law

State Law
10:15 am
Mon March 28, 2011

Bill could speed up adoptions in Michigan

A bill pending in the state legislature could speed up adoptions in Michigan. 

State law requires all adoptions be approved by only one person – the superintendent of the Michigan Children’s Institute.

That leads to delays of up to two months in getting an adoption finalized.

Maura Corrigan is Director of the Michigan Department of Human Services.

She says the superintendent should be able to choose people to act in his stead.

"We’ll be able to have the adoptions approved locally by one of his designees, instead of every local case going to Lansing and be looked at there," says Corrigan.

There are more than 4,000 children eligible for adoption in Michigan.

State Law
8:13 am
Thu March 10, 2011

Michigan's price tag law headed for repeal

Michigan's item pricing law may soon be a thing of the past
Scorpions and Centaurs Flickr

Michigan has the strictest retail pricing law in the nation. But now the state is poised to repeal the law that requires individual price tags on everything from canned food to lumber.

Retailers have been trying to get rid of the law since it was passed 30 years ago to try to protect consumers from being overcharged in checkout lines.

Michigan’s item pricing law was enacted in the 1970s just as electronic scanners were becoming commonplace. No other state has a law this expansive. Massachusetts requires item pricing for groceries.

Consumers like this law, and it was once-considered untouchable. But now with a new Republican governor and emboldened GOP majorities in the Legislature, Michigan is on the verge of repealing it.

Retired construction supervisor John McKenzie isn’t happy about that. He says price tags ensure that he knows the cost of something before he buys it, and that he’s being charged the correct price in the checkout line.

McKenzie says he also double checks the price against his store receipt when he gets home:

“If you don’t have that price tag on there, how do you know what that item was priced at back at the store? I mean, we’ve all picked an item off the shelf and when we get up there the item rings up differently.”

Michigan’s pricing law allows consumers who find a mistake to collect a bounty of up to $5 per error.

Retailers also face fines for not putting price tags on items. Five years ago, Wal-Mart paid a record fine of $1.5 million here.

Big retailers say the law is expensive for stores and for shoppers – although no one can say how much consumers might save if the law is repealed.  Smaller stores say it fails to take their needs into account.

Musician Mike Daniels shows off a guitar on the showroom floor of Marshall Music.

Owner Dan Marshall says his store complies with the law – mostly. There are some things, small or thin items like woodwind reeds, guitar picks, and drumsticks, that it makes no sense to price individually:

“We’ve got an entire display of drumsticks and in each bin, the price is clearly marked, but on each individual stick, they’re not.”

Marshall says, in some cases, labels would cover up package information that customers care about:

“Truth be known, practicality trumps law in some cases, and we’re in violation of the item pricing. Not maliciously, simply because it’s so impractical and unnecessary."

Marshall’s not alone. In Michigan, the price tag law may be the most widely ignored law since the 55 mile per hour speed limit.

Retailers think they’ve made their sale to the state’s political leaders that’s it’s time to close the books on Michigan’s one-of-a-kind price tag law.

State Legislature
6:45 am
Mon March 7, 2011

Senate ready to vote on Emergency Financial Manager bills

Capitol Building, Lansing, MI
Ifmuth Flickr

The state Senate is expected to vote this week on a proposal to give emergency financial managers more control when they take over the budgets of cities, townships or school districts.

State Senator Phil Pavlov says the purpose of the proposal is to help communities that are in financial trouble fix their problems before they have to be taken over by an emergency financial manager.

He says it sets warning signs so problems can be dealt with earlier. But he says if emergency managers do step in, they need to have total control of the situation.

“The emergency manager would be able to make some very difficult decisions, and we know that we have to have somebody with the power to do that under extreme situations."

Unions oppose the proposal because it would allow managers to throw out contracts.

Governor Rick Snyder asked the Legislature to approve the increased power for emergency financial managers during his State of the State speech.

Commentary
11:08 am
Thu March 3, 2011

Unpopular Stands

Yesterday the U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling that effectively overturned a Michigan law -- and undoubtedly angered and outraged the vast majority of the nation’s citizens.

The nation’s highest court said that the obnoxious protests that members of the Westboro Baptist Church stage at military funerals are fully protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution.

Chief Justice John Roberts decreed that our nation’s fundamental commitment to free speech requires full protection of, quote “even hurtful speech on public issues.”

Now if you need reminding, the Westboro Baptist Church is a small group from Topeka, Kansas that mainly consists of the members of one large extended family. They believe homosexuality is evil and America deserves divine punishment for tolerating it.

Accordingly, they’ve been traveling the country picketing at military funerals, waving signs that say things like “God Hates America,” “God Hates Fags,” and “Thank God for Dead Soldiers.”

Somehow, they believe our war casualties are fitting punishment for tolerance.

Michigan passed a law five years ago that was squarely aimed at the Westboro group. It essentially prohibited any such conduct within five hundred feet of a funeral.

But the U.S. Supreme Court ruling essentially makes it all but certain that the Michigan law will be struck down as unconstitutional, if prosecutors attempt to use it.  Now ever since the 1960s, conservatives have often complained that out-of-touch liberals on the nation‘s highest court were improperly distorting the Constitution.

Read more
Politics
3:38 pm
Wed March 2, 2011

Michigan funeral protest law in jeopardy

A sign at a Westboro Baptist Church picket in East Lansing last year.
Steve Carmody Michigan Radio

Michigan’s law barring protesters from funerals might be vulnerable after today’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The nation’s highest court ruled in favor of an anti-gay group that pickets at military funerals.

Michigan, like dozens of other states, passed a law in 2006 to prevent the protests from disrupting funerals here.

At the time, the states were trying to prevent a fundamentalist Christian Church from Kansas from picketing military funerals.

The pickets were not opposing the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan, but against gay rights.

The ACLU challenged Michigan’s law after a couple attending a family friend’s funeral was arrested for having anti-George W. Bush signs on their car.

Dan Korobkin, with the ACLU, says the new court ruling may be enough to tip the balance in their challenge to Michigan’s law:

“Laws that are created to stifle unpopular speech, which is what the law in Michigan was created to do, always end up backfiring and punishing innocent people.”

Korobkin says they hope to hear soon from the federal judge considering their challenge to the state law, "the federal judge who is overseeing that case has already indicated that it is probably unconstitutional, but he hasn’t taken the final step of striking it down," said Korobkin.

Environment
2:23 pm
Fri February 25, 2011

Wayne State, Univ of Windsor create joint environmental law clinic

Detroit skyline seen from Windsor, Ontario, across the Detroit River.
Bernt Rostad creative commons

About a dozen law students from Detroit and Windsor will have a chance to work together on environmental legal issues.

The law schools at Wayne State University and the University of Windsor will team up this fall to create North America's first  transnational environmental law clinic.

Read more
Health
1:06 pm
Fri February 4, 2011

Report: Federal judge dismisses challenge against heath care law

In 2009, then Ohio Representative John Boehner spoke out against the health care reform bill. Now courts are weighing in.
GOP House Leader Flickr

A federal judge in Mississippi tossed out a lawsuit aimed at challenging the health care reform law. The dismissal comes the same week a federal judge in Florida ruled that the whole law was unconstitutional.

Politico.com reports:

Ten individuals without health insurance argued that the law’s requirement to buy insurance violated their rights. One of the plaintiffs is Mississippi Lt. Gov. Phil Bryant. Judge Keith Starrett said the individuals didn’t prove they have proper standing to challenge the law because they didn’t prove the mandate would apply to them. The suit was thrown out on procedural grounds.

It's not the first time lawsuits challenging the health care law have been tossed. Politico writes, "about two dozen lawsuits have been filed against the health care reform law since it was passed in March. Thirteen have now been thrown out over procedural matters such as a right to bring the suit."

Keeping score

NPR's Health blog went to their "go-to overhaul scorekeeper" Julie Rover for a tally on how challenges to the health care law have fared in court. The bloggers on "Shots" wrote:

The judicial scorecard on the law has pretty much followed party lines. Two judges who found the law constitutional were appointed by Democrats. Two who found the requirement for most people to have health insurance unconstitutional were appointed by Republicans.

The several dismissals issued for the health care court challenges, like the one today, have not followed any party ties.

Law
3:57 pm
Thu February 3, 2011

Can children testify in court behind screens?

The Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether it is appropriate to allow children to testify in criminal cases behind screens that shield them from seeing defendants.

The court agreed today to take the case.

The U.S. Constitution's Sixth Amendment gives criminal defendants the right to confront their accusers in court.

In the case going before the Michigan Supreme Court, an eight-year-old girl testified that her brother-in-law had repeatedly raped her over a period of years, and exposed her and her brother to pornography.

The jury did not believe the man’s defense that the girl made up the charges to break up his marriage.

The defendant says he was deprived of his right to confront the primary witness against him because she testified from behind a one-way screen.

The screen shielded her view of the defendant, although he could see her.

A therapist said that was the only way she could testify without risking serious emotional damage.

The defendant says the shield prejudiced the jury against him, and that the Constitution requires witnesses to look defendants in the eye when testifying against them.

Commentary
3:43 pm
Thu January 27, 2011

Guns in Church

Newly elected State Senator Mike Green, who comes from beet-growing country in Michigan’s thumb, seems to be a good and decent man. He was a tool and die maker for General Motors for thirty years, and operated a family farm most of that time.

He’s had the same wife for forty-three years; raised five kids and has more than enough grandchildren for two baseball teams.

The senator also owns a business that would make Abraham Lincoln proud -- Green’s Log Rails and Custom Log Furniture. Like Honest Abe, he is a Republican, and lacks college education. But he is very enthusiastic about guns.

So much so, that he has introduced legislation to allow people with concealed weapons permits to take guns everywhere -- churches, synagogues, bars, Joe Louis Arena. He thinks banning guns anywhere is outrageous. “Why do you need to give your Constitutional right away when you go to some places?“ he asks.

There are a number of ways to answer that, but the easiest and simplest is that there is no Constitutional right to take a weapon anywhere. That’s not a left-wing anti-gun point of view.

Read more
Law
4:30 pm
Wed January 26, 2011

State Bar Association says Michigan needs court reform

The 58th District Court in Ottawa County. The State Bar says the courts in Michigan need reform.
Rich Evenhouse Flickr

The Michigan State Bar wants to change the way the state's courts work.

A task force of judges and lawyers are recommending changes they say will save the state money.

The Judicial Crossroads Task Force suggests:

  • consolidating trial courts
  • giving business cases higher priority
  • and letting existing judges retire without replacing them

Michigan has 246 separate courts and 586 judges.

Read more
Law
12:00 pm
Sun January 16, 2011

Dr. Dre's "Detroit Controversy" goes to Michigan Supreme Court

A private moment for Detroit city police officers captured by videographers? The Michigan Supreme Court will decide.
screen grab of YouTube video

This Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case that may determine if police officers have an expectation of privacy when they are doing their jobs.

It all started with a video.

Detroit city police and members of former Mayor Dennis Archer’s staff wanted to prevent a sexually explicit video from being played at a Dr. Dre concert in July 2000.

A camera crew for the rapper videotaped police officers saying they would pull the plug on the concert.

Former police officer, and current Detroit City Council president pro-tem Gary Brown, is seen on the video saying "we're going to shut this show down."

Eventually, Dr Dre decided not to show the video police were concerned about.

But the video of the police officers making their threats was put onto a concert DVD.

Thanks to YouTube user "snoopfroggydogg," you can see the "Detroit Controversy" videos here (WARNING: they contain images and words not suitable for younger viewers):

Detroit city officials sued, claiming the DVD makers violated Michigan’s anti-eavesdropping law by putting the video on the DVD without their permission.

The city officials and police officers claim their privacy was invaded by being videotaped and the video being shown publicly.

Attorney Herschel Fink represents the DVD’s producers. He says police officers have no 'right to privacy when they’re doing their job:

"I think the very essence of law enforcement is transparency...and I think this case has implications for mainstream news gathering and not just private citizens who are videotaping police berating them which was the case here."

Lower courts have tended to side with the DVD producers.

Michigan Supreme Court
9:10 pm
Wed January 5, 2011

Chief Justice Young calls for cuts in the courts

Newly appointed Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young.
justicebobyoung.com

Newly appointed Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young is calling for budget cuts in Michigan's judiciary, reports Rick Pluta of the Michigan Public Radio Network.

Pluta reports that Chief Justice Young "says he will call for combining courts and cutting judges in areas where there are fewer people and fewer cases." Young said:

"The Legislature will either do something rational to reduce the size and cost of the judiciary, or it will do something irrational. I think it is most rational to reduce redundancy rather than to cut into the judiciary in ways that will disable it from fulfilling its constitutional duties."

Pluta says "a 2009 report by the State Court Administrator says the state could save $2 million by eliminating more than a dozen judgeships in metro Detroit and northern Michigan."

Read more
U.S. Congress
6:46 am
Mon January 3, 2011

Rep. Upton: Repealing health care law is top priority

Republican Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan's 6th District
Republican Conference Flickr

Republican Congressman Fred Upton, who represents Michigan's 6th District, says his fellow GOP lawmakers will go after the new health care law piece by piece.  Upton made the comments yesterday on "Fox News Sunday."

As The Associated Press reports:

That effort, says Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan, will follow a vote to repeal the health care law outright. Such a vote could come early in the new year after the GOP takes control of the House. Upton is the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and he says that repealing the health care law is his top priority.

Upton says he hopes for a vote before President Obama gives this year's State of the Union address.

State Law
9:10 am
Thu December 16, 2010

Sunday morning alcohol sales won't happen everywhere

Ken30684/Flickr

Michigan's new liquor law that allows alcohol sales on Sunday mornings and Christmas Day starts this weekend for establishments that have bought the proper permits. But, some communities in the state say they plan to continue to ban alcohol sales during certain hours on Sunday.

As The Associated Press reports:

Flint, Muskegon Heights, Garden City, Sturgis, Charlotte and all of Oceana, Ogemaw and Mecosta counties are among the places opting to continue banning Sunday morning sales.

Local governments had until yesterday to let officials know if they wanted to continue to ban or limit the sales on Sunday mornings.

State Law
12:24 pm
Tue December 7, 2010

Cities react to medical marijuana

Cities across Michigan are slowly reacting to Michigan's medical marijuana law
USFWS

Michigan's medical marijuana law is intended "to provide protections for the medical use of marihuana."

But a) it conflicts with federal law, and b) it does not provide details on how and where registered medical marijuana users can get their pot. Confusion reigns around these issues and court battles are heating up.

Some cities accept the state law and are regulating pot dispensaries through ordinances or zoning laws.

Others are refusing to accept the law and are passing ordinances that effectively ban medical marijuana.

Here we plan to keep a running tally of how cities across Michigan are reacting to the medical marijuana law. Let us know if you have more information that should be posted here!

Read more
Offbeat
5:07 pm
Mon December 6, 2010

High Court rules on "bizarre" toilet paper dispenser case

The Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan Supreme Court court.mi.gov

The Associated Press reports "the Michigan Supreme Court, in a 4-3 order, has refused to throw out Sheri Schooley's lawsuit against Texas Roadhouse in suburban Detroit."

Schooley sued the restaurant after a mishap with a toilet paper dispenser.  Schooley said she was injured in the restroom at the Texas Roadhouse.

Read more
Environment
5:19 pm
Fri December 3, 2010

Congress bans an Asian carp that is already here

They're banned, but they're already here. Current distribution of the Bighead Carp in the U.S.
USGS

Update December 3rd 5:13 pm:

Marc Gaden of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission says "as far as I know, no one thinks there are any Asian Carp in Lake Erie." He says Lake Erie is colored red in the USGS map above because two Bighead carp were found in commercial fishman's nets several years ago. They colored the entire Lake red based on these two incidents.

December 1st 5:27 pm:

Read more
State Law
8:43 am
Fri December 3, 2010

Last day for alcoholic energy drink sales

Today is the last day for alcoholic energy drink sales like Four Loko in Michigan

Today is the last day that stores in Michigan can sell alcoholic energy drinks.  Last month, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission announced it would ban sales of the controversial drinks because of health risks.

The Associated Press reports:

The Food and Drug Administration is requiring major brands of caffeinated alcoholic drinks to be taken off store shelves nationally by mid-December because of similar concerns. The agency says the combination of caffeine and alcohol in the drinks can lead to a "wide-awake drunk" and alcohol poisoning, car accidents and assaults.

At least four states have banned the drinks. You can find a list of the banned-drinks here.

Politics
1:47 pm
Tue November 30, 2010

Michigan has no death penalty - he's a big reason why

Eugene G. Wanger penned the constitutional ban on the death penalty in Michigan
State of Michigan

Eugene G. Wanger was a 28 year-old attorney when he became a delegate for Michigan's Constitutional Convention in 1961. The republican was a strong opponent of the death penalty and authored the section in today's state constitution that bans the practice.

Read more
Legal Issues
11:28 am
Wed November 17, 2010

ACLU challenges MI 'juvenile lifer' law

ACLU
Slightly North/Flickr

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing the state of Michigan for its law that allows people convicted as minors to be imprisoned for life with no chance of parole.

The ACLU says the law violates the U.S. Constitution because it is "cruel and unusual punishment."

In a press release, the ACLU says the lawsuit is:

...on behalf of nine Michigan citizens who were sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for crimes committed when they were minors. The lawsuit charges that a Michigan sentencing scheme that denies the now-adult plaintiffs an opportunity for parole and a fair hearing to demonstrate their growth, maturity and rehabilitation constitutes cruel and unusual punishment and violates their constitutional rights.

According to the release:

The U.S. is the only country in the world that sentences youth to life without parole, and Michigan incarcerates the second highest number of people serving life sentences without parole for crimes committed when they were 17 years old or younger. Currently, there are 350 individuals serving such mandatory life sentences in Michigan. This includes more than 100 individuals who were sentenced to life without parole who were present or committed a felony when a homicide was committed by someone else.

Pages