Michigan ACLU

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Last month the ACLU’s lawsuit on behalf of eight Highland Park students was thrown out by the Michigan Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision.

The suit says the schools didn’t provide students with even basic literacy or math skills, and that therefore the state and the district should be held responsible for that failure.

But the court of appeals tossed the suit, basically because of three points.

A musician who was jailed last summer for refusing to stop playing his guitar on a sidewalk is suing the city of Saugatuck in federal court.

The city says the sidewalks are too packed in the summer to allow unrestricted entertainment. Musicians can play in city parks without permits.

Mitt Romney
(courtesy of MittRomneyCentral.com)

This Week in Review, Jack Lessenberry and Rina Miller discuss Mitt Romney’s recent Michigan visit, billionaire businessman Dan Gilbert’s testimony in Detroit’s bankruptcy trial and allegations that Ferndale police are issuing a disproportionate number of tickets to black drivers. 

Ferndale Police Department

The ACLU of Michigan wants to know why black drivers are far more likely to be ticketed in Ferndale than white drivers?

Mark Fancher, an ACLU attorney, said records obtained from the Ferndale Police Department show that about 60% of motorists who received traffic citations in a recent 16-month period were black. He said black people make up less than 10% of Ferndale's population, according to the 2010 census.

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.

Rick Pluta / Michigan Public Radio

A coalition of abortion rights advocates will not try to immediately repeal a Right to Life-backed state law that requires women to buy a separate health insurance rider to cover abortions.

“Our efforts and our resources are better spent on a broad strategy to address this growing frustration that is about more than just one issue in one discrete moment in time, but about the larger impact of politicians using women as target practice,” said Rana Elmir, Deputy Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

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The ACLU is suing the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops on behalf of a Michigan woman. At the heart of the issue is whether women can get appropriate medical care at a Catholic hospital.

This is becoming more important because more secular hospitals are merging with Catholic-affiliated health care providers. By our count, of the 187 hospitals in Michigan, 26 of them are Catholic. That's 14%.

*Listen to our interview above.

What is it about Decembers in Lansing? Last year, it was right-to-work. This year, the controversy is over a petition initiative, a veto-proof law that will require people to buy separate insurance for abortion coverage. It could not be part of a basic health insurance package in Michigan.

It was an initiated law, put before the GOP-led Legislature by the very, very influential anti-abortion group Right to Life. As we’ve noted before on It’s Just Politics, Right to Life is virtually unrivaled in its ability to organize a petition campaign, and to squeeze votes out of the Legislature, especially when Republicans are in charge.

So, that’s it, right? Law is passed. All done.

Well, not so fast. Because what is begotten by a petition drive can be challenged by a petition drive. Michigan’s pro-choice movement thinks it can take down this new law with a referendum. In fact, meetings have started to try to organize a ballot drive.

Official portrait

Michigan’s Attorney General has decided to appeal a federal judge’s order that would require parole hearings for more than 300 juvenile offenders serving life sentences.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that sentencing juvenile offenders to automatic life without parole constituted “cruel and unusual” punishment. 

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Another Michigan man who was denied a personalized license plate the state says could be considered “offensive to good taste and decency” is suing on free speech grounds.

The American Civil Liberties Union is already suing the Secretary of State over a similar case in federal court in Grand Rapids.

ACLU-Michigan

Dozens of Michigan communities are getting letters from the American Civil Liberties Union warning them that their anti-panhandling laws may be unconstitutional.

Over the summer, a federal appeals court ruled Michigan’s anti-panhandling law was unconstitutional. 

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Isabella County jail inmates are spending more time outside their cells these days.

The American Civil Liberties Union sued Isabella County after receiving complaints that inmates were not allowed exercise time outside their cells.

Daniel Manville is the director the Michigan State University law school's Civil Rights Clinic. He says jail officials were willing to reach an out-of-court settlement. Manville says many county jails in Michigan are in a similar position because of inmate overcrowding and budget cuts.

“It’s my understanding that there's a few other jails that are under litigation,” says Manville. “We’ve even started talking to a couple jails about making changes, and they are willing to sit down even before we file a lawsuit and we may even be able to resolve it without a lawsuit.”

As part of the Isabella County jail settlement, inmates will have access to an exercise room for an hour a day five days a week.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A state House committee has approved legislation that would allow faith-based adoption agencies to refuse to handle placements for religious reasons. Instead, under the legislation, an agency that has an objection would have to refer a qualified family to an adoption office that would handle the placement.

Almost all adoptions in Michigan are handled by private agencies that accept public funding. Faith-based adoption services are concerned future changes to adoption policies – such as allowing same-sex couples to adopt – could force them to violate their religious beliefs.

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Civil libertarians are calling on the U.S. Justice Department to expand a probe into the Saginaw Police Department.

The Justice Department has been examining the case of Milton Hall. He's a mentally ill homeless man who was gunned down by six Saginaw police officers as he threatened them with a knife.

The case has raised questions about how the department deals with African-Americans.

Mark Fancher is with the American Civil Liberties Union. He says his office has received several allegations that Saginaw police officers operate in a racially biased manner.

The city of Birmingham has settled a federal lawsuit by adopting a new free speech policy.

The Michigan ACLU sued the city after animal rights protesters were arrested last year.

Protesters with the Southwest Michigan Animal Rights Team (SMART) were holding signs and passing out literature outside a Birmingham fur store in December 2012.

Police told the protesters they had to “keep moving” in order to be there. When one protester questioned the officers, she was arrested and charged with loitering.

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

This week, Rina Miller and Jack Lessenberry discuss the certification of Detroit’s mayoral primary results, the Detroit ACLU’s case against the FBI, and a union’s “fee-for-service” for employee grievances.

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In June, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan wrote a letter to the Ann Arbor School Board after the Board approved charges of $100 per semester for students to take an additional class. 

Last week, two Pioneer High School students and their parents filed a law suit against Ann Arbor Public Schools, arguing that the fee is limiting for students who are involved in arts programs and who need the 7th hour to take classes required to graduate. 

The 7th hour fee was proposed because the school district faces an $18 million shortfall for the 2013-2014 year.  

But, as Annarbor.com's Amy Biolchini pointed out, this isn't the first time Ann Arbor schools have charged students.

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City of Flint to recover tax money

The city of Flint has found a new source of income in the effort to balance the budget. Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports that around six thousand Flint residents paid their federal income taxes, but did not pay city income taxes. This may allow the Flint to collect around a million dollars in back taxes.

Michigan ACLU sues Ann Arbor Public Schools

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a suit against Ann Arbor Public Schools because of its intent to charge tuition for a seventh class.  With the current plan, Ann Arbor high school students must pay $100 for a seventh-period elective class.  Kary Moss of the ACLU says “it creates a two-tiered system of education. Not only for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch, but many other students won't be able to afford the seventh hour."

Detroit Schools get annual report card

Excellent Schools Detroit has released its annual report card for the school system.  Out of more than two hundred schools, twenty-five percent scored a C+ or better.  Many of these higher-ranked schools are new and “fresh-start” schools, which has officials optimistic about the future of the district.

Support for teacher Brooke Harris Facebook Page

One year ago, Brooke Harris made headlines when she was fired from her teaching job in Flint for helping students create a fundraiser for the family of Trayvon Martin.

Now, Harris is in trouble with another employer.

Earlier this month, she was fired from her teaching position at Detroit's Mumford High School. That's one of the schools under the Education Achievement Authority (EAA). It's a new state-run district that oversees the lowest-performing schools in Detroit.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A federal judge ruled this week that a lawsuit accusing investment banking giant Morgan Stanley of predatory lending in Detroit can move forward.

The lawsuit alleges Morgan Stanley pushed sub-prime mortgage lenders to target Detroit neighborhoods with large minority populations.

Morgan Stanley later packaged the ‘high risk’ loans into ‘mortgage backed securities’

ACLU
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The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan said that Ann Arbor Public Schools' decision to charge students $100 per semester to take a seventh hour class is illegal, because it violates the State Constitution.

The ACLU's press release cited the Michigan Constitution, which  says that "the Legislature shall maintain and support a system of free public elementary and secondary schools as defined by law."

It continued:

In Bond v Ann Arbor School District, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the guarantee of free public education extends to any school district activity that is considered a "necessary element of any school's activity" or an "integral fundamental part of the elementary and secondary education."

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Blacks are 3.3 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in Michigan, according to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The study shows Michigan’s racial discrepancy is close to the national average, despite the fact that blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly equal rates.

Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Stuart Phillips / Official U.S. Navy Imagery

Congressman Justin Amash (R-Grand Rapids) and the American Civil Liberties Union are teaming up to talk about national security.

Amash is more libertarian than many Republicans. While he and the ACLU don’t see eye to eye on everything, ACLU of Michigan Deputy Director Mary Bejian called Amash “one of the ACLU’s strongest allies in congress on these important national security issues.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The American Civil Liberties Union is asking police departments in Michigan for information about their use of military-style weapons and tactics.

The ACLU sent public records requests this week to police departments in Detroit, Flint and Dearborn, as well as the Michigan State Police.   Similar requests were sent to cities in 22 other states.

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The American Civil Liberties Union is raising questions about how Michigan police officers and sheriff’s deputies use tasers.

Tasers have become an important tool for law enforcement agencies across Michigan.    The devices are used to incapacitate individuals with a high voltage electric shock.

But the ACLU says there is not a uniform policy among Michigan law enforcement agencies for when to use a taser.

Stateside: ACLU files suit against right-to-work legislation

Jan 31, 2013
Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Today the ACLU filed a lawsuit against right-to-work legislation.

Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher spoke with Cyndy about the suit and its potential implications.

“They say for about four hours on the day right-to-work started moving through the legislature, the doors were closed. They say that that violates the Michigan Constitution which guarantees the residents of Michigan the right to assemble. There were people from the public inside at the time, they just weren’t letting in others," said Neher.

According to Neher, people across the state feel as if their voices are underrepresented.

“The people that brought this bill up say that they’re concerned that a win-or-take-all system for votes leaves people in certain parts of the state without a voice,” said Neher.

A Wayne County Circuit Court Judge has heard arguments in a case that involves Michigan’s medical marijuana law.

The Michigan ACLU is suing the city of Livonia (and two other Detroit suburbs with similar laws) on behalf of Linda Lott, who suffers from multiple sclerosis.

Lott and her husband want to grow marijuana on property they own in Livonia. But the city passed an ordinance prohibiting any activity that violates federal law.

Michigan’s system of providing lawyers for indigent defendants is so bad it amounts to a “constitutional crisis.”

The Michigan ACLU and the Michigan Campaign for Justice produced the report called “Faces of Failing Public Defense Systems.”

It profiles 13 men who spent time in prison, even though there was evidence of their innocence.

One is Frederick Mardlin, who spent three years in prison for arson.

Students at Mona Shores High School in Muskegon will no longer vote for a prom king or queen.

Instead, they’ll vote for a gender-neutral prom court.

The change is the result of pressure from the ACLU of Michigan and Mona Shores students after a popular transgender student was elected homecoming king.

The school denied the student, Oak Reed, his crown because school records list him as a female.