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AK Steel operated a steel mill within the Ford Rouge Manufacturing complex in Dearborn, Michigan. The steel mill was subject to air pollution control and permitting requirements under the federal Clean Air Act, and the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act (NREPA). South Dearborn Environmental Improvement Association, Inc. (South Dearborn) and several other environmental groups petitioned for judicial review of a decision of the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to issue a permit to install (PTI) for an existing source under NREPA. In 2006, the DEQ issued Severstal Dearborn, LLC (the mill's prior owner) a PTI that authorized the rebuilding of a blast furnace and the installation of three air pollution control devices at the steel mill. In the years that followed, the permit was revised twice; each successive permit modified and replaced the preceding permit. Emissions testing performed in 2008 and 2009 revealed that several emission sources at the steel mill exceeded the level permitted. The DEQ sent Severstal a notice of violation, and after extended negotiations, they entered into an agreement, pursuant to which Severstal submitted an application for PTI 182- 05C, the PTI at issue in this case. The DEQ issued the permit on May 12, 2014, stating that the purpose of PTI 182-05C was to correct inaccurate assumptions about preexisting and projected emissions and to reallocate emissions among certain pollution sources covered by the PTI. On July 10, 2014, 59 days after PTI 182-05C was issued, South Dearborn and several other environmental groups appealed the DEQ’s decision in the circuit court. The issue for the Michigan Supreme Court's review reduced to how long an interested party has to file a petition for judicial review of a DEQ decision to issue a permit for an existing source of air pollution. The Supreme Court held MCL 324.5505(8) and MCL 324.5506(14) provided that such a petition must be filed within 90 days of the DEQ’s final permit action. Therefore, the circuit court correctly denied AK Steel Corporation’s motion to dismiss pursuant to MCR 2.116(C)(1) because the petition for judicial review was timely filed 59 days after the final permit action in this case. View "South Dearborn Environmental Improvement Assn. v. Dept. of Env. Quality" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Ali Bazzi, was injured while driving a vehicle owned by his mother, third-party defendant Hala Baydoun Bazzi, and insured by defendant Sentinel Insurance Company (Sentinel). Plaintiff sued Sentinel for mandatory personal protection insurance (PIP) benefits under Michigan’s no-fault act, and Sentinel sought and obtained a default judgment rescinding the insurance policy on the basis of fraud. The issue this case presented for the Michigan Supreme Court was whether the judicially created innocent-third-party rule, which precludes an insurer from rescinding an insurance policy procured through fraud when there is a claim involving an innocent third party, survived its decision in Titan Ins Co v. Hyten, 817 NW2d 562 (2012), which abrogated the judicially created easily-ascertainable-fraud rule. The Supreme Court held "Titan" abrogated the innocent-third-party rule but that the Court of Appeals erred when it concluded that Sentinel was automatically entitled to rescission in this instance. Accordingly, the Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded to the trial court to consider whether, in its discretion, rescission was an available remedy. View "Bazzi v. Sentinel Ins. Co." on Justia Law

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Defendant Lovell Sharpe was charged with two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC), two counts of third-degree CSC, and one count of fourth-degree CSC, based on allegations that he engaged in sexual penetration and conduct with the 14-year-old complainant, DM. Defendant was in a relationship with DM’s mother through early 2015, and he fathered DM’s two halfsiblings. Defendant did not reside with DM’s mother and the three children during his relationship with DM’s mother. At issue in this case was whether the rape-shield statute, MCL 750.520j, precluded the prosecutor from admitting evidence of a complainant’s pregnancy, abortion, and lack of other sexual partners during a criminal-sexual-conduct prosecution. On interlocutory appeal, the Court of Appeals held that evidence of the complainant’s lack of other sexual partners was not subject to the rape-shield statute and was otherwise admissible under the Michigan Rules of Evidence. As to evidence of the complainant’s pregnancy and abortion, the Court held that this evidence fell under the purview of the rape-shield statute but was admissible pursuant to the statute’s exception for evidence of the victim’s past sexual conduct with the actor. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed the entirety of the evidence offered was admissible, but that none of the evidence fell within the scope of the rape-shield statute. Furthermore, the Court held the entirety of the evidence was otherwise admissible under the Michigan Rules of Evidence. Therefore, the Court rejected the Court of Appeals’ reasoning, but affirmed its conclusion that the offered evidence was admissible. View "Michigan v. Sharpe" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff David McQueer brought a negligence action against his employer, Perfect Fence Company, to recover damages after he was injured on the job. Perfect Fence moved for summary judgment on the ground that the exclusive-remedy provision of the Worker’s Disability Compensation Act (WDCA), MCL 418.101 et seq., barred plaintiff’s action. Plaintiff responded that his action was not barred because defendant had violated MCL 418.611 by failing to procure workers’ compensation coverage for him and had violated MCL 418.171 by encouraging him to pose as a nonemployee. Plaintiff additionally moved to amend his complaint to add claims of intentional tort and breach of an employment contract. Plaintiff argued that the evidence raised a question of fact about whether defendant intended to injure him in a way that brought plaintiff’s claim within the scope of the intentional tort exception to the exclusive-remedy provision of the WDCA. The trial court granted Perfect Fence’s motion, concluding that the company had not violated MCL 418.611 because defendant had provided workers’ compensation coverage. The court also ruled that MCL 418.171 was not applicable to plaintiff’s claims. The court denied plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint, concluding that amendment would be futile because the undisputed facts did not demonstrate that defendant intended to injure plaintiff. Plaintiff appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s grant of summary judgment and denial of plaintiff’s motion to amend his complaint in an unpublished per curiam opinion. The panel agreed with the trial court that defendant had not violated MCL 418.611, but concluded that plaintiff had established a question of fact regarding whether defendant had improperly encouraged him to pose as a contractor for the purpose of evading liability under WDCA in violation of MCL 418.171(4). The panel also concluded that because plaintiff had presented sufficient evidence to create a question of fact regarding whether an intentional tort had occurred, the trial court abused its discretion by not allowing plaintiff to amend his complaint. The Michigan Supreme Court held MCL 418.171 did not apply in this case: because plaintiff was not the employee of a contractor engaged by defendant, he had no cause of action under MCL 418.171. For this reason, the Court reversed the Court of Appeals judgment only as to whether MCL 418.171 applied. View "McQueer v. Perfect Fence Company" on Justia Law

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In 2002, defendant Timothy Barnes was convicted of second-degree murder and other offenses. On direct appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed his convictions, and the Michigan Supreme Court denied leave to appeal. In 2008, defendant moved in the trial court for relief from judgment. The trial court denied the motion. The Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court again denied leave to appeal. Defendant filed another motion for relief from judgment, arguing that, because his sentence was imposed when the legislative sentencing guidelines were mandatory, he should be resentenced now that the Michigan Supreme Court has in Michigan v Lockridge, 870 NW2d 502 (2015), the guidelines were advisory only. Ordinarily, successive motions for relief from judgment were barred by MCR 6.502(G)(1), and the Supreme Court found the trial court denied defendant’s motion on that basis. On appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred and that his motion fell within one of the exceptions in MCR 6.502(G)(2), which allows a “subsequent motion [for relief from judgment] based on a retroactive change in law that occurred after the first motion for relief from judgment . . . .” The Supreme Court determined Lockridge did not have retroactive effect for sentences receiving collateral review under MCR 6.500, and so affirmed. View "Michigan v. Barnes" on Justia Law

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Defendant Christopher Oros did not dispute that he intended to kill the victim, Marie McMillan, when he stabbed her 29 times; rather, he argued insufficient proofs were presented at trial with regard to the elements of premeditation and deliberation to sustain his conviction. The Court of Appeals agreed, concluding there was insufficient evidence of premeditation and deliberation, and therefore reduced defendant’s first-degree premeditated murder conviction to second-degree murder. The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed, holding the Court of Appeals erred when it improperly usurped the role of the fact-finder and misapplied the Supreme Court’s opinion in Michigan v. Hoffmeister, 229 NW2d 305 (1975). In lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Supreme Court reversed Part II of the Court Appeals opinion and held that, based on the record evidence presented at defendant’s trial, a reasonable juror could have found that the killing was committed with premeditation and deliberation. Defendant’s first-degree premeditated murder conviction and sentence were reinstated. View "Michigan v. Oros" on Justia Law

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Johnny Kennedy was convicted by jury of first-degree murder for the 1993 strangulation death of Tanya Harris. Attempts to find Harris’s murderer stalled for nearly two decades until 2011, when various swabs taken from Harris’s body were tested. The swab from Harris’s left fingernail included a mixture of DNA profiles—from Harris and three male donors. Defendant’s DNA profile matched the major donor’s. Vaginal and rectal swabs taken from Harris also matched defendant’s DNA profile. By this time, defendant was already incarcerated for having admitted to strangling another woman in 1996 under similar circumstances. In an unpublished per curiam opinion, the Court of Appeals, affirmed defendant’s conviction and found no abuse of discretion or constitutional error in the trial court’s denial of defendant’s request for an expert. The majority noted that defendant did not provide enough evidence that an expert would have aided the defense, as required by MCL 775.15 and Michigan v Tanner, 469 Mich 437 (2003), nor did defendant raise any specific concerns with the evidence. The dissent concluded the trial court’s refusal to appoint an expert violated defendant’s due-process rights because defendant could not know the inherent concerns with the DNA evidence without an expert’s assistance. The Michigan Supreme Court took the opportunity to clarify that MCL 775.15 did not apply in this context; instead, the Court held that Ake v Oklahoma, 470 US 68 (1985) was the controlling law. And, to assist trial courts in determining whether a defendant has made a sufficient showing to be entitled to expert assistance under Ake, we adopt the reasonable probability standard from Moore v Kemp, 809 F2d 702 (CA 11, 1987). Accordingly, in lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Court vacated the Court of Appeals’ decision and remanded to that Court for further proceedings. View "Michigan v. Kennedy" on Justia Law

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At issue before the Michigan Supreme Court in this case was whether the rebuttable presumption of undue influence was applicable when the decedent’s attorney breaches Michigan Rule of Professional Conduct (MRPC) 1.8(c), which generally prohibited an attorney from preparing an instrument giving the attorney or his or her close family a substantial gift. Appellants argued that a breach of MRPC 1.8(c) automatically rendered an instrument void, while the appellee attorney argued that, rather than an invalidation of the instrument, a rebuttable presumption of undue influence arose in these circumstances. After considering the applicable provisions of the Estates and Protected Individuals Code (EPIC), MCL 700.1101 et seq., and the underlying principles of probate law, the Michigan Supreme Court determined a rebuttable presumption applied to these circumstances. "[T]he adoption of MRPC 1.8(c) has no effect on this conclusion because a breach of this rule, like breaches of other professional conduct rules, only triggers the invocation of the attorney disciplinary process; it does not breach the statutory law of EPIC." View "In re Mardigian Estate" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Tia Marie-Mitchell Skinner, and Kenya Hyatt were convicted by jury: Skinner, for first-degree premeditated murder, conspiracy to commit murder and attempted murder for acts committed when she was seventeen years old; Hyatt for first-degree felony murder, armed robbery, conspiracy to commit armed robbery, and possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony for acts committed when he was seventeen years old. At issue before the Michigan Supreme Court was whether MCL 769.25 violated the Sixth Amendment because it allowed the decision whether to impose a sentence of life without parole to be made by a judge, rather than by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court held that MCL 769.25 did not violate the Sixth Amendment because neither the statute nor the Eighth Amendment required a judge to find any particular fact before imposing life without parole; instead, life without parole was authorized by the jury’s verdict alone. Therefore, the Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals in Skinner and affirmed the part of Hyatt that held that “[a] judge, not a jury, must determine whether to impose a life-without-parole sentence or a term-of-years sentence under MCL 769.25.” However, the Court reversed the part of Hyatt that adopted a heightened standard of review for life-without-parole sentences imposed under MCL 769.25 and that remanded this case to the trial court for it to “decide whether defendant Hyatt is the truly rare juvenile mentioned in [Miller v Alabama, 567 US 460; 132 S Ct 2455; 183 L Ed 2d 407 (2012)] who is incorrigible and incapable of reform.” No such explicit finding is required. Finally, the Supreme Court remanded both of these cases to the Court of Appeals for it to review defendants’ sentences under the traditional abuse-of-discretion standard of review. View "Michigan v. Skinner" on Justia Law

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This case presented an issue of how and when it is appropriate to impeach by contradiction using other-acts evidence. During defendant’s trial on charges of carrying a concealed weapon, being a felon in possession of a firearm (felon-in-possession), and possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony (felony-firearm), he called his wife, Tameachi Wilder, as a witness. On direct examination, the witness testified that she did not see defendant with a gun when he left the house on the date in question, that to her knowledge he did not own a gun, and that she did not have any weapons in the house. She was not asked about and did not offer any other information about defendant’s history with guns. On cross-examination, the prosecutor did not question the witness about defendant’s possession and ownership of weapons on the day of the crime but instead asked three times whether the witness knew of defendant to carry guns. The witness responded “no” to each question. Over defendant’s objection, the trial court - which mischaracterized both the evidence on direct examination and the witness (referring to her as a character witness rather than a fact witness) - then permitted the prosecutor to question the witness about defendant’s prior weapons convictions. At the conclusion of trial, the jury found defendant guilty of both felon-in-possession and felony-firearm, but acquitted him of carrying a concealed weapon. The Court of Appeals affirmed defendant’s convictions, concluding, among other things, that the trial court had not erred by allowing the prosecutor’s questions. After defendant sought leave to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, the Supreme Court ordered oral argument on the application, directing the parties to address, among other things, whether the prosecutor’s cross-examination of the witness was proper. The Court concluded the prosecutor’s tactics and questions violated several basic tenets of Michigan's rules of evidence, thus, the Court reversed that part of the Court of Appeals’ judgment holding that the cross-examination of defense witness Tameachi Wilder concerning whether she knew of defendant to carry guns and her knowledge of defendant’s prior weapons convictions was not error. The Court remanded this case to the Court of Appeals to consider whether the error was harmless. View "Michigan v. Wilder" on Justia Law