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Robert Lewis was convicted on one count of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and five counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct for sexually assaulting his live-in girlfriend’s daughters. Defendant appealed, challenging his convictions and the amount of attorney fees assessed against him. The Court of Appeals affirmed defendant’s convictions and sentences in an unpublished per curiam opinion, holding that the trial court properly awarded attorney fees without making findings of fact regarding the award of attorney fees because the language of MCL 769.1k(1)(b)(iii) and (iv) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, MCL 760.1 et seq., was clear such that a separate calculation of costs was not required. The Michigan Supreme Court concluded a sentencing court could not impose attorney fees pursuant to MCL 769.1k(1)(b)(iv) without first making findings to support the amount of the fees, reversed the Court of Appeals' opinion holding to the contrary, and remanded this case for such findings. The Supreme Court affirmed Lewis' convictions. View "Michigan v. Lewis" on Justia Law

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Voters Not Politicians (VNP) was a ballot-question committee. It filed the initiative petition at issue in this case with defendant Michigan Secretary of State. The initiative proposal would, among other things, amend Const 1963, art 4, section 6, which established a commission to regulate legislative redistricting. The commission prescribed by Michigan's present Constitution was inactive because the Michigan Supreme Court declared that it could not be severed from apportionment standards contained in the Michigan Constitution that had been held to be unconstitutional. After that ruling, the Supreme Court oversaw redistricting until the Legislature took control of the process. VNP’s proposal would bring Michigan’s constitutional redistricting standards in line with federal constitutional requirements and revive the redistricting commission’s authority to set redistricting plans for the state house, state senate, and federal congressional districts. A sufficient number of registered electors signed the petition for it to be placed on the November 2018 general election ballot. Before the Board of State Canvassers could certify the petition for placement on the ballot, plaintiff Citizens Protecting Michigan’s Constitution (CPMC), along with other plaintiffs, filed a complaint for a writ of mandamus directing the Secretary of State and the Board to reject the VNP proposal. CPMC argued that the proposal was not an amendment of the Constitution that could be proposed by petition under Const 1963, art 12, section 2; rather, the proposal amounted to a “general revision” of the Constitution and could be enacted only through a constitutional convention under Const 1963, art 12, section 3. The Court of Appeals granted the request by VNP and other parties to intervene as defendants and to file a cross-complaint seeking a writ of mandamus requiring the proposal to be placed on the ballot. The Supreme Court took this case to determine whether the VNP petition was a constitutionally permissible voter-initiated amendment under Const 1963, art 12, section 2, and concluded after a thorough review, that VNP's proposal was a permissible voter-initiated amendment. View "Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution v. Secretary of State" on Justia Law

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The decedent, James Erwin, Sr., had six children from a previous marriage when he married appellee Maggie Erwin in 1968. James and Maggie had four children together, bringing James’s total number of children to 10. Several years after their wedding, James and Maggie bought a house in Saginaw. However, although remaining in Saginaw, Maggie moved out and established a separate residence in 1976. She subsequently petitioned James for financial assistance, and James consented to a support order that provided assistance for Maggie and for their children. But the two continued to live apart. There was no indication that they ever lived under the same roof again. Decades later, in 2010, James and Maggie joined together as plaintiffs and sued James’s employer to reinstate Maggie’s health insurance coverage in accordance with his retiree medical benefits. James made it clear that Maggie was still his wife and that they had an ongoing relationship. James died intestate in 2012. James and Maggie had never filed for divorce nor had they otherwise formally separated. In the eyes of the law, they remained married until the time of James’s passing. Dissatisfied with the communication and cooperation shown by Maggie and her four children, one of James’s children from his first marriage, Beatrice King, represented by her attorney-brother, L. Fallasha Erwin, petitioned the probate court to open formal proceedings and to be appointed as the estate’s personal representative. The probate court proceedings were contentious from the outset. Beatrice asked the probate court to determine whether Maggie was a surviving spouse in accordance with Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC). Beatrice argued, in part, that Maggie was not a surviving spouse under MCL 700.2801(2)(e)(i) because she was “willfully absent” from James in the years leading up to his death. If proved, because James died intestate, Maggie would not be an heir for the purposes of inheritance, and she would not be entitled to a share of James’s estate. The Court of Appeals concluded that “willful absence for the purposes of the EPIC was a factual question that may concern more than physical proximity,” and that a “trial court should determine whether a spouse is willfully absent . . . by considering all the facts and circumstances of the case.” The issues this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's review were both ones of first impression: (1) whether the term “willfully absent” was defined exclusively by physical separation, or whether it included consideration of the emotional bonds and connections between spouses; and (2) whether MCL 700.2801(2)(e)(i) required proof that a spouse intends to abandon his or her marital rights. The Supreme Court held the appellate court correctly concluded Maggie was not "willfully absent" from James in the years leading up to his death, and affirmed. View "In re Erwin Estate" on Justia Law

Posted in: Trusts & Estates

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Two cases were consolidated, both arising from separate incidents where plaintiffs were individually stopped and questioned by Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) officers. During these stops, plaintiffs’ photographs and fingerprints were taken in accordance with the GRPD’s “photograph and print” (P&P) procedures. Alleging that the P&Ps violated their constitutional rights, plaintiffs filed separate civil lawsuits against the city of Grand Rapids (the City), as well as against the individual police officers involved. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of all defendants in both cases. Plaintiffs each appealed by right, and the Court of Appeals affirmed in separate opinions. Relevant here, both opinions affirmed summary judgment in favor of the City on plaintiffs’ municipal-liability claims on grounds that a policy that does not direct or require police officers to take a specific action cannot give rise to municipal liability under 42 USC 1983. The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals with regard to that issue and held that a policy or custom that authorizes, but does not require, police officers to engage in specific conduct may form the basis for municipal liability. “Additionally, when an officer engages in the specifically authorized conduct, the policy or custom itself is the moving force behind an alleged constitutional injury arising from the officer’s actions.” Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed in part the judgments of the Court of Appeals, and remanded these cases to the Court of Appeals for further consideration. View "Johnson v. Vanderkooi" on Justia Law

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Audrey Trowell filed an action against Providence Hospital and Medical Centers, Inc., after she sustained injuries while she was hospitalized. At issue in this case was whether plaintiff’s claims sounded in medical malpractice or ordinary negligence. If her claims implicated medical malpractice, then they were barred by the two-year statute of limitations applicable to medical malpractice actions and defendant was entitled to summary judgment under MCR 2.116(C)(7). If her claims sounded in ordinary negligence, then they were timely. The Court of Appeals couldn't tell based solely on the basis of the allegations in the complaint, so it remanded for an evidentiary hearing to determine whether plaintiff’s claims were in medical malpractice, ordinary negligence, or both. The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed with this approach, holding that under the facts of this case, in which the only material submitted to the trial court was plaintiff’s complaint, the remand was improper and in determining the nature of plaintiff’s claims, the lower courts’ review was limited to the complaint alone. A proper review of the allegations in plaintiff’s complaint lead the Supreme Court to conclude that although the complaint included some claims of medical malpractice, it also contains one claim of ordinary negligence. The case was remanded to proceed on the ordinary negligence claims. View "Trowell v. Providence Hospital & Medical Centers, Inc." on Justia Law

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In consolidated cases, at issue before the Michigan Supreme Court was whether the trial court erred by declining to grant new trials following defendants’ motions for relief from judgment. These cases arise from the 1999 murder of Lisa Kindred. Lisa was shot and killed while in her vehicle with her three children. Earlier in the evening, Lisa, her husband William Kindred, and her three children had gone to see a movie at a drive-in theater in Dearborn, Michigan. On their way home, William announced that he wanted to make a stop on the east side of Detroit to talk to his sister’s boyfriend, Verlin Miller, about purchasing a motorcycle. Lisa, who was driving, parked their minivan across the street from Miller’s home and waited in the van with the children while William went inside. At one point, Lisa went to the door of the house and asked William to come back to the van, but William told her that he would be out shortly, and Lisa returned to the van. Soon afterward, William heard a noise, which turned out to be gunfire, and went to the front door just in time to see both Lisa’s van speeding away and a man fleeing on foot. William chased after the fleeing individual but failed to catch him. Having been struck by the gunfire, Lisa drove the van to a nearby gas station, stopped, and then collapsed out of the vehicle. She later died at the hospital. Two individuals who were in the same neighborhood at the time of the crime implicated defendants Justly Johnson and Kendrick Scott in the shooting. All four individuals knew each other from the same neighborhood. Johnson and Scott were tried separately: Johnson by bench trial and Scott by jury trial. After weighing the evidence presented at the trials along with defendants’ claims of newly discovered evidence, the Michigan Supreme Court held the evidence in the form of testimony given by Charmous Skinner Jr. would have made a different result probable on retrial. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals in part and remanded these cases to the trial court for new trials. View "Michigan v. Johnson" on Justia Law

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Defendants, the Ann Arbor and Clio school districts, each had a policy banning firearms on school property. The plaintiffs, advocacy organizations supporting gun ownership and certain parents of children who attend school in the defendant districts, believed state law preempted these policies by implication. The Michigan Supreme Court found that while the Legislature plainly could preempt school districts from adopting policies like the ones at issue if it chose to, it did not do so here: "not only has our Legislature not preempted school districts’ regulation of guns by implication, it has expressed its intent not to preempt such regulation." View "Michigan Gun Owners, Inc. v. Ann Arbor Public Schools" on Justia Law

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Kenneth Bertin brought an action against Douglas Mann alleging that Mann was negligent in operating a golf cart when he hit Bertin with the cart while the parties were playing a round of golf. The parties offered differing accounts of how the accident occurred. Bertin alleged that he had parked the cart and begun walking to his ball when he was suddenly struck by the cart driven by Mann, at which point Bertin fell to the ground and was hit a second time with the cart. Mann alleged that when he began accelerating, Bertin stepped in front of the cart and was hit. At issue in this case was whether getting hit by a golf cart is an inherent risk of golfing. If so, then Mann owed a duty only to refrain from reckless misconduct, but could not be held liable for negligent conduct. If not, then Mann would be held to the negligence standard of conduct. "The question boils down to how we determine which risks in a recreational activity are inherent, such that the reckless standard of conduct applies." The Court of Appeals answered this question by meditating upon golf’s essence and discerning that golf carts are not within the essence of the sport. The Michigan Supreme Court declined to endorse this philosophical mode of analysis. Instead, the Court held when determining whether a risk is inherent in a recreational activity for purposes of establishing the relevant standard of conduct, the fact-finder should ask whether the risk was reasonably foreseeable. Because the courts below did not apply this test, the Court reversed the appellate court's judgment and remanded the case to the trial court for consideration of this issue. View "Bertin v. Mann" on Justia Law

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As part of defendant Virgil Smith's plea deal, he agreed to resign his position as a state senator and not seek public office during his five-year probationary term. While serving as a state senator, in May 2015, defendant fired his rifle at his ex-wife’s car and into the air in her presence. He was charged with felonious assault; domestic violence; malicious destruction of personal property (worth $20,000 or more); and felony-firearm. After reviewing the agreement, the trial court determined that the terms of the plea violated the separation-of-powers doctrine and public policy. It struck down the terms but, over the prosecutor’s objection, enforced the rest of the plea deal. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Michigan Supreme Court granted certiorari review to decide whether the resignation and bar-to-office provisions of the plea deal were enforceable, and if not, whether the trial court erred by refusing to allow the prosecutor to withdraw from the deal. The Court held: (1) the question regarding the resignation provision was moot and therefore the Court declined to reach it, and instead vacated the Court of Appeals’ discussion of that issue; (2) the bar-to-office provision was unenforceable as against public policy; and (3) the trial court erred by not permitting the prosecutor to withdraw from the plea agreement. View "Michigan v. Smith" on Justia Law

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Defendant Lonnie Arnold masturbated in front of an employee at the Monroe Public Library in January 2014. He was charged with aggravated indecent exposure, MCL 750.335a(2)(b), indecent exposure by a sexually delinquent person, MCL 750.335a(2)(c), and also with being a fourth-offense habitual offender, MCL 769.12. He was convicted after a jury trial on both substantive indecent-exposure counts. At sentencing, the Department of Corrections (DOC) recommended defendant serve 225 months to 40 years in prison on the count of indecent exposure by a sexually delinquent person, to be served concurrently with 2 to 15 years on the aggravated indecent-exposure count. At sentencing, defense counsel asked that defendant be given “1 day to life.” The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court's review was whether individuals convicted of being “sexually delinquent persons” must be given a “1 day to life” prison sentence in accordance with MCL 750.335a(2)(c). The Court concluded that a “1 day to life” sentence has never been required by the statutory scheme, overruling the Court of Appeals’ contrary conclusion in Michigan v Campbell, 894 NW2d 72 (2016), and remanded this case to the Court of Appeals for reconsideration in light of its conclusion. View "Michigan v. Arnold" on Justia Law