Snyder says two open COA judgeships won’t be filled

If you were waiting by the phone in anticipation of Governor Rick Snyder’s call to congratulate you on being appointed to the Court of Appeals, you can go about your business.

According to the Detroit News, Snyder has decided not to fill court’s two open seats, which were created by Richard Bandstra’s retirement and Brian Zahra’s appointment to the Supreme Court.

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder will not fill two Michigan Court of Appeals vacancies and will ask for legislation to reduce the number of appeals judges to 26 from 28, a spokeswoman said Wednesday.

“This decision to not fill these two posts reflects the governor’s desire to match and align the number of judgeships with a significantly reduced caseload at the court,” said Sara Wurfel, Snyder’s press secretary.

The appeals court reductions account for two of the six judicial reductions Snyder announced in his Feb. 17 budget presentation. Having six fewer judges is projected to save close to $942,100 in the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1. Wurfel said cutting two appeals court judgeships will save about $343,000.

According to the story, four more judgeships are expected to be eliminated from the state’s circuit and district courts.

Another 6th Circuit judge wants en banc review of ADA standard

Judge Jane B. Stranch has joined the growing group of judges who are itching to have the entire Sixth Circuit revisit a disability law decision that goes against the bulk of authority in other circuits.

The Sixth Circuit is in the distinct minority of jurisdictions that require plaintiffs suing under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to show that their disability was the “sole reason” they were fired from their jobs. See “6th Circuit: Go ahead, take another crack at this

Most other circuits use a “motivating factor” standard.

Since 1996, when a 6th Circuit panel issued the “sole reason” standard in Monette v. Electronic Data Systems Corp., 90 F.3d 1173 (6th Cir. 1996), other panels have had to fall in line because one panel can’t overrule another.

Some judges have openly suggested that Monette was incorrectly decided. Judge Richard Allen Griffin, concurring in Lewis v. Humboldt Acquisition Corp., is one of them.

And Judge Gilbert Merritt, who wrote the majority opinion in Lewis, broadly hinted that plaintiff’s counsel should seek en banc rehearing of the case.

Indeed we should, said Stranch, concurring in Whitfield v. State of Tennessee, et al. Stranch said that the “sole reason” standard was borrowed from the federal Rehabilitation Act, which:

prohibits discrimination against an individual “solely by reason of his or her disability,” 29 U.S.C. § 794(a)[.]

[T]he ADA prohibits discrimination’on the basis of’ the individual’s disability, 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). While the text of the RA mandates the sole motivation standard, no derivation of the word “sole” appears in any liability provision of the ADA. …

I take this opportunity to lend my voice to the others that have urged the en banc court to reconsider our initial importation of the sole motivation standard from the RA into the ADA. I do not find our position justifiable in light of the tenets of statutory construction.

Michael L. Weinman of Jackson, Tenn., the plaintiff’s attorney in Lewis, says he will pursue an en banc hearing.

Are parochial teachers ministerial employees? SCOTUS to decide

The U.S. Supreme Court granted certioriari to a pair of Michigan employment case dealing with the ministerial exception. Next term, the high court will hear EEOC et al v Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Church & School and Weishuhn v Catholic Diocese of Lansing.

Both cases were decided within five weeks of each other. At issue was how much time the teacher spent on “ministerial duties.”

First, the Michigan Court of Appeals found in Weishuhn (see You’re Fired!, February 8, 2010), the Michigan Court of Appeals said the parochial math teacher was a ministerial employee because she taught a religion class. Most of the teacher’s duties were spent teaching math but the court found that her activities teaching one religion class and participating in the church’s religious services was sufficient to make her a ministerial employee.

Later, the Sixth Circuit found in Hosanna-Tabor (see Perich v the parish, March 22, 2010) in a similar scenario that the teacher was not a ministerial employee because she didn’t “generally [teach] primarily religious subjects or [have]a central role in the spiritual or pastoral mission of the church.” The job duties between the two teachers were quite similar.

Eastern District Bankruptcy Court: Hear it soon

In April 2011, the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan will begin to make digital audio files of court proceedings available to the public over the internet through the PACER system.

Counsel of record who receive a notice of electronic filing will have one free review, just as they do with other electronically filed documents.

The PACER fee to access the digital audio is $2.40 per session.

The implementation schedule, which is subject to change if unforeseen technical issues arise, is as follows:

  • beginning April 11, 2011: audio files from all matters held before Judge Thomas Tucker will be uploaded to court dockets in CM/ECF, within 24 hours of the proceeding.
  • beginning April 18, 2011: audio files from all matters held before Chief Judge Phillip Shefferly and Judge Steven Rhodes will be uploaded to court dockets in CM/ECF, within 24 hours of the proceeding.
  • beginning April 25, 2011: audio files from all matters held before Judge Marci McIvor and Judge Walter Shapero will be uploaded to court dockets in CM/ECF, within 24 hours of the proceeding.
  • beginning May 2, 2011: audio files from all matters held before Judge Daniel Opperman will be uploaded to court dockets in CM/ECF, within 24 hours of the proceeding.

The court’s order includes instructions for downloading the MP3-format audio files.

Source: United States Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.

Man pretends to be attorney, steals money from firm’s client trust account

From the Dept. of How Did That Happen?” [St. Louis Post-Dispatch via ABA Journal]:

A St. Louis man, Allen Dean Ritchie, 42, pleaded guilty Thursday to a federal identity theft charge and admitted using money from a law firm’s client trust accounts and Washington University for his personal use.

Ritchie also admitted “accessing and using the credit and financial accounts” of Washington University and alumni between 2007 and 2008, his plea agreement says.

Ritchie allegedly pretended to be a lawyer at this unnamed law firm (Why wouldn’t they report the name of the firm?) and gained access to the trust accounts.

Perhaps that’s the best way to get a law job these days. Just show up. It sounds so … familiar:

SADO names Van Hoek its director

Dawn Van Hoek has been named director of the State Appellate Defender Office. The Appellate Defender Commission made its decision at its March 16 meeting.

Van Hoek succeeds James R. Neuhard, who retired on Jan. 3, 2011.

SADO is Michigan’s only state-funded public defense agency, handling approximately 25 percent of the state’s indigent appellate assigned caseload.

A graduate of the University of Michigan, Van Hoek received her law degree from Wayne State University Law School in 1976. She has worked at SADO since that time, and served as its Chief Deputy Director