michigan supreme court

Michigan Supreme Court

Stepparent adoption just became more difficult in the state of Michigan.

The Michigan Supreme Court has upheld a state law that says a stepparent cannot adopt a child if the biological parents share joint custody.

In the decision, Justice Brian Zahra wrote that stepparents wanting to do so would have to be married to a spouse with sole legal custody of the child. That means going back to court and petitioning for sole custody before the stepparent can adopt. 

Debra Keehn is a family law attorney in Ann Arbor. She said the added legal step is going to make adoption more difficult for families.
 
"All of that takes a lot of time and a lot of money and it puts a big financial burden, I think, on a family who’s trying to increase the security of a child."
 
The court ruled in the case of a couple who divorced in 2009.

The mother remarried a year later and petitioned to have her new husband adopt her child. She argued that the child's father had not made contact or sent any money in over two years. But the ruling said she would have to petition a court for sole custody of her child before her new husband could adopt.

The court's decision was unanimous.

– Reem Nasr, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court soon will hear arguments in a dispute over whether convicts can be ordered to pay the operating costs of local courts.

Fred Cunningham is asking the Supreme Court to throw out a $1,000 bill that was part of his sentence for a drug crime in Allegan County, southwest of Grand Rapids.

Judges statewide have used their discretion to order local court costs, citing Michigan law. The attorney general's office is defending the practice, saying the Legislature could have restricted the meaning of the law but didn't.

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Tomorrow, hearings challenging Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage begin in federal court.

Partners April DeBoer and Jayne Rouse are two nurses, living in Hazel Park. They’ve been raising three children together, but they cannot jointly adopt the children because of Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The couple sued the state for the right to adopt jointly and eventually submitted a legal challenge to the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.

The hearings are expected to focus on whether Michigan’s same-sex marriage ban is unconstitutional and whether children are harmed by being raised by same-sex parents.

Listen to April DeBoer speaking with All Things Considered Host, Jennifer White below:


Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court will consider a case tomorrow involving a grandparent’s right to have visitation with a grandchild.

In the case, the parents of a man whose parental rights to his two children were terminated sued for visitation. The man’s parental rights were terminated following allegations of physical abuse. He has since died.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether a judge can ignore part of a state law that limits what a jury can consider as part of a criminal case.

The defendant in the case was charged with reckless driving that caused a fatality. His lawyer asked the judge to order the jury to consider a lesser charge. The judge agreed, even though state law specifically doesn’t allow that. The judge said the law violates the state constitution, and its separation of powers doctrine.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court has decided not to hear an appeal of a case involving libraries and guns.

Lansing’s library system had banned openly carried firearms in its branches. But the Court of Appeals found that violated a state law preventing local units of government from banning weapons.

Today, the state Supreme Court decided to let the lower court decision stand.

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1,300 Michiganders signed up for Obamacare in the first month of online exchange

"Health officials released a report yesterday showing that only about 1,300 Michigan residents managed to sign up for coverage through the troubled federally-run state health care exchange in its first month of operation," the Associated Press reports.

Michigan Supreme Court names Court of Claims judges

"The Michigan Supreme Court has moved quickly to name judges to serve on a revamped Court of Claims to hear major lawsuits filed against the state. A new law moves the Court of Claims from the Ingham County Circuit and makes it part of the Michigan Court of Appeals. The state Supreme Court tapped two judges originally appointed by a Republican governor and two appointed by a Democrat to serve on the new Court of Claims," Rick Pluta reports.

Senate approves bill for pot sales at pharmacies

"The state Senate has approved a bill that could clear the way for pharmacies to sell medical marijuana in Michigan. That’s if the federal government decides to regulate cannabis as a prescription drug," Jake Neher reports.

We’ve been focused so much on elections that many of us haven’t much noticed what’s been going on in Lansing.

Well, those who remember the unseeingly way Right to Work was rammed through the legislature in last year’s lame duck session, may find we’re about to get déjà vu all over again.

Republicans have just passed a bill to radically change the way in which judges are selected when citizens sue the state. Essentially, it allows the state Supreme Court to pick four judges from the Court of Appeals to hear these cases. 

The panel that hears lawsuits against the state, by the way, is called the Court of Claims. For many years, this function has been exercised by the circuit judges in Ingham County. That’s the county where Lansing and our state government are located, which has been logistically convenient. This bill will change that.

The Daily Record / Creative Commons

The Michigan Supreme Court has picked five projects to receive money for court innovations.

One project is a human trafficking court in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti.  It will determine whether offenders in prostitution cases are victims of human trafficking. If so, the court will offer services, not jail time.

Another involves using social media and technology to improve court communication in various counties.

"The 2012 Supreme Court campaign was the most expensive and least transparent in history."

Yikes. 

That's the unflattering takeaway from a new report from a consortium of groups like the Brennan Center for Justice and the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. 

Of the $19 million dollars poured into the state's Supreme Court races, $13 million went to ads like the following.

John Ter Beek is a medical marijuana patient in Wyoming, MI
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear a challenge today to a local ordinance that bans medical marijuana despite an amendment to the state constitution that allows it.

The city of Wyoming, outside Grand Rapids, enacted the ordinance three years ago. It outlaws any activity that’s already prohibited by federal law. It was directed at the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana amendment, which conflicts with federal drug laws.

The city says it acted within its authority because federal laws trump state laws.

Michigan Supreme Court
Michigan Supreme Court / court.mi.gov

The State Bar of Michigan says it’s time to end anonymous campaign spending in elections for judges and Supreme Court justices.

The State Bar is asking Michigan’s top elections official to require committees that pay for so-called “issue ads” to reveal their donors. That would require Secretary of State Ruth Johnson to reverse a 2004 rule issued by her predecessor that says the independent committees can keep their donors secret.        

Bruce Cortade is the president of the State Bar of Michigan. He says anonymous campaign spending undermines confidence in the legal system, and it's growing more common.

There’s a little good news both from and about the Michigan Supreme Court. Yesterday, the court announced it is ordering all courts in the state to provide interpreters for people who have limited or no English-speaking skills.

This was followed by a joint press conference starring Chief Justice Robert Young, one of the state’s longest-serving and most conservative justices, and Justice Bridget McCormack, who is both the court’s most recently elected member and one of its most liberal.

Though they have often voted differently when deciding cases, the two justices clearly had a warm camaraderie yesterday, and that was notable. There have been times in recent years when some justices have launched personal public attacks against each other, which did nothing for the court’s reputation.

The order to provide certified translators is a huge step in the right direction, especially given our ongoing influx of Spanish-speaking and Middle Eastern immigrants.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A medical marijuana cardholder has appealed a drug possession conviction to the Michigan Supreme Court. The appeal seeks clarification on how the law views putting marijuana or its active ingredient into baked goods.

   Earl Caruthers hopes the state’s highest court will reverse the Michigan Court of Appeals in his case.  He was stopped with some THC-laced brownies in the back of his car. He also had some pot in plastic bags, and was driving on a suspended license. But he’s only challenging a conviction related to the brownies.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Detroit Police Department prepares for big changes

Detroit Police Chief James Craig intends to introduce a large departmental reorganization, reports Michigan Radio’s Sara Cwiek.  Craig announced last week that he will restore a version of the department’s gang squad.  Many administrative jobs will be filled by civilians so that more officers can return to field work.

CDC says obesity down among Michigan children

According to a new Center for Disease Control study fewer Michigan children qualify as obese.  Michigan Radio’s Steve Carmody reports that the obesity rate among low-income preschool children dropped from 13.9% in 2008 to 13.2% in 2011.  Michigan ranks fifth in the nation for obesity rates.

Michigan Supreme Court returns custody to foster family

The Michigan Supreme Court has ordered that four children be returned to their foster family, reports Michigan Radio’s Rick Pluta.  Custody was awarded to their grandmother last year by the Michigan Court of Appeals because state law gives automatic preference to relatives when parental rights are terminated.  The Supreme Court said that the children should be returned to the foster family until it makes a decision whether to hear the appeal.

Michigan Supreme Court
photo courtesy of the MI Supreme Court

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled the family of a man who committed suicide cannot sue the Kent County Sheriff’s Department for failing to carry out a court order that might have saved his life.

Stephan Bradley’s family says he might not have killed himself if deputies had acted on a warrant that he should be brought in for a psychiatric evaluation. Instead, nine days after the warrant was issued, Bradley committed suicide. An internal inquiry found department procedures were not followed.

A wrongful death lawsuit filed by his sister was dismissed because governments cannot be sued for not doing a job as well is it should be done. The sister went back seeking a contempt of court judgment on the same grounds seeking similar damages. The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that was essentially the same lawsuit and ruled local governments are still immune from that type of litigation.

Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether Governor Jennifer Granholm exceeded her authority when she reversed her decision to commute the life sentence of a convicted murderer.

Matthew Makowski is serving a sentence of life without parole for murder and armed robbery. 

During her final days in office, Governor Granholm used her executive authority to commute his sentence to make him eligible for parole. The paperwork was filed and sent to the state Department of Corrections.

Michigan Supreme Court
photo courtesy of the MI Supreme Court

On Friday, the Michigan Supreme Court said it would not make an early ruling on the constitutionality of the state's new right-to-work law. Governor Snyder had asked the high court to decide the issue before the case made its way through lower courts.

The law was passed last December during a very controversial lame-duck legislative session. Under the law, workers cannot be forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Chris Gautz, the Capitol Correspondent for Crain's Detroit Business joined us today to help break it down for us.

Listen to the full interview above.

david_shane / flickr

On Friday, the Associated Press reported that the Michigan Supreme Court won’t give an early ruling on the state’s right-to-work law.

Gov. Rick Snyder pressed the state’s high court to weigh in on the constitutionality of the laws, which were quickly passed during a lame duck legislative session last December.

On Friday, the justices declined the governor’s request:

"We are not persuaded that granting the request would be an appropriate exercise of the court's discretion.”

In December 2012, Michigan became the 24th state with a right-to-work law in place. The controversial law -- which brought out some 10,000 protesters to the state capitol in Lansing -- throws out the requirement to financially support unions as a condition of employment.

Supporters of unions are challenging the constitutionality of the law, arguing that the state’s constitution gives the Civil Service Commission jurisdiction over the rules of employment, not the state Legislature.

Neeta Lind / Flickr

A state House panel is likely to take up a bill soon that would revive medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan. Republican lawmakers are starting to take interest in the issue.

Earlier this year, the Michigan Supreme Court handed down a ruling that effectively stopped most marijuana dispensaries from operating in the state. The court ruled that the dispensaries can be shut down as a public nuisance. Now state lawmakers say they’re close to a deal on legislation that would allow and regulate the facilities.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court has unanimously decided not to step in early to decide the legality of the state's right-to-work law.

The court on Friday said it wasn't persuaded that ruling now would be an "appropriate exercise" of its discretion.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder in January asked for an advisory opinion on the law that lets workers stop paying union dues or fees.

Matthileo / Flickr

This week in Michigan politics, Jack Lessenberry and Emily Fox discuss the state of Medicaid expansion in the Michigan Senate, Governor Snyder's trade mission to Israel, and the political future of Mike Duggan in Detroit.

Brother O'Mara / Flickr

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice sentenced to jail time

“Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway was sentenced to one year and one day in federal custody, for the crime of bank fraud. Federal prosecutors say Diane Hathaway illegally concealed a million dollars in assets, so she could qualify for favorable terms on a short sale of one of her homes in Michigan. The defendant had hoped to avoid prison time,” Michigan Radio's Vincent Duffy reports.

Michigan schools could see increase in state funding

“Michigan public schools would see more state funding under a budget plan approved by the state House. Every school would see at least a five-dollar per-pupil boost. Schools getting the minimum amount from the state could receive up to 60 dollars more per student. The state Senate is expected to take up the education budget today,” Michigan Radio’s Jake Neher reports.

Strong winds and funnel clouds cause damage in Michigan

"The National Weather Service reported several funnel cloud sightings in Michigan last night, including a tornado that landed near Goodrich High School southeast of Flint. No injuries were immediately reported. The weather service says high winds in the same severe thunderstorm system heavily damaged several homes, toppling numerous trees and power lines," the Associated Press reports.

Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway was sentenced for bank fraud in federal court today in Ann Arbor.

Hathaway was forced to resign in January, halfway through her eight-year term on the state Supreme Court.

She resigned before pleading guilty to a scheme to cheat a bank by hiding assets including a vacation home in Florida.

That helped her qualify as a distressed homeowner, so she could then sell a lakefront home in Grosse Pointe Park as a short-sale.

Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, has been covering this story for us, and he joined us today in the studio.

Listen to the full interview above.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

More than a hundred medical marijuana patients and their supporters turned out for a rally in Jackson today.   They’re concerned that legal wrangling is getting in the way of patient care.

A month ago, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal.

The court's decision came in a case out of Mt. Pleasant.  

Michigan Supreme Court
photo courtesy of the MI Supreme Court

The State Supreme Court began hearing cases this week with a full bench.

With Governor Snyder's appointment of new Justice David Viviano to replace former Justice Diane Hathaway, it was the first time in some six weeks that the court has had seven sitting justices.

Of course, Diane Hathway had to step down from the court in January and has since pleaded guilty to a federal bank fraud charge in connection with a family real estate deal. Detroit News columnist Laura Berman had been giving a lot of thought to the appointment of Justice Viviano, and her column in Tuesday's Detroit News reflects her disappointment in Governor Snyder's  choice of a man to replace Diane Hathaway. We now have five men and two women on the Supreme Court. Click the audio link above to hear the full interview.

Michigan Supreme Court

Michigan’s Supreme Court is now streaming oral arguments live on the web.

The court has been broadcasting its caseload since 1996 through Michigan Government Television.  When that service stopped in December, the court decided streaming was the right solution.

Michigan's Capitol.
Graham Davis / flickr

Each week we speak with Susan Demas, political analyst for Michigan Information and Research Service and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

Governor Snyder has chosen his replacement for the Michigan Supreme Court. Judge David Viviano fills the seat left open after the resignation of Diane Hathaway after a bank fraud scandal involving the short sale of property in Grosse Pointe.

And, the Michigan Republican and Democratic parties elected their leadership. The Democratic party saw its longtime chair, Mark Brewer, concede victory to Lon Johnson. What could Johnson's leadership mean for the Democratic party in Michigan?

Yesterday, Governor Rick Snyder finally filled the vacancy on the Michigan Supreme Court created when disgraced Justice Diane Hathaway resigned last month, just before pleading guilty to felony bank fraud. His pick was a mild surprise; David Viviano, the young chief circuit judge in Macomb County.

Later that afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised that the governor called me to explain the process by which he made this appointment. I suspect this was because I have talked and written a lot about the Michigan Supreme Court, which didn’t have the highest reputation, even before the Hathaway scandal.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Governor Snyder chooses a Republican judge to replace Supreme Court Justice Hathaway

"Governor Rick Snyder has picked a Republican judge from Macomb County to fill a vacancy on the Michigan Supreme Court. Judge David Viviano replaces Justice Diane Hathaway, who resigned in disgrace as she faced bank fraud charges," Rick Pluta reports.
 

Michigan moves forward with health care exchange

"A bill to set up a state website where people can shop for health insurance has passed its first hurdle in the state Legislature. A House panel Wednesday voted to accept more than $30 million from Washington to set up the health care exchange. It would be a partnership between the state and the federal government under the Affordable Care Act," Jake Neher reports.

Schmidt and Bolger case extended

A one person grand jury is extending an investigation until August into a political party switch scheme involving then Rep. Roy Schmidt and House Speaker Jase Bolger. As the Associated Press reports,

"Representative Roy Schmidt's switch to the GOP last May came under scrutiny when he offered money to a political novice to run as a Democrat against him. Democrats say Bolger possibly conspired to obstruct justice, though a Kent County prosecutor said no crimes were committed."

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