michigan supreme court

Stateside: Justice Brian Zahra's case for candidacy

Oct 31, 2012
zharaforjustice.com

Continuing Stateside’s conversations with Supreme Court candidates, Justice Brian Zahra spoke with Cyndy about his candidacy.

Justice Brian began the show by recapping his political past.

“I’ve been a judge for 18 years; in 1994 I became a Wayne Circuit Judge. Then I was appointed to the Court of appeals where I served for 12 years and then the past few years on the Supreme Court. “

When asked about his

Stateside: Touching peoples' access to justice

Oct 30, 2012
http://www.judgesheliajohnson.com

In our continued coverage of Michigan’s Supreme Court justice race,  Shelia Johnson discussed her candidacy with Cyndy Canty.

Johnson began by stating her view of a justice’s role in the Court.

“The court is the final arbiter of all the ways Michigan laws are applied. They make sure that justice is fairly applied and followed in the way it is written. The Supreme Court justice also has an administrative function. It reviews the activities of judges as well. They see the implementation of the Michigan Court rules. We touch peoples’ access to justice.”

On the November 6 ballot you'll find a non-partisan section, along with the names of candidates running for the Michigan Supreme Court. Jennifer White talks with Bridge Magazine correspondent Peter Luke who has taken and in-depth look at how Michigan Supreme Court Justices are elected, and what you should know about the candidates before heading to the polls. Go here to read the full article.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice faces FBI investigation

Oct 30, 2012
michigan.gov

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway is being investigated by the FBI for possible mortgage fraud, The Detroit News and Free Press report.

Stateside: Justice Markman on balance, reelection

Oct 25, 2012
markmanjustice.com

Supreme Court Justice Stephen Markman is running for reelection in November.

Markman, appointed Justice in October of 1999 continued to win reelection two subsequent times.

Markman spoke with Cyndy Canty about the role of the Supreme Court in today’s society and what he views as balanced justice.

During Markman’s twelve years on the Supreme Court, he feels he played an integral role in improving the Supreme Court.

user elioja / Flickr

The future of medical marijuana dispensaries and growing cooperatives are on the line with two cases before the Michigan Supreme Court. The court heard arguments on those cases Thursday.

Isabella County Prosecutor Risa Scully said the medical marijuana act does not allow dispensaries where patients can share marijuana with each other.

“The act clearly delineates two methods in which a qualified patient may obtain their marijuana—they may grow it themselves or they may designate a caregiver to grow it for them,” Scully said.

The Michigan Supreme Court opens its 2012 session this week.
Subterranean / Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court formally opens its 2012 session this week.

Its first cases deal with no-fault insurance benefits, Michigan’s open meetings law, and medical marijuana.      

The first arguments of the court’s session will be on the case of a woman who wants her auto no-fault coverage to pay for her treatments for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

She was diagnosed after witnessing her son’s death in a motorcycle accident. She was following him in her car when he was struck by another vehicle.

Political campaigns are using viral videos to promote their candidates.
Bridget McCormack / YouTube

Why would a political campaign want to release an online video that’s part of a genre best known for piano-playing cats?

Why would it risk handing over control of its message to the unruly masses of YouTube and Facebook commenters?

Well, this very article is one reason.

The campaign viral video relies on big names, controversy, or just downright strange content (see Carly Fiorina's "Demon Sheep") to garner the attention of social media users. If all goes well, media outlets will pick up the story.

You probably haven’t thought much about this, but in addition to the candidates for President and Congress and everything else this  November, there are dozens who want to be elected judges.

Judicial races are usually more boring than other contests, because judges ethically can’t talk about how they might rule in hypothetical cases, though everyone frequently tries to figure that out. Nor do they normally criticize how past cases were decided.

user Jeffness / Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Supreme Court will hold a hearing tomorrow on whether four questions should appear on the statewide November ballot.

The court is expected to rule very quickly to meet election deadlines.

The proposals would

Subterranean / Wikimedia Commons

Update Aug. 3 4:00 p.m.

State Treasurer Andy Dillon said at a press conference following the Supreme Court ruling, that putting the Emergency Manager referendum on the ballot means the state will have to revert to previous legislation about Emergency Financial Managers.

Dillon says the current Emergency Managers running cities in Michigan will all be re-appointed except for Flint Emergency Manager Michael Brown.

Brown has served as Mayor of Flint within the last five years, and is not eligible to be an Emergency Manager under the old law.

Dillon says the state will name a new Emergency Manager for Flint.

Aug. 3 1:30 p.m.

The Michigan Supreme Court has ordered the referendum on the state’s emergency manager law onto the November ballot.

A divided court ruled the ballot campaign’s petitions met the letter of the law, that the type on a critical portion of the petition was, in fact, 14 points, which is what the law requires.

The Supreme Court decision requires a state elections board to put the challenge to the emergency manager law on the November ballot.

At that point, the emergency manager law is suspended, but what happens next is not certain. In a statement today, Gov. Rick Snyder said:

While I fully support the right of all citizens to express their views, suspension of the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act may adversely affect Michigan communities and school districts mired in financial emergencies. It promises to make eventual solutions to those emergencies more painful.

One of the act’s primary goals is to identify financial emergencies before they become full-blown crises. Suspending the law limits the state’s ability to offer early intervention and assistance, and eliminates important tools that emergency managers need to address financial emergencies as quickly and efficiently as possible.

This is critical given the state’s responsibility to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens, regardless of the city in which they live or the school district they attend.

Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette say the old emergency manager law is resurrected -- the seven emergency managers currently serving will continue, but with diminished authority.

The referendum drive says otherwise – that there is no emergency manager law, and the emergency managers are out of a job.

It could take another court fight – or extraordinary action by the Legislature to settle the question.

Others have also released statements on the ruling:

  • American Federation of Teachers Michigan President David Hecker:

The Michigan Supreme Court has listened to reason and the hundreds of thousands of citizens who signed petitions calling for the repeal of PA4. Michigan voters know that the Legislature granted extreme powers to unelected Emergency Managers in this bill, and deserve the right to vote on this issue in November.

  • Detroit Mayor Dave Bing:

We respect the Michigan Supreme Court’s opinion, protecting the constitutional right of citizens to use the petition process. However, the Financial Stability Agreement (FSA) remains in effect and is still a critical tool to help fiscally stabilize the city...

The Financial Advisory Board will also remain in tact as will its oversight function to make sure the City is moving forward in restructuring. The court’s decision is not expected to affect the bond issue we need to maintain the city’s cash flow, and the city must complete the bond issue to fund city operations. The bottom line is the City’s fiscal challenges remain, and Public Act 4 was one tool to help us.  Without P.A.4, we will continue to execute our fiscal restructuring plan.

  • Flint Mayor Dayne Walling:

The legal decision does not change anything about the City of Flint's finances, however. It is my hope that there can be cooperation at all levels in the public and private sectors to address the deep rooted challenges we face in Michigan's communities. This is a time when we need to stop fighting over control and instead work together in equal cooperation.

Michigan Supreme Court / courts.michigan.gov

Tuesday night, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that if a parent can prove they are unable to pay child support, they cannot be charged with a felony for the nonsupport.

The catch is, proving an inability to pay is quite difficult. Defendants must prove that they have sold off assets and exhausted their resources to be protected under the decision.

The ruling revolved around three Michigan cases in which parents argued they were unable to pay child support. The parents charged with nonsupport said they were denied their constitutional right to due process when circuit courts refused to consider evidence of their inability to pay.

The Michigan Supreme Court opens its 2012 session this week.
Subterranean / Flickr

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled that a murder trial on hold since 2009 will go forward without expert testimony on the phenomenon of “false confessions."

A man charged with murder in Livingston County says he is innocent of killing his brother and his sister-in-law – even though he confessed to the crimes. 

CedarBendDrive/flickr

In this Saturday's Week in Review, discussions over font size take up time in the Michigan Supreme Court, the Senate tackles legislation that would more closely regulate abortion providers, and Gov. Snyder plans to go back to China. Michigan Radio's Rina Miller speaks with Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry.

user Jeffness / Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that a Michigan State University ordinance is unconstitutional today.

Back in 2008, MSU law student Jared Rapp received a parking ticket on campus. Rapp reportedly yelled at the parking attendant, took his photo and demanded his name. 

Michigan Municipal League

The Michigan Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments on whether a referendum on Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager Law, should appear on the November ballot. 

As you might remember the Board of State Canvassers was asked to determine whether the petitions were printed in the correct font size. But they deadlocked and the issue went to the Michigan Court Appeals, which made a confusing ruling about precedent. And so now we’re now at the Supreme Court.

Dario Corsi / Redhead Design Studio

It’s now up to the state Supreme Court to decide whether the referendum to challenge Michigan’s emergency manager law will appear on the November ballot. The court spent 90 minutes today listening to arguments on whether a dispute over type size is enough to keep the question off the ballot.
    
John Pirich is the attorney for Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility. The business-backed group is trying to knock the referendum off the ballot. Pirich says it’s not enough to trust that a computer program used by petition printers is accurately measuring type size.  

“Everyone knows what a computer can do. I can make letters get scrunched. I can make letters get elongated. They say 12-, 14-, or six-point font, whatever it might say, but that can be manipulated," he said.

Supporters of the referendum say the petitions were correctly printed in the proper font size. They also say the will of more than 200,000 petition signers should not be ignored.

Lead in text: 
Today, the Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments about the validity of Stand Up for Democracy's petition challenging the state's emergency manager law. The high court will rule on the legality of the petition's font size. So what's all the fuss about? Check out this Michigan Radio infographic breaking down the issue.
Law
Immortal Poet / Flickr

A state elections board will meet today to finalize the Sept. 5 special primary that will narrow the field of candidates running to complete the term of Congressman Thad McCotter. The Livonia Republican resigned suddenly on July 6.

The board will also make decisions about half a dozen petition drives that turned in signatures to put questions on the November ballot.

The four-person, bipartisan Board of State Canvassers will set deadlines for people and groups to file any objections to the proposed ballot questions. The proposed amendments to the state constitution deal with energy policy, union rights, taxes, casinos, and a new international bridge in Detroit.

The board has until September to act on any challenges to the questions.

One thing the board will not do is deal with a lower court order to place referendum on the November ballot. The measure seeks to repeal the state’s emergency manager law. The issue must first be dealt with by the state Supreme Court – which holds a hearing this week on whether a dispute about type size on a petition is enough to keep the question off the ballot.

Michigan Hall of Justice
User Xnatedawgx / Wikimedia Commons

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on whether a referendum on Michigan’s emergency manager law should appear on the November ballot.

The arguments will take place in two weeks. A business coalition that supports the emergency manager law is trying to keep the question off the ballot.

The group Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility says a section of this petition was printed in a type size that was too small, and that makes it ineligible.

The group lost before the state Court of Appeals, which said a court precedent left no choice in the matter.

Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility wants that precedent reversed. And if it wins, that decision could affect other ballot campaigns that filed this year.
       

The ballot campaign Stand Up For Democracy says there was no error. But it says even if there were, a technicality should not keep a question off the ballot after 226,000 people signed petitions supporting it.

The Michigan Hall of Justice
user Subterranean / Wikimedia Commons

Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility has been trying to block a statewide referendum on Michigan’s emergency manager law. Today, the group filed a request asking the Michigan Supreme Court to overturn a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling earlier this month that would allow voters to decide on emergency managers.

The group says a mistake in the font size that pro-referendum campaigners Stand Up for Democracy used in a portion of the text of their petitions was too small under regulations. 

Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility believes the font size is reason enough to keep the emergency manager referendum off the November ballot.

Michigan Dept. of Corrections

The Michigan Supreme Court has reinstated the conviction of a Kent County man who claimed he was denied a fair trial because of the racial makeup of his jury.  

 

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Supreme Court has cleared the way for Detroiters to vote on whether their city will be the first in the state to legalize marijuana.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly cares deeply about our highest court, on which she has served for sixteen years.

For a long time, a number of things have bothered her about the court.  A University of Chicago law school study four years ago ranked Michigan’s Supreme Court dead last in the nation. Among its criteria: “Judicial independence from political and outside influences.”

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court has decided to let Detroit Public Schools emergency manager Roy Roberts remain on the job.

The court issued a unanimous decision Monday rejecting an appeal of a lower court decision upholding Roberts' appointment.

The case was brought by Robert Davis, an activist who has filed several suits challenging aspects of Michigan's emergency manager law.

State Integrity Investigation

In the opening of his State Integrity Investigation piece, reporter Chris Andrews shows us why Michigan gets the failing grade:

The campaign finance system here has more holes than I-94 after a spring thaw. Big spenders and special interests can easily shovel millions of dollars into election activities — secretly if they choose... And the financial disclosure system for state elected officials?

Well actually, there isn’t one.

Welcome to Michigan, the “Trust Us” State when it comes to transparency. Reform efforts are frequently launched, sometimes debated, always shelved.

The State Integrity Investigation is a project of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International.

The project aims to "expose practices that undermine trust in state capitols -- and spotlight the states that are doing things right."

You can see how all the states stack up here.

Clearly, Michigan is not going to make the highlight reel.

Overall, after looking at 330 specific measures of "state integrity," Michigan ranked 43rd among the 50 states.

And while Lansing has not been rocked by scandals seen in some other state capitols around the country, Andrews writes there are "glaring holes," when it comes to transparency in money spent to lobby lawmakers, and in the money spent to elect or defeat candidates in Michigan.

Michigan Supreme Court elections, a seat money can buy

How money can influence the perceived integrity, or the real integrity of an office was highlighted in a recent piece by Michigan Radio's Lester Graham.

In his Michigan Watch report, Money Talks: Campaign money and Supreme Court justice candidates, Graham illustrated how once a candidate wins a seat on the Michigan Supreme Court "no one really knows if a case is being decided strictly on the merits, or because of someone’s hidden political donation and its influence."

Graham spoke with former Michigan Supreme Court justice Betty Weaver about this:

“It isn’t just the appearance of impropriety, this money does have influence. Common sense tells you it does. I’ve been there,” said Weaver.

LG: Do you think you’ve seen on the court influence because of a large donor at one time or another?  

“Yes, I do think that the ability to control who gets appointed and who gets elected has an effect on the decisions of the court, so you can pretty well guess how it’s going to go,” said Weaver.

In his State Integrity Investigation piece on Michigan, Chris Andrews notes that Gov. Snyder proposed an ethics package when he was running for governor in 2010. Snyder called for banning gifts from lobbyists, "cooling-off periods," and regulating issue advertising.

But while Snyder achieved many of his campaign goals after taking office in 2011, these reforms were put on the back burner.

Rich Robinson, executive director of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network, told Andrews that lawmakers in Michigan are unlikely to change anything unless the public demands it.

Matthileo Capitol / Flickr

Update 3/27/2012:

"The Michigan Supreme Court - in a decision that breaks along party-lines -  has upheld a state law that will let Republicans on the Oakland County Commission redraw their district lines. The Supreme Court says the law complies with the state constitution, regardless of whether it was designed to give one party a political advantage. The Supreme Court's three Democrats dissented from the decision," Rick Pluta reports.

Original Post 3/23/2012:

This week, Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network, and I decided to take a look at the political shenanigans playing out in Oakland County.

The Back-story

“There is a fight between Oakland County politicians – Democrats versus Republicans. It’s about the murky, dirty, filthy process of drawing new district lines for politicians to run in. In Oakland County, [the redrawing] is done by a bi-partisan panel. In this case, it’s a panel that has more Democrats than Republicans and the Democrats drew a map that the Republicans didn’t like,” Pluta explains.

So, some Republican lawmakers from Oakland County decided to have the state legislature change the redrawing rules. They devised a measure to allow the County Commission, which is controlled by Republicans, to redraw the lines. The measure was then passed by the state’s Republican-controlled House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder.

Democrats cried foul. They challenged the new law and, last month, Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette overturned it. Collette ruled the law violated the Michigan Constitution and that the governor and the Legislature illegally interfered in a local political question.

The question over the legality of the law made its way to the state’s highest court this week. On Wednesday, the Michigan Supreme Court heard arguments from both sides.

Politically-motivated maps

Republicans all along contended that the reason for the new law was to save taxpayers money. Democrats, and many pundits, said it was pure politics: that the GOP changed the rules so that Republican dominance on the County Board wouldn’t be challenged. But, this kind of claim is always hard to prove. Hard to prove… unless you have emails.

Busted: GOP emails released

This week, emails between Republican Oakland County officials and GOP lawmakers were released after the Oakland County Democratic Party filed a Freedom of Information Act. The emails appear to show, “officials in the offices of Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson’s office and state Representatives – primarily Rep. Eileen Kowall – basically plotting and trying to find a rationale to kick this redistricting process back over to the County Commission where Republicans would control it,” Pluta explains.

‘It’s gonna be ugly’

In one email, Rep. Kowall wrote, “I guess it would also help to have (a) legitimate explanation as to why we waited until now, after redistricting plans have been submitted, to take these bills up.” She also wrote, “The quicker things move the better, ’cause it’s gonna be ugly.”

INKSTER, Mich. (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court is extending the deadline for a report on possible misconduct by a Detroit-area judge.

Sylvia James, a District Court judge in Inkster, is accused of misspending more than $100,000, either for her personal use or for community projects unrelated to the court. The Supreme Court wanted a recommendation from the Judicial Tenure Commission by mid-May, but the deadline has been pushed to June 15.

James denies any wrongdoing. A hearing with six weeks of testimony was held earlier this year.

FB user sarawestermark

The Michigan Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to benefits that cover the live-in partners of state employees. That ruling means the challenge will have to go first to the state Court of Appeals. This is the newest wrinkle in the legal and political drama playing out over allowing benefits that cover public employees’ unmarried partners, including people in same-sex relationships.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

DETROIT (AP) — The Michigan Supreme Court has turned down an appeal from a Macomb County man who claims his constitutional rights were violated when jurors were allowed to discuss evidence before the end of his trial.

The court heard arguments but recently decided not to issue a formal opinion. A state appeals court ruling upholding Maurice Richards' carjacking conviction will stand.

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