Category Archives: Blog

Submit a Nomination for a 2018 Michigan Top Lawyer

The selection process for Michigan Top Lawyers for 2018 is underway. Make your nominations today.

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Anyone can submit nominations, including: Current clients, past clients, lawyers, colleagues, marketing teams and consultants. Top Lawyers will be selected for each practice area. All nominations will be reviewed, confirmed, and approved by a Michigan Top Lawyers selection panel.

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Michigan Top Lawyers: Nominations Open For 2016

The selection process for Michigan Top Lawyers for 2016 is underway. Make your nominations today.

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Anyone can submit nominations, including: Current clients, past clients, lawyers, colleagues, marketing teams and consultants. Top Lawyers will be selected for each practice area. All nominations will be reviewed, confirmed, and approved by a Michigan Top Lawyers selection panel.

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Reuters: Lawyers file $220 million damage claim against EPA in Flint water crisis

Lawyers for residents of Flint, Michigan, have filed a $220.2 million damages claim alleging negligence on the part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency contributed to dangerous lead levels in the city’s water supply.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, Michael Pitt said his firm Royal Oak, Michigan’s Pitt McGehee Palmer & Rivers, along with others, had filed an administrative complaint on Monday with the EPA alleging injuries to over 500 people. They said they would file a similar complaint next week covering 250 more Flint residents.

Federal law requires that such complaints be filed as precursors to actual lawsuits against government agencies like the EPA.

The complaint comes days after two Michigan state officials and a Flint employee were charged with criminal offenses in the crisis.

Flint was under control of a state-appointed emergency manager in April 2014 when it switched its source of water from Detroit’s municipal system to the Flint River to save money.

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Submit a Nomination for a Michigan Top Lawyer

The selection process for Michigan Top Lawyers for 2015 is underway. Make your nominations today.

Click Here To Nominate

Anyone can submit nominations, including: Current clients, past clients, lawyers, colleagues, marketing teams and consultants. Top Lawyers will be selected for each practice area. All nominations will be reviewed, confirmed, and approved by a Michigan Top Lawyers selection panel.

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Who says you need a law degree to practice law?

Washington Post /Opinions

Michelle Cummings never went to law school. Her formal college education ended in 1998, with a paralegal studies degree from Highline Community College in Des Moines, Wash. But this summer, Cummings could start taking on legal clients who need help filing for divorce or child custody. Like a fully licensed attorney, she’ll be able to open an office and set her own fees.

Cummings is part of Washington state’s ambitious experiment to revolutionize access to legal services, particularly among the poor. In the United States, 80 to 90 percent of low-income people with civil legal problems never receive help from a lawyer. This means that domestic violence victims might file for a restraining order alone. Couples who want to divorce might do it without counsel. In some states, parents who have lost custody of their children might fight that decision without any guidance.

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Even the public face of the legal profession, the 400,000-member American Bar Association, is beginning to acknowledge that the crisis is too big for lawyers to solve alone. In a January 2014 report, an ABA task force on the future of legal education called on states to license “persons other than holders of a JD to deliver limited legal services.” Among the panel’s 28 members were two key organizers of Washington’s program.

“We need to take a leaf from the medical profession, which has long recognized that people with health problems can be helped by a range of assistance providers with far less training than licensed physicians,” New York Court of Appeals Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman said in his 2014 state of the judiciary report. “We all accept that. Why not the same in the law?”

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Is Overweight a Valid Legal Defense

A 4 year old man that made a bomb threat reports that he cannot appear in a courtroom because he is too overweight. His attorney tells the court that the man would face undo financial hardships if he were forced to leave the special bed he is in to appear before the judge.

The Grand Rapids Press reported that Jeffery Allain Klein was charged with making a false bomb threat at a Cedar Springs mobile home. The police say that Klein confessed to calling in the bomb threat, and that he had done this because he had been fined by the management of the mobile home park and was trying to retaliate against them.

Klein was assigned court hearing dates that he did not attend, so an arrest warrant was issued. The attorney for Klein responded by appearing in court to tell the judge that his client weighs in excess of 600 pounds, and is confined to a special bed because of his weight. The attorney told the court that Jeffrey Klein has numerous ailments brought on by his obesity, and because of these ailments he is bedridden. Klein suffers from diabetes, back pain, and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease as a result of his body mass.

For Mr. Klein to get to the courtroom for a hearing he would have to spend close to $3,000 to be transported there. The attorney pled with the court to excuse Klein from having to appear because of his weight, and the amount of time, money, and trouble it will cost him to travel to the court room.

This matter has come under scrutiny by the public, and has other attorney’s asking if obesity could be a legitimate defense for criminals. The ruling in this case may help to set precedence in the future for attorney’s that wish to use this defense for their clients.


Peacemaking Court in Washtenaw County Attracts Strong Interest

Peacemaking court is something that the Native Americans used to solve disputes, or right wrongs. The idea behind Peacemaking court is to help find a solution to the problem that can stop the harm, and begin to repair the relationships, and restore defendants back into their families and communities as productive members.
Washtenaw County is establishing a new Peacemaking Court that is drawing a lot of attention. On Friday a gathering of more than 80 lawyers, mediators, and probation officers gathered in the courtroom of Judge Timothy Connors to learn about Peacemaking Court, and how it works.
This gathering of lawyers, probation officers, and individuals that have to deal with the prosecution, and rehabilitation of people convicted of criminal acts was a six hour training session. The session covered the basic principles that were a part of the Native American philosophy that is being used to create the Peacemaking Court, and the rules it will be governed by.
Tribal Council member Judge JoAnne Gasco, who is also a former Tribal Judge, and the Court Peacemaker from the Grand Traverse band of Ottowa and Chippewa Indians were present to help the group gathered in Judge Connors courtroom to understand the philosophy behind the Peacemaking Court, and how to apply that philosophy, and its principles in the day to day court happenings that affect so many people’s lives.
The judicial coordinator for Judge Connors said the response to the Peacemaking Court learning session was overwhelming. We were told by the judicial coordinator that the courtroom where the training session was held would only hold about half the people who applied to attend.
Judge Connors was impressed by the number of written applications and said that this proved that there is a strong interest in putting aside some of the traditional adversarial dynamics of the courtroom and replacing them with alternative methods.
The Judge explained that the new court system that was being implemented were going to strengthen the commitment to the fundamental values that were taught to us by the Navajo Indians. Those fundamentals included relationships, respect, and responsibility.
The peacemaking court is supposed to focus heavily on repairing the harm that victims have had done to them, healing the relationships that are broken, and restoring the defendants of the court into the family settings, and back into their communities on a new life path.
Lisa Greco is the director of the Washtenaw Youth Center. The youth center houses all juveniles in the detention program in the county. Miss Greco believes that the Peacemaking Court will be good for cases involving children, but she also stressed that she thought there were many cases that did not involve children that would benefit from the new way of handling the defendants, and the victims.
Miss Greco explained that “we are all embedded in families, and embedded in systems, and communities, that all have to be a part of the healing”.
Greco feels that Judge Connors is right in his belief that the peacemaking process will leave a longer lasting resolution than the resolutions currently gained through the traditional court process.
The peacemaking court could handle juvenile cases, probate cases, some civil disputes, and even some criminal disputes. The initial judge to hear the facts of the case must recommend the peacemaking court in order for a case to be considered.
Participation in peacemaking court will be on a voluntary basis, and all parties involved have to agree to the terms.
Judges from other districts have been in contact with Judge Connors to discuss the peacemaking court with him.

Police Called to Investigate Sexually Explicit Video Text being shared by Students at a Local Detroit High School

The posting and distribution of sexually explicit materials containing images of minors are illegal, and the police are taking the recent videos showing this type of material on the cell phones, and electronic devices of several students at a Southgate Thomas J. Anderson high school very serious. The Southgate police department, and the school officials, are confiscating phones in an attempt to locate any persons that have these video images on their devices. Police are also reminding parents that they should check their children’s Internet activity to make certain that they are not involved with, or a victim of, this type of situation.

SOUTHGATE, Mich. (WJBK) – Southgate police are investigating after a sexually explicit cell phone video of a high school student began circulating among others at the school.

Superintendent Bill Grusecki of Southgate Community School District says administrators are obligated to contact authorities when nudity or pornographic material is involved in any matter.

The cell phone video in question is said to be of a 9th grade female student dancing around when she began to strip naked. Another student began recording and has apparently shared the video with others at Southgate Anderson High School. Students tell FOX 2’s Taryn Asher it happened at a house party over the weekend where there was drinking.

The incident is under investigation and suspensions and even criminal charges are possible.

Students tells Asher authorities at the school are taking this very seriously and have been personally checking people’s phones.

“People come into our classroom and girls would get their phones taken away, get called down to the office. I know a few friends that they don’t have their phones anymore. The cops have them,” says Tori Creighton. Asher reports the school and police have confiscated more than a dozen phones.

Authorities are trying to pinpoint who took the video and who helped spread it around. The video was not recorded on school property but officials believe it was likely spread on there.

The superintendent says he hopes this sends a strong message to parents that they need to be aware of how kids are using their cell phones.



LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s largest teachers’ union should allow members to resign at any time and stop enforcing an annual one-month opt-out window, a state labor judge ruled, relying on the state’s right-to-work law that took effect last year.

The administrative law judge, Julia Stern, recommended Tuesday that the Republican-controlled Employment Relations Commission order the Michigan Education Association to no longer limit school employees to leaving the union in August. She said the right-to-work law incorporated a federal law interpreted to give public employees the ability to leave their union anytime.

The state’s largest public-sector union said Thursday that fewer than 5,000 of 110,000, or 5 percent, of active members opted out last month. Opponents countered that roughly 50,000 had no incentive to leave because they still have to pay fees for bargaining and other services — even if they decide not to belong and pay full dues — until their labor contracts lapse. The union said the 50,000 figure is high.

The legal decision and the union’s decision to make public its latest membership figures followed an intense month of lobbying by organized labor and pro-business groups to persuade teachers to leave or stay, in the first real test of the law that no longer allows forced union fees as a condition of employment.

Lawyers on both sides learned of Stern’s decision Wednesday night.

“Judge Stern’s ruling goes along with our belief that teachers are professionals and not piggybanks for the MEA,” said Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.

Steven Cook, the union’s president, said its members believe in the union and public education, and “no amount of outside rhetoric is going to dissuade them.”

An appeal is planned, first with the commission — controlled 2-1 by Republicans — and then likely the state appeals court and ultimately the Michigan Supreme Court.

“We probably have a couple years more of this to go,” Wright said.

The union’s general counsel, Michael Shoudy, said the resignation process has been in place for more than 40 years.

“We remain hopeful that MERC will find the August window to be consistent with the law,” he said.

A significant number of dropouts over time would deliver a financial blow to the influential union. Members pay up to $640 annually to the state union and $182 to the National Education Association, along with local dues.

The ruling directly affects seven employees in four school districts — Saginaw, Battle Creek, Grand Blanc and Standish-Sterling — who complained they were unable to drop their membership after missing the August window in 2013. If the decision stands, it could have broader implications for other unions with time restrictions on dropping out.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation filed lawsuits and labor complaints on behalf of the teachers, accusing the union of not publicizing the opt-out period and threatening to send members who unsuccessfully tried to leave in other months to collections for not paying their dues.

Union leaders have defended their policies, saying the job of a membership association is not to help people resign and contending that the annual monthlong window is essential for planning and budgeting.

The judge agreed with the reasoning for the window but said the law changed with the passage of the right-to-work measure. Stern dismissed allegations that the union violated state labor law by trying to send members to collections for not paying dues. She also said unions have no duty to educate their members about the right-to-work changes.

About 8,000 members stopped paying dues last school year after another Republican-written law, which ended automatic dues deductions from school employees’ paychecks, took effect. The union said several thousand have resumed paying dues.

In the past two years, Republican-controlled legislatures in Michigan and Indiana have passed laws making union fees voluntary, and other Midwestern states are considering the idea.


SBM Congratulates Young Lawyers Section for Winning ABA Awards of Achievement

The State Bar of Michigan congratulates the SBM Young Lawyers Section for winning First Place Awards of Achievement in two out of four categories from the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, as well as the Outstanding Public Service Award from the American Bar Endowment. The awards were presented at the ABA Annual Meeting in Boston on Aug. 9. The SBM YLS won the Comprehensive Award of Achievement for the full breadth of new and expanded programs they offer throughout the 2013-2014 bar year, including their New Member Orientation, Sports & Entertainment Symposium, Annual Summit, public speaking workshop, immigration law…

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