Michigan Lawyers Weekly names Up & Coming Lawyers

Congratulations to Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s 2007 Class of Up & Coming Lawyers!

  • Rachel Bissett: Fresh out of law school, this attorney helped Gordie Howe, “Mr. Hockey,” resolve a civil stalking suit against his neighbors.
  • Marla A. Linderman: If there’s a wrong, no obstacle can stop this crusading young lawyer from making it right.
  • Rolf E. Lowe: This Royal Oak attorney is bridging the gap between health care and labor law, forging a path in a newly emerging practice area.
  • Mark C. Rossman: The challenge of complex litigation plus total client dedication equals a winning combination for this partner of a Troy firm.
  • Michael J. Willis and Shaun P. Willis: Steadfast faith in Jesus Christ is the heart of the young brothers’ livelihood – a growing business law practice, loving families and the need to give back.

Read their profiles in the Nov. 19 issue.

COA tackles a flawed presidential primary law

The Michigan Court of Appeals today will try to straighten out the legislatively created mess of Michigan’s perhaps-Jan. 15 presidential primary.

Ingham County Circuit Court Judge William Collette struck down the primary law last week, ruling that it gives the Michigan Democratic and Republican parties an unconstitutional freebee. The political operatives get exclusive access to information about those who would participate in the primary, and, don’t have to pay one red cent for it.

In an order released yesterday, the COA has ordered all interested parties to file briefs by 10:00 a.m. this morning. Oral arguments are scheduled for 1:30 p.m. before Chief Judge William Whitbeck, and Judges Patrick Meter and Donald Owens in the Hall of Justice in Lansing.

The court also has ordered Secretary of State Terry Lynn Land to file and serve affidavits by 5 p.m. today on participating party organizations – Democratic Chair Mark Brewer and Michigan Republican Chair Saul Anuzis – that describe whether their respective parties will use some other method than the primary results to select delegates for their national conventions.

If neither party will use the primary results, under MCL 168.613a, the primary must be canceled. Interestingly, under the statute, the Secretary of State, by 4 p.m. Nov. 15

shall determine, based upon the information provided by the participating political parties under this subsection, whether the participating political parties in this state will be using a method other than the results of the January 15, 2008 presidential primary to select delegates to their respective national conventions to nominate a candidate for president of the United States in 2008.

The Michigan Information & Research Service is reporting that Democratic Chair Mark Brewer yesterday, as the statute requires, told the Secretary of State his party will use the primary results if Judge Collette’s ruling is overturned and the Republicans agree to use the primary results.

This is a sorry state of affairs, for which the blame should fall squarely on the shoulders of the partisan and elected nincompoops who brought the flawed primary law into being with a built-in political boondoggle.

Time to target lawmakers’ hunting break

There’s a lot of important work that won’t be accomplished in Lansing for the next couple of weeks.

And you can thank the Legislature’s annual November hunting/Thanksgiving break for that.

As Laura Berman so puckishly points out in her Detroit News column, the break doesn’t have very much to do with legislators heading for the woods and bringing home the venison. Very few have even acquired a hunting license. Some of the non-hunters justify the break as an opportunity for some grassroots work with constituents, or to spend time with families.

Well and good, but this year in particular, the lawmakers’ extended break from sessions in the Capitol should give us all plenty to be steamed about.

Unfinished business on an important business tax remains unfinished.

There will be no work on a legislative remedy for the much-battered Jan. 15 primary election. The battle instead moves to the Michigan Court of Appeals in the wake of an Ingham County Circuit Court ruling that declared the primary law unconstitutional in its current form.

The Kreiner fix bill will continue to bob around in the backwaters of the Senate Judiciary Committee. A measure to repeal Michigan’s drug immunity law will languish on the Republican side of the aisle.

Some would say these two measures would continue to be ignored even if the lawmakers were actually earning their keep between now and the end of the month. Those who say this would be right. Those who say it’s high time to get going on this legislation would be especially right.

In the meantime, a citizens’ group is planning organizational meetings in Clarkston this week to push for a petition drive to make official what seems to be the current state of affairs – a part-time Legislature. They need 300,000 signatures to put a proposal on the November 2008 ballot. Plans call for a 90-day limit on session days, dropping the number of lawmakers from 148 to 100, no life-time health benefits, frozen salaries and an extension of term limits for some elected officials.

Throw in a ban on the hunting break and I’ll be the first to sign.

A Pakistani strongman thumps the legal system: a courageous response

“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”
– Dick the Butcher
Henry VI, Part II, Act IV, scene ii

A laugh line with which Shakespeare shares with his audience his supposed contempt for attorneys?

The Bard’s recognition that the path to tyranny is best paved with rubble from a wrecked legal system?

There’s room for debate about Shakespeare’s motivation for penning this line for a script written over 400 years ago.

But it’s beyond debate that when you have the raw power to muscle aside judges and lawyers, you have the stage to yourself and the only script that need be followed is the one you write.

That’s how it’s being played out in Pakistan, where President Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency a week ago to “curb extremism.” This included placing the country’s Supreme Court chief justice under what amounts to house arrest. Critics say this was done to thwart a ruling on the legality of Musharraf’s re-election last month while he was (and still is) the chief of the Pakistani Army.

Hundreds of normally staid Pakistani lawyers took to the streets. Police beat them, gassed them into submission and hauled them away.

A half a world away in the United States, attitudes about the legal system are frequently shaped by a “whose-ox-is-being-gored” mentality. Whether lawyers are loved or loathed is often dependent on the result produced, and for whom.

But what if everyone’s oxen are being gored by a government strongman?

And a nation’s lawyers risk life and limb to tell him he’s wrong.

Their courageous stand for the rule of law commands respect and admiration.

Update 11/13/07: State Bar of Michigan President Ron Keefe has issued a statement supporting Pakistani lawyers who have protested against the shutdown of that nation’s legal system.

Mail or e-mail? Ingham judge will decide union contract vote issue

A labor pact between Michigan State University and over 1,700 members of the Administrative Professionals Association is on hold until Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Paula Manderfield decides whether APA officials were authorized to conduct a ratification vote by e-mail.

Judge Manderfield enjoined enforcement of the union-approved contract last week after some members complained that APA bylaws require voting by mail, not e-mail.

A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 15. The Lansing State Journal has the story.

Bankruptcy filings soar, conference will cover client issues

From the American Bankruptcy Institute comes word that October consumer bankruptcy filings were the most ever since the Bankruptcy Code was revised two years ago.

Filings increased to 75,975, up 10 percent from the previous month. Chapter 13 filings accounted for almost 40 percent of the total and could go higher if Congress passes legislation that would let consumers use bankruptcy to write down their mortgages to avoid foreclosure, says the ABI.

It’s a good time to bone up on the new code, and the ABI and the Detroit Consumer Bankruptcy Association have just the thing: a Nov. 12 conference at the Detroit Marriott Troy designed especially for Michigan-area bankruptcy practitioners.

Program sessions will include: Means Test Calculating; Litigating the Presumption of Abuse under Section 707; Secured Claims in Chapter 7 and 13; Mock Appellate Argument: “Projected” Disposable Income Issue; New Options When Facing Foreclosure; Consumer Case Management for Debtors’ and Creditors’ Attorneys and a Judges Panel.

Click here for more information and a link to register.

Shocking evidence: Oakland County program helps jurors with trial trauma

Television police dramas routinely feature gruesome crime scenes and postmortems performed in the clinical hush of the autopsy lab.

The small-screen version of violent crime and its gory aftermath is portrayed with a graphic frankness that most of us absorb without blinking. We remind ourselves that it’s just actors playing corpses, assisted by skilled makeup artists and remarkably realistic special effects. We sometimes wish they weren’t quite so good at their craft.

But the storyline and the actors playing the detectives, scientists and suspects are intriguing. We get frequent breaks to focus on other things, like the newest cars, fashions and personal care products, or to make two-minute runs to the bathroom and the fridge.

All of this helps us overcome our natural aversion to blood and gore and to instead accept it as entertainment. And if we can’t handle it, there’s always something else to watch.

In the harsh reality of a criminal courtroom, however, the blood and gore are not illusions. The crime-scene and autopsy photos are real. The testimony is real. The dead, the survivors and the horrific details, are real.

And the everyday citizens drafted to be jurors can’t change the channel.

In Oakland County this week, reports the Detroit Free Press, a jury will hear a case in which the defendant is accused of shooting his ex-girlfriend in the head while she was sleeping with their baby. He then allegedly returned to scene, soaked the bed with gasoline where the dead woman and the still-alive child lay and set it on fire, killing the child.

Jurors in that case, however, will have the benefit of Oakland County’s Juror Debriefing Program. Run by the Common Ground Sanctuary in Royal Oak, trained counselors will be available to help jurors who want help coping with the stress and trauma of dealing with disturbing evidence.

For years, Common Ground has provided assistance to individuals and families in crisis. Program coordinator Margo Eby, writes the Free Press’s L.L. Braiser, felt that “[h]elping jurors seemed like the next logical step.”

Juror debriefing programs are becoming a national trend as more and more jurors report stress and trauma associated with hearing emotionally grinding cases. The National Center for State Courts has been researching the problem and has a reading list available.