Institute of Arts is firing back at creditors who say the city should use the museum’s assets to pay them off.

The DIA filed a formal objection to those creditors in bankruptcy court this week, just as city lawyers acknowledged an ongoing effort to put a price tag on the museum’s entire collection.

Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians

A U.S. Supreme Court decision this week may pave the way for casino gambling in Michigan’s capitol city.

Lansing mayor Virg Bernero says a $245 million casino project has been “cleared for takeoff” by the high court’s decision in a different casino case.

State officials sued to close an off-reservation casino opened by the Bay Mills tribe. But the U.S. Supreme Court Tuesday ruled against the state of Michigan, saying the tribe has sovereign immunity.

Kevin Rosseel / morguefile

There's no arguing the fact that more women are being put behind bars. 

The female prison population in this country rose 646% from 1980 to 2010, largely because of drug offenses. That adds up to 112,000 women in state and federal prisons. 

So what happens once these women are paroled?

Jennifer Cobbina is an assistant professor of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University. She's the lead author of a study on female parolees that was published in the journa Race and Justice. She joined us on Stateside.

*Listen to the full interview above. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court says Michigan can't block the opening of an American Indian casino.

The high court on Monday disagreed with state officials who want to shutter the Bay Mills Indian Community's casino about 90 miles south of its Upper Peninsula reservation. Michigan argues that the tribe opened the casino in 2010 without permission from the U.S. government and in violation of a state compact.

Hekmati family

DETROIT (AP) - A news agency reports that a retired U.S. Marine from Michigan has requested a new trial in Iran, where he has been imprisoned since 2011 after being accused of spying.

Thirty-one-year-old Amir Hekmati is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen born in Arizona and was raised in the Flint, Michigan, area.

He was arrested in August 2011, then tried, convicted and sentenced to death for spying. Iran's Supreme Court annulled the death sentence, and the country's Revolutionary Court resentenced him to 10 years in prison for "cooperating with hostile governments"

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A group of Metro Detroit clergy leaders stood together Thursday to send a clear message: They support same-sex marriage and equal rights for LGBT people.

They also strongly condemned some of their fellow Michigan Christian leaders who are fighting to uphold the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Last week, a group of about 200, mostly Michigan-based black pastors declared that “the fight is on” to protect “traditional” marriage.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Mediators in Detroit's federal bankruptcy case say that building trade unions have agreed to contribute to a fund to cover retirees' benefits.

Some legislative Republicans have made union contributions to the pensions a condition for state aid, designed to protect the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection from sale to cover the costs.

A state House committee is to vote Tuesday spending $195 million to help Detroit emerge from bankruptcy.

The Hekmati family

The family and friends of a retired U.S. Marine from Flint are taking their campaign to gain his release from an Iranian prison cell to the White House on Monday.

Iranian officials arrested Amir Hekmati nearly three years ago while he was visiting relatives.

via Michigan United

Immigrant advocates in southeast Michigan have launched a push to make more people US citizens.

The New Americans campaign is on the ground in eight U.S. cities, including metro Detroit.

The area is home to large numbers of people who are permanent residents, but haven’t taken the steps to apply for U.S. citizenship.

Diego Bonesatti, legal director for the pro-immigrant group Michigan United, says that’s in part because the immigration process has become a lot more complex in recent years.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

A coalition of about 200 mostly Michigan-based black pastors says “the fight is on” when it comes to same-sex marriage.

A federal judge overturned the state’s ban on same-sex marriage earlier this year. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has appealed that ruling, and it’s now headed to the US 6th Circuit court of appeals.

The pastors condemned the ruling in an event at First Baptist International World Changers church in Detroit Wednesday.

File photo / Kent County Sheriff

A former Kent County commissioner will be sentenced next month after pleading guilty this week to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct charges.

As part of the agreement, prosecutors dropped four counts of first degree criminal sexual conduct against former Kent County Commissioner Gary Rolls. He could’ve faced life in prison if convicted on those more serious charges.

Instead, Rolls pleaded guilty to a lesser charge plus illegal use of a computer and tampering with evidence.

Larry Farr / Morguefile

Helping prison officials and the families of prisoners communicate better is the goal of a pilot project at three Michigan prisons. So is providing support to the families of prisoners.

The privately funded Family Participation Program will partner with the Michigan Department of Corrections.

MDOC spokesperson Russ Marlan says it's hard for family members to negotiate the unfamiliar world of prisons. 

He said having an independent liaison for each prison will make it easier for family members to get their questions answered.

gophouse.org

Later this morning a legislative oversight committee will discuss a new secretive cell phone tracking device the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department is using.

Not much is known about the device.

It can reportedly trick nearby cell phones into providing data to the police. It can be helpful in tracking people, like missing children and fugitives, but it’s not clear how much more information is collected and what the sheriff’s department does with it.

Einar Einarsson Kvaran/Flickr

MARQUETTE – Officials in Marquette have installed security cameras in hopes of preventing further vandalism of the Father Marquette statue in the Upper Peninsula city.

The Mining Journal of Marquette reports two cameras have been placed on the Lake Superior Community Partnership building along Front Street. The cameras cost $2,000.

The statue has been at its current site for about a century. It first was erected in Marquette in 1897.

Someone put red paint on the statue in November 2012. After several months of restoration, green paint was found on it last June.

A mentally handicapped Dearborn man plans to sue the city for alleged police brutality.

28-year-old Ali Beydoun was stopped by police while riding his bike home from his job as a dishwasher in December.

A dashcam video shows that an officer approaches him, and asks a few questions.

But when the officer tries to pat him down for weapons, Beydoun resists. He’s then wrestled to the ground and kicked by officers.

Beydoun’s lawyers say that same video shows officers used excessive force.

Attorney Amir Makled says it also should have been obvious to officers that his client is mentally disabled.

Makled says the situation was complicated by the fact that Beydoun only speaks limited English. His family emigrated to the U.S. from Lebanon six years ago.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

 A civil rights group says the University of Michigan is discriminating against students from immigrant families.

The Arab American Civil Rights League has filed a class action federal lawsuit against the school.

It claims the university wrongly classifies some students from immigrant backgrounds as out-of-state residents.

NEW YORK (AP) - Kellogg says it will no longer use the "All Natural" or "Nothing Artificial" labels on certain Kashi products as part of an agreement to settle a class-action lawsuit.

The company, based in Battle Creek, Michigan, says it will also pay $5 million to settle the suit.

In an emailed statement, Kellogg Co. says it stands by its advertising and labeling practices but that it would change its formulas or labels nationally by the end of the year.

User Eljoja / Flickr

A package of bills before state lawmakers could make Michigan the very first state to adopt a roadside test that would tell police whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana.

Current law allows police to test the blood, breath and urine of drivers pulled over for erratic driving. The proposed legislation now being debated would add a roadside saliva test that could tell police if a driver is impaired by pot.

Cynthia Canty spoke with State Representative Dan Lauwers, R-Brockway Twp., who sponsored the legislation. 

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