michigan supreme court

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."


Governor Snyder has appointed a new Justice to the state Supreme Court.

The appointment comes after former Justice Diane Hathaway resigned last month after being indicted for bank fraud.

For many Court watchers, Chief Judge of the Macomb County Circuit David Viviano is a surprise pick.

Rick Pluta,  Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network was at the announcement. He spoke with us to tell us more about Judge Viviano.

To hear the full story click the audio link above.

A task force says electing Michigan Supreme Court justices should not be as partisan, or as much about money, as other political offices. But according to one watchdog group, last year the Michigan Supreme Court campaign was the most expensive, most secretive judicial election in America. Several recommendations to get some of the politics and secret money out of the Supreme Court elections were ignored by the legislature last year.

It’s coming up on a year since the Judicial Selection Task Force issued a report recommending changes to how we elect Michigan Supreme Court justices. Since then we elected three to the bench. Although the candidates ran on the non-partisan section of the ballot, politics was involved from the beginning.

“Michigan is unusual in that our Supreme Court race is so partisan. The candidates are nominated at a party convention,” said Susan Smith, President of the League of Women Voters of Michigan. Continuing, she said, “And, even though it doesn’t say on the ballot how they got nominated or which party nominated them, it’s really a farce, then, to put it up as a non-partisan election.”

And if politics is not far removed from electing Supreme Court justices, neither is money.


A Republican state lawmaker has introduced legislation to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan.

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled the state’s medical marijuana law does not allow dispensaries.

State Representative Mike Callton says that’s a hole in the law that needs to be fixed because it creates an unfair hardship on terminally ill people.

“The problem”, he said, “if there’s 126,000 patients in Michigan right now, and only one in three has a caregiver. So the Supreme Court ruling, by taking out the dispensaries, and I can see that it wasn’t in the law, it either leaves patients without caregivers to either go underground or go without.”

“This cancer patient, this AIDS patient should be able to go right to a provisionary center – which my bill is creating – and get that prescription filled right away, get rid of that nausea, get that appetite back, keep that weight up, and have that quality of life even though you’re dying,” said Callton.

Callton says his bill would also reduce the illegal sale of marijuana because people who grow more than they need could provide it to other patients through a dispensary.

The legislation would allow local governments to outlaw dispensaries.  

Similar legislation failed to win approval last year, but Callton says legislators from both parties seem to be more accepting of the idea in this term.

The medical marijuana law was adopted overwhelmingly by voters in 2008.

The Michigan Supreme Court says police officers do not have to stop talking to a suspect once the right to remain silent is invoked.

Kadeem White was a 17-year-old charged with murder and armed robbery who said he didn’t want to talk once he was read his Miranda rights.

The detective stopped asking questions, but carried on his side of the conversation expressing concern about the missing gun used in the crime until White blurted out a confession.

The trial court said the detective’s actions were the functional equivalent of carrying on the interrogation after White asserted his right to remain silent.

The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the lower court, saying the detective lived up to his constitutional responsibilities and it was White’s decision to break his silence.

The state Supreme Court agreed, although it was a closely divided three-to-two decision.


DETROIT (AP) -The state agency that monitors judges for misconduct is dropping its complaint against Diane Hathaway now that she's no longer on the Michigan Supreme Court.

The Michigan Judicial Tenure Commission said Tuesday there's nothing to gain. Hathaway pleaded guilty last week to federal bank fraud for shifting properties and failing to disclose assets while trying to dump her Detroit-area home in a short sale. She could go to prison and lose her law license.

The commission filed an ethics complaint against Hathaway and sought her suspension on Jan. 7 while she was still on the Supreme Court. That led to news that Hathaway had quietly filed retirement papers in December and was planning to quit on Jan. 21.

She was charged with fraud three days before leaving the court.

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A former Jackson County district judge has pleaded guilty to four counts of willful neglect of duty. The charges are misdemeanors.

The Michigan Supreme Court removed Judge James Justin from the bench a year ago. Justin was suspended in 2010 due to allegations of misconduct.

Justin was accused of fixing speeding and other traffic tickets issued to his wife and his court officers.

Former justice Diane Hathaway will face bank fraud charge next week

Jan 23, 2013

Former Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway will face a federal bank fraud charge in a United States District Court in Ann Arbor next Tuesday.

The charge was filed as criminal “information,” meaning Hathaway has negotiated with prosecutors and is likely to plead guilty, the Detroit News reports.


As Justice Diane Hathaway officially resigns from the Michigan Supreme Court today, Governor Rick Snyder says he is considering her replacement.

Hathaway’s resignation comes after federal prosecutors charged the justice with bank fraud in connection with a 2011 real estate deal.

Michigan Supreme Court justice charged with fraud

Jan 19, 2013

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway has been charged with bank fraud just a few days before quitting the state's highest court. The charge was filed Friday and titled as a criminal "information," which means a guilty plea is expected in federal court.

A young reporter once asked me how you could tell if a someone was really retiring of their own free will, or being fired. “Well,” I said, “When someone prominent retires, they often announce it well in advance, and they honor them with a dinner. When someone suddenly leaves at ten in the morning on Tuesday, allegedly to spend more time with their family, they’ve been fired.” 

Yesterday, we learned that Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway is “retiring” from the court, barely halfway through her first term. Her retirement was announced right after the Judicial Tenure Commission lodged a formal complaint against her.

That complaint is perhaps the most damning against a sitting judge I’ve ever seen. It claims she violated federal and state laws against fraud, federal money laundering and tax laws, and constitute “conduct that is contrary to justice, ethics, honesty, or good morals.”

None of this comes as much of a surprise. Last spring, WXYZ-TV in Detroit first reported irregularities in the sale of a house she and her husband owned in Grosse Pointe Park.

Two months ago, federal authorities then sued Hathaway and her husband, who is also a lawyer, and have attempted to seize a home they own in Florida for fraudulently hiding real estate they owned in order to get a bank to write off a large mortgage.