legal

Law
8:03 am
Thu June 14, 2012

Michigan Finally Eyeing Changes To Lawyers For Poor

Edward Carter's conviction for a 1974 crime was vacated by a judge after it was shown that Carter was innocent — and after he had spent 35 years in Michigan prisons.
Brakkton Booker NPR

Originally published on Fri June 15, 2012 12:05 pm

Lawyers on all sides agree the system enshrined nearly 50 years ago that gives all defendants the right to a lawyer is not working. The Justice Department calls it a crisis — such a big problem that it's been doling out grants to improve how its adversaries perform in criminal cases.

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Law
2:20 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

Panel: Oust Inkster judge for misusing court money

City of Inkster

INKSTER, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission says a Detroit-area judge should lose her job and repay $81,000 for putting public money to personal and other improper uses.

The commission announced its recommendation Tuesday after hearings on the conduct of Inkster District Judge Sylvia James.

Investigators say James misspent at least $100,000, either for her personal use or for community projects unrelated to the court.

The commission has sent its findings to the Michigan Supreme Court, which holds oral arguments on the case July 25 in Lansing.

James has denied any wrongdoing, and her lawyer Sharon McPhail says James is a "hardworking judge."

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Culture of Class
10:09 am
Tue November 22, 2011

Debtors pay... or stay in jail

Debtor's Prison

When you step into a Michigan courtroom, crime is supposed to be crime, regardless of social class. But whether you go home or go to jail  sometimes depends on whether you have money.

Let’s say you’re one of the many thousands of people in Michigan who’s unemployed. Or, you’re working in a job that doesn’t cover your bills. Like your rent or mortgage. Or, like child support.

And if you don’t have the money to pay those bills,  you might end up in court. Selesa Likine did. Her husband divorced her. He got custody of the kids.  She lost her home. Likine, who had worked as a realtor, was ordered to pay $1,100 a month in child support. She couldn’t pay it  and the court was not allowed to hear why. So she spent 43 days in the Oakland County Jail.

“The jury in the case never heard that during the period when she wasn’t paying the child support, she was institutionalized with schizo-affective disorder, was declared totally disabled by the Social Security Administration, lost her realtors’ license, was unable to work, and was subsisting on disability income,” says David Moran, co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic.

Moran took over Likine’s Case. In October, Moran and the American Civil Liberties Union asked the Michigan Supreme Court for a new trial. They say what happened to Likine is no different than a debtor’s prison – sort of like Dickensian days, when poor people who owed money were thrown into jail.

Likine, who’s in her 40s, lives with her mother now. She takes medicine for her mental illness and says she's stable. But she’s not optimistic about her future. She doesn’t think anyone will want to hire her because she’s a felon.

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Politics
9:24 pm
Thu October 20, 2011

Michigan State Supreme Court in favor of eliminating judges

Michigan Hall of Justice.
Michigan Supreme Court

Michigan’s top judicial official said the state has too many judges, and some of their positions should be eliminated. Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young has presented a plan to do that to the state House Judiciary Committee.

Chief Justice Young said a Supreme Court study found there are courts with workloads that no longer justify the number of judges they have. The report recommends eliminating 45 positions over several years.

“Some judges don’t agree with the proposed cuts. But, most have accepted the reality that courts are too expensive and have too many judges. It may not be something all members of the judiciary relish, but I think most of us recognize it’s necessary," said Young.

 Young said Michigan taxpayers are paying more than they should be. He said he wants to make cuts in ways that won’t compromise the integrity of the judicial system and assurances that people are getting fair trials.

State Representative John Walsh (R-Livonia) chairs the House Judiciary Committee. He said the Legislature appears ready to act on the recommendations, even though eliminating local elected positions can be politically difficult.

 "I would say in general this is an unprecedented accomplishment to have this degree of support. We have all seven justices of the Supreme Court who have unanimously endorsed this, all of the judicial associations and the state bar," said Walsh.

Walsh said the committee expects to hold four more hearings on the topic. He expects a vote by the committee around Thanksgiving.

- Chelsea Hagger - Michigan Public Radio Network

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Legal
10:57 am
Fri July 29, 2011

Michigan Supreme Court rules on sexual assault case

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on a sexual assault case today.
Michigan Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that a woman who was raped by a jail guard while she was being detained is not entitled to file a civil rights and sexual harassment lawsuit against the county. The court said the local government is not responsible for the behavior of a public worker who acted outside the scope of his employment. The court's Republican majority split with Democratic justices, who say the decision undermines previous rulings that protect victims of discrimination.

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Economy
11:14 am
Fri April 22, 2011

Two Michigan retirees flip the script on ATM fees

The law says banks have to post how much they plan to charge you on their ATM machines.
user eflon Flickr

Two retirees from Fowlerville, Michigan, Nancy Kinder and Ray Harrison, have filed several lawsuits challenging banks on ATM fee notifications.

The Electronic Fund Transfer Act says the amount the bank will charge for use of the ATM machine "shall be posted in a prominent and conspicuous location on or at the automated teller machine at which the electronic fund transfer is initiated by the consumer."

Tresa Baldas reports in the Detroit Free Press that the retirees have been taking advantage of this part of the law:

Kinder and Harrison have been "combing the state by car, looking for ATMs that don't have the notification sign, records show. When they spot one, they make a withdrawal, take a picture of the ATM, and then it's off to court."

They've sued 36 banks in two years and they recently filed five lawsuits in one day.

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Medicine
5:35 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

Governor Snyder signs "I'm sorry" law for doctors

Governor Snyder signed a law aimed at protecting doctor's if they say "I'm sorry" after a failed medical procedure.
user the consumerist Flickr

Governor Rick Snyder has signed a law that protects doctors from lawsuits if they express sympathy for the death of a patient.

Snyder says health care providers are often prohibited from saying “I’m sorry” when a medical procedure fails because it can be considered an admission of guilt in court.

Snyder said the new law will allow doctors to be more supportive, "and the opportunity for health care professionals to have a dialogue with families that have had some traumatic experiences," said Snyder. "So it’s great to have an opportunity to have that be done in a safe and thoughtful fashion so people can have good communication and good dialogue."

Snyder says studies show that when a doctor is allowed to say “I’m sorry,” people who are grieving are better able to heal.

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.

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.

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.

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Offbeat
1:01 pm
Tue December 21, 2010

Golfer sues after being hit by partner's shanked shot

Watch out for those flying golf balls.
flickr user - easywebsitesky

When most people hit the links with their buddies, they don't anticipate getting sued for their shanks.

I guess it is America, so you can sue for just about anything. But it doesn't mean you'll win.

The New York Court of Appeals struck down an unfortunate case between two Doctors.

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Legal
3:30 pm
Thu December 16, 2010

ACLU adds Wyoming to its list of medical mariuana lawsuits

John Ter Beek says, "The fact is medical marijuana helps people; it’s helped me"
Lindsey Smith Michigan Radio

The ACLU has filed lawsuits on behalf of medical marijuana users in the cities of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and Livonia after those cities effectively banned medical marijuana.

Now add the city of Wyoming to the list of cities being sued by the ACLU. The ACLU said it will represent John Ter Beek "a medical marijuana patient who fears being penalized by local officials if he grows or uses medical marijuana in compliance with state law."

The Wyoming city council unanimously passed a ban on medical marijuana earlier this month.

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Legal
11:52 am
Thu December 16, 2010

$3.5 million goes to crash victims

One one expert calls it "the biggest auto verdict in the state this year."

Danielle Salisbury of the Jackson Citizen Patriot reports a jury awarded James Fairly and his wife Kimberley Fairley $3.5 million in pain and suffering as a result of traffic accident Mr. Fairly was in.

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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.

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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.

Health Care Costs
2:52 pm
Mon October 18, 2010

More on the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan lawsuit

The U.S. Department of Justice has filed suit against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
user cliff Creative Commons

The U.S. Department of Justice along with the Michigan Attorney General's office filed a lawsuit against Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.

U.S. Department of Jusitice Assistant Attorney General Christine Varney Holds said:

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Courts
11:42 am
Thu September 2, 2010

Juror posts "guilty" on Facebook before trial ends

The judge who caught the juror says it's a problem that is likely to get worse.
Alton Creative Commons

You're supposed to keep an open mind when sitting as a juror in a trial. If you can't, it's definitely not a good idea to broadcast your prejudices about a case on the web.

The Detroit Free Press reports that Hadley Jons, while sitting on a jury in a resisting arrest case "wrote on Facebook that it was 'gonna be fun to tell the defendant they're GUILTY.'"

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