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In an unpublished, split decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals majority concluded that the misdemeanor offense of keeping or maintaining a drug house is not a “felony” for purposes of the Penal Code and, therefore, cannot serve as the predicate felony for a felony-firearm conviction. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the appellate court: when the government charges a criminal defendant with felony-firearm under the Penal Code, the Court must look to the Penal Code to ascertain the meaning of the word “felony,” which was defined as an offense punishable by imprisonment in state prison. "Although the Legislature intended the offense of keeping or maintaining a drug house to be a misdemeanor for purposes of the Public Health Code, that offense is punishable by imprisonment in a state prison, and, therefore, it unquestionably satisfies the definition of 'felony' in the Penal Code. Thus, under the clear and unambiguous language of the Penal Code, which this Court must apply as written, a person who carries or possesses a firearm when keeping or maintaining a drug house is guilty of felony-firearm." View "Michigan v. Washington" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs Steven and Jane Iliades brought a products-liability action against Dieffenbacher North America Inc., alleging negligence, gross negligence, and breach of warranty after plaintiff was injured by a rubber molding press defendant manufactured. Plaintiff was injured when he attempted to retrieve parts that had fallen to the floor inside the press by reaching behind the light curtain without first placing the press into manual mode. Because of plaintiff’s position behind the light curtain, the light curtain was not interrupted, the press resumed its automatic operation, and plaintiff was trapped between the two plates of the press. The trial court granted summary disposition to defendant, ruling that plaintiff had misused the press given the evidence that he had been trained not to reach into the press while it was in automatic mode, knew how to place the press into manual mode, knew that the light curtain was not meant to be used as an emergency stop switch, and knew that the press would automatically begin its cycle if the light curtain was no longer interrupted. The court further ruled that plaintiff’s misuse was not reasonably foreseeable because plaintiff had not presented any evidence that defendant could have foreseen that a trained press operator would crawl beyond a light curtain and partially inside a press to retrieve a part without first disengaging the press. The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded in an unpublished per curiam opinion, holding that, regardless of whether plaintiff had misused the press, defendant could be held liable because plaintiff’s conduct was reasonably foreseeable. The Michigan Supreme Court determined that whether the misuse was reasonably foreseeable depended on whether defendant knew or should have known of the misuse, not on whether plaintiff was grossly negligent in operating the press. Because the majority of the Court of Appeals did not decide whether and how plaintiff misused the press, and because it did not apply the common-law meaning of reasonable foreseeability, the Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded for reconsideration of summary judgment entered in defendant’s favor. View "Iliades v. Dieffenbacher North America, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) initiated a child protective proceeding in requesting that the court take jurisdiction of two-year-old JJW and newborn ELW after ELW tested positive for controlled substances at birth. The minor children were removed from the biological parents’ care and placed with foster parents. Both children were eligible for membership in the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. In 2015, the biological parents released their rights to the children; a referee accepted the parents’ releases and entered standard orders terminating the biological parents’ rights. The children’s foster parents petitioned to adopt the children, the Sault Tribe objected, and the court denied the foster parents’ petition. The court committed the children to the Michigan Children’s Institute (MCI) for further case planning. Respondent-father Jack Williams then filed a notice to withdraw his prior consent to the termination of his parental rights and demanded the return of the children under MCL 712B.13(3) of the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA). The court denied Williams’s withdrawal request, reasoning that MCL 712B.13(3) did not apply because Williams had not voluntarily consented to placement for purposes of adoption under MCL 712B.13(3) but instead had released his parental rights to the minor children to DHHS under MCL 710.28. The foster parents appealed the circuit court order denying their adoption petition, and Williams appealed the order denying his motion to withdraw his consent to the termination of his parental rights and for return of the children. The Court of Appeals consolidated the cases, and in a per curiam opinion, vacated the circuit court’s order denying the adoption and remanded for further proceedings. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Williams’s motion to withdraw his consent to the termination of his parental rights and to have his children returned to his custody. Williams believed the plain language of MCL 712B.13(3) entitled him to withdraw his consent because the trial court had not yet entered a final order of adoption for his children. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed, and reversed and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "In re Williams" on Justia Law

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In 2012, the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) initiated a child protective proceeding in requesting that the court take jurisdiction of two-year-old JJW and newborn ELW after ELW tested positive for controlled substances at birth. The minor children were removed from the biological parents’ care and placed with foster parents. Both children were eligible for membership in the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. In 2015, the biological parents released their rights to the children; a referee accepted the parents’ releases and entered standard orders terminating the biological parents’ rights. The children’s foster parents petitioned to adopt the children, the Sault Tribe objected, and the court denied the foster parents’ petition. The court committed the children to the Michigan Children’s Institute (MCI) for further case planning. Respondent-father Jack Williams then filed a notice to withdraw his prior consent to the termination of his parental rights and demanded the return of the children under MCL 712B.13(3) of the Michigan Indian Family Preservation Act (MIFPA). The court denied Williams’s withdrawal request, reasoning that MCL 712B.13(3) did not apply because Williams had not voluntarily consented to placement for purposes of adoption under MCL 712B.13(3) but instead had released his parental rights to the minor children to DHHS under MCL 710.28. The foster parents appealed the circuit court order denying their adoption petition, and Williams appealed the order denying his motion to withdraw his consent to the termination of his parental rights and for return of the children. The Court of Appeals consolidated the cases, and in a per curiam opinion, vacated the circuit court’s order denying the adoption and remanded for further proceedings. The Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s denial of Williams’s motion to withdraw his consent to the termination of his parental rights and to have his children returned to his custody. Williams believed the plain language of MCL 712B.13(3) entitled him to withdraw his consent because the trial court had not yet entered a final order of adoption for his children. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed, and reversed and remanded this matter for further proceedings. View "In re Williams" on Justia Law

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Edward Pinkney was charged with five felony counts of election forgery, and six misdemeanor counts of making a false statement in a certificate-of-recall petition, all for having submitted petitions with falsified dates in connection in an effort to recall the mayor of Benton Harbor, Michigan. After defendant was bound over to court for trial, he moved to quash the charges, arguing that MCL 168.937 was a penalty provision and not a substantive, chargeable offense. The court denied the motion. Defendant was convicted by jury on all five counts of election forgery but acquitted of all six counts of making a false statement in a certificate-of-recall petition. Defendant was sentenced as a fourth-offense habitual offender to concurrent prison terms of 30 to 120 months. The Court of Appeals upheld defendant’s convictions, holding that MCL 168.937 created the substantive offense of election-law forgery. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, however, finding that MCL 168.937, by its plain language, was only a penalty provision; it did not set forth a substantive offense. As a result, defendant was not properly charged under that provision with the substantive offense of election-law forgery. Therefore, his convictions had to be vacated and the charges dismissed. View "Michigan v. Pinkney" on Justia Law

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Defendant Samer Shami was charged with violating the Tobacco Products Tax Act (TPTA) for possessing, acquiring, transporting, or offering for sale tobacco products with an aggregate wholesale price of $250 or more as a manufacturer without a license in violation of MCL 205.423(1) and MCL 205.428(3). Defendant was the manager of Sam Molasses, a retail tobacco store owned by Sam Molasses, LLC. Investigation revealed that the labels on several plastics tubs of tobacco in the store’s inventory did not match those listed on the invoices from tobacco distributors. Defendant explained that he had mixed two or more flavors of tobacco to create a new “special blend,” which was then placed in the plastic tubs and relabeled. Defendant also explained that he repackaged bulk tobacco from a particular distributor by taking the packets of tobacco out of the boxes, inserting them into metal tins, and placing his own label on the tins, which were then sold at the store. The issue presented in this case for the Michigan Supreme Court's review was whether an individual who combined two different tobacco products to create a new blended product or repackages bulk tobacco into smaller containers with a new label was considered to be a manufacturer of a tobacco product and must have the requisite license. The Court of Appeals held that, in either instance, such a person was a manufacturer. According to that Court, manufacturing simply requires a change from the original state of an object or material into a state that makes it more suitable for its intended use, and a person who changes either the form or delivery method of tobacco constitutes a manufacturer for purposes of the TPTA. Although the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that an individual combining two different tobacco products to create a blended product, relabeling that new mixture, and making it available for sale to the public is a manufacturer of a tobacco product, the Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals that merely repackaging bulk tobacco into smaller containers renders an individual a manufacturer under the TPTA. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals. This case was remanded to the Circuit Court for further proceedings. View "Michigan v. Shami" on Justia Law

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Defendant Samer Shami was charged with violating the Tobacco Products Tax Act (TPTA) for possessing, acquiring, transporting, or offering for sale tobacco products with an aggregate wholesale price of $250 or more as a manufacturer without a license in violation of MCL 205.423(1) and MCL 205.428(3). Defendant was the manager of Sam Molasses, a retail tobacco store owned by Sam Molasses, LLC. Investigation revealed that the labels on several plastics tubs of tobacco in the store’s inventory did not match those listed on the invoices from tobacco distributors. Defendant explained that he had mixed two or more flavors of tobacco to create a new “special blend,” which was then placed in the plastic tubs and relabeled. Defendant also explained that he repackaged bulk tobacco from a particular distributor by taking the packets of tobacco out of the boxes, inserting them into metal tins, and placing his own label on the tins, which were then sold at the store. The issue presented in this case for the Michigan Supreme Court's review was whether an individual who combined two different tobacco products to create a new blended product or repackages bulk tobacco into smaller containers with a new label was considered to be a manufacturer of a tobacco product and must have the requisite license. The Court of Appeals held that, in either instance, such a person was a manufacturer. According to that Court, manufacturing simply requires a change from the original state of an object or material into a state that makes it more suitable for its intended use, and a person who changes either the form or delivery method of tobacco constitutes a manufacturer for purposes of the TPTA. Although the Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals’ conclusion that an individual combining two different tobacco products to create a blended product, relabeling that new mixture, and making it available for sale to the public is a manufacturer of a tobacco product, the Court disagreed with the Court of Appeals that merely repackaging bulk tobacco into smaller containers renders an individual a manufacturer under the TPTA. Therefore, the Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the judgment of the Court of Appeals. This case was remanded to the Circuit Court for further proceedings. View "Michigan v. Shami" on Justia Law

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In 2014, Bruce Millar brought an action against the Construction Code Authority (CCA), Elba Township, and Imlay City, alleging violation of the Whistleblowers’ Protection Act (WPA); wrongful termination in violation of public policy; and conspiracy to effectuate wrongful termination and violate the WPA. Millar had performed mechanical and plumbing inspection services for the CCA, which had contracts with Imlay City and Elba Township to provide licensed inspections. Imlay City and Elba Township each wrote letters to the CCA directing it to terminate Millar’s inspection services within their communities. In response, the CCA drafted a letter to Millar stating that he would no longer perform inspections in those communities, but it was not until Millar arrived at work on March 31 that he was given a copy of the CCA. That same day, he was prevented from working in Imlay City. The circuit court granted summary judgment on all counts to defendants, ruling that the WPA claim was time-barred because the WPA violation occurred, at the latest, on March 27, when the CCA drafted its letter, and therefore Millar had filed his claim one day after the 90-day limitations period in MCL 15.363(1) had run. The court also concluded that the WPA preempted Millar’s public-policy claim. The Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished per curiam opinion. The Michigan Supreme Court reversed, finding the limitations period on plaintiff's WPA claim did not begin to run until the CCA letter was given to him, or March 31. Because plaintiff's complaint was filed 87 days later, it was timely filed under MCL 15.36.(1). View "Millar v. Construction Code Authority" on Justia Law

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A trial court granted Zaid Safdar a divorce from Donya Aziz. The judgment provided the parties would hare joint legal custody of their minor child and that defendant would have sole physical custody of the child. The wife appealed the court’s denial of her motion for attorney fees in relation to the judgment. While that appeal was pending with the Court of Appeals, the wife moved the trial court for a change of domicile. The trial court denied the motion, reasoning that under MCR 7.208(A), it lacked the authority to modify the custody order while defendant’s appeal of the attorney-fee award was pending in the Court of Appeals. The court rejected the wife's reliance on Lemmen v Lemmen, 481 Mich 164 (2008), which held that under MCL 552.17(1) and MCR 7.208(A)(4), a trial court may modify an order or judgment concerning child support or spousal support after a claim of appeal is filed or leave to appeal is granted. The wife appealed the denial of her d for leave to appeal in the Court of Appeals, which granted the application. The Court of Appeals reversed in a per curiam opinion, holding that Lemmen also applied to judgments concerning the care and custody of children. The husband appealed. The Michigan Supreme Court held that MCL 722.27(1) authorized the continuing jurisdiction of a circuit court to modify or amend its previous judgments or orders and was an exception to MCR 7.208(A) “otherwise provided by law.” Accordingly, the Supreme Court vacated the Court of Appeals decision to the extent it derived jurisdiction from MCL 552.17, affirmed the result reached, and remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Safdar v. Aziz" on Justia Law

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Carl Bruner, II was convicted by jury trial for: first-degree premeditated murder; assault with intent to commit murder; being a felon in possession of a firearm; and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony. These charges arose in connection with the shooting of two security guards outside a Detroit nightclub in June 2012. No eyewitnesses saw the shooter. Bruner was tried jointly before a single jury with a codefendant Michael Lawson. The prosecution argued that Bruner was the shooter and that he was aided or abetted by the Lawson. Bruner’s defense was that he was not present and was not the shooter. The prosecution planned to call as a witness Westley Webb, who did not testify at Bruner’s preliminary examination but did testify at Lawson’s preliminary examination about statements he claimed Lawson had made to him a few days after the shooting regarding Bruner’s actions on the night at issue. At trial, the prosecutor emphasized in his opening statement that Webb was a key witness who would testify that Bruner had a gun; however, at the close of the prosecution’s case in chief, the prosecutor informed the court that Webb could not be located and asked to read Webb’s prior testimony to the jury. The trial court declared Webb unavailable. The prosecutor conceded that the prior testimony could not be admitted against Bruner and offered to remove mention of Bruner from the transcript of Webb’s testimony. The trial court determined, over defense counsel’s objection, that Webb’s testimony was admissible against Lawson and that a limiting instruction would be adequate to ensure the jury would not consider the redacted testimony against Bruner. When the testimony was read into the record, each mention of Bruner’s name was replaced with the word “Blank,” and the court instructed the jury to consider the testimony only against Lawson. The Court of Appeals affirmed both defendants’ convictions, holding that Bruner’s right to confront the witnesses against him under the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution was not implicated by the admission of Webb’s preliminary examination testimony because Lawson’s statements to Webb were not testimonial and Webb’s testimony was neither offered nor admitted against Bruner. After its review, the Michigan Supreme Court found Bruner's right to confrontation was violated. Thus his conviction was reversed and the case remanded for the trial court to determine whether the prosecution established the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "Michigan v. Bruner" on Justia Law