MAJ, MDTC announce 2011 Respected Advocate Award recipients

Two workers’ comp attorneys — Muskegon-based Thomas J. Evans and Flint-based Paul Lazar — have been announced as recipients of the 2011 Respected Advocate Award.

Every year, the Michigan Association for Justice and Michigan Defense Trial Counsel recognize someone from the opposing side with the award, “in recognition of their superb skills as courtroom adversaries, whose civility and decorum distinguishes them as outstanding advocates on behalf of their clients.”

Criteria for consideration is a “history of success in civil litigation matters, unfailing adherence to the highest standards of ethics and candor in dealing with the court and with counsel, and the respect and admiration of counsel on the opposing side of the bar.”

Evans is president at Evans Portenga, P.C., and, besides plaintiff’s side workers’ comp, also specializes in personal injury and Social Security disability.

Lazar is a principal at Hanba & Lazar, P.C., specializing in defense side workers’ comp and business-related law.

The 2011 Respected Advocate Awards will be presented at the State Bar of Michigan awards banquet on Wednesday, Sept. 14, as part of the annual SBM meeting.

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In their opinions …

“My effort is in the direction of simplicity.” once wrote the namesake of the Henry Ford Hospital. Henry Ford, My Life and Work 13 (Garden City Publ’g Co. 1922). Mr. Ford apparently had nothing to do with the creation of the Medicare program.

— Sixth Circuit Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton, in Henry Ford Health System v. Department of Health and Human Services.

The case required Sutton to reconcile a provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 with a regulation promulgated under it.

At issue was whether Henry Ford Hospital, a teaching hospital, was entitled to Medicare reimbursement for the time residents spend doing “pure research.”

The act requires the “Secretary of Health and Human Services to reimburse teaching hospitals for ‘all the time spent by an intern or resident …. in non-patient care activities … as such time and activities are defined by the Secretary.'”

One of the Secretary’s regulations “exclud[es] from hospitals’ Medicare reimbursements the time residents spent conducting pure research.”

Sutton concluded there was a clear delegation of authority from Congress to the Secretary to define “non-patient activities.” He also ruled the Secretary’s exclusion of “pure research” from those activities did not exceed Congress’ delegation of authority.

This is a pure financial headache for Henry Ford Hospital. The ruling affects the hospital’s Medicare reimbursements for Fiscal Years 1991–96 and 1998–99.

Gov. asks MSC to take up emergency manager law

Gov. Rick Snyder has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to take up a challenge of the state’s new Emergency Manager Law, which was enacted earlier this year.

A class of 28 Michigan residents are suing the state and the governor in Ingham County Circuit Court, claiming that the Act is unconstitutional.

Because there are “several Michigan communities and the Detroit Public Schools” that already have emergency managers in place, the governor asked the Michigan Supreme court to certify the law’s constitutionality, rather than wait for the case to work its way through the lower courts. The governor said in a memo to Chief Justice Robert P. Young and the Court that decisions made by the emergency managers “may well depend on the Act’s constitutionality,” according to the memo. “Without a bypass, this lawsuit may take years to reach finality, regardless of the substantive disposition of this case [Brown et al. v Richard D. Snyder, Governor and Andrew Dillon, Treasurer] …”

MCR 7.305(A) provides for the bypass.

HB 4651: Judges would review most foreclosures

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s State Court Administrative Office recommendation to cut 49 trial and appellate judgeships comes news of legislation that would require judicial review of most foreclosures on residential properties.

The Lansing State Journal reports that HB 4651

introduced in May by [Rep. Jim] Ananich, a Flint Democrat, and seven other Democratic state representatives, would require a judge to review all foreclosures on owner-occupied residential properties.

Ananich and Ingham County Register of Deeds Curtis Hertel Jr. are touting the legislation. Said Hertel, as quoted by The LSJ:

We need something to make sure banks play by the rules in these foreclosures and also put in an incentive to give people reasonable modifications.

He acknowledged that the bill, if enacted, would bring additional pressure to the court system.

SCAO recommends cutting 45 trial judgeships

Parts of Michigan have too many judges, according to a report released this morning by the State Court Administrative Office. The state must eliminate 45 trial court judges as a first step toward re-balancing the workload, according to the 2011 Judicial Resources Recommendations report (JRR), produced by SCAO every two years.

While the report recommends eliminating 45 trial court judgeships, mostly in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Lower Peninsula, it also says that some trial courts need more judges — 31 combined new judgeships, to be precise. But during this challenging economy when funding units, mainly counties, are having a hard time balancing their budgets, SCAO did not recommend creating those new judgeships for at least another two years.

The report also recommends cutting the number of Michigan Court of Appeals judges from 28 to 24.

Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert P. Young said that the MSC endorses the recommendations.

“The Court has historically not taken a position either way on the report’s findings, so the Court’s unanimous endorsement is recognition of the superior quality of the JRR,” Young said in a press release this morning. The Court of Appeals, the Michigan Judges Association, the Michigan Probate Judges Association and the Michigan District Judges Association also endorse the report.

Perhaps even more importantly, so does Gov. Rick Snyder, Young said.

The legislature and the governor have to approve any reduction of judgeships. Young said at a press conference this morning that he would be “working across the mall” to help that happen.

Given the state’s current budget challenges, the $157,000 per judicial position (for salary and benefits), Young might actually succeed at it. Further, the state would save approximately $736,636 per year if it eliminates all four Court of Appeals judgeships.

Professor joins the fight against “law school scams”

Lost in Cooley Law School’s lawsuit against “rockstar53” and his blog “The Thomas M. Cooley Law School Scam” is the fact that there IS a major problem in the legal industry as law schools seem to be oblivious about the fact that there aren’t enough legal jobs for new graduates to fill or they just don’t care as long as they’re getting paid.

After all, while he may have chosen to single out Cooley as the subject of his frustration, rockstar isn’t the only one out there with the opinion that the placement numbers reported by law schools don’t appear to be matching the experiences reported by recent grads. A quick Google search will find a number of these blogs, perhaps inspired by legal blog monsters Above The Law, such as Third Tier Reality, First Tier Toilet, Law School Scam, etc.  The point of all of these blogs is that law schools are luring new students with fake job numbers and the promise of a better economic future and wind up leaving them jobless or in jobs with far lower economic prospects and a mountain of nondischargable student loan debt. The story has also picked up steam in the mainstream media of late, with the New York Times and The New Republic, among others, discussing how some law schools entice new students with grants they don’t expect to renew and how many schools’ numbers are skewed.

Joining these voices is a new voice; a professor at an unidentified first tier law school has recently started his own “scam” blog, Inside the Law School Scam. (The identity of the blogger was verified by Inside Higher Education.)

“LawProf” posts daily, often at length, about the problem from inside the law school. Some examples:

I’m happy to concede that the simple unmodified claim that “law school is a scam” is hyperbolic — and that’s why I haven’t made it.  What I am arguing is that, for a very large number of current law students and recent graduates, the law schools they attend or graduated from have some striking scam-like elements. What does this mean?  A scam is a scheme to obtain money by means of deception.  Of course a huge number of social practices have scam-like elements.  For instance advertising almost always has scam-like elements, and in a contemporary economy advertising and business are intimately intertwined.  The complex social interactions described in books like Michael Lewis’ The Big Short involved quite a bit of scam-like behavior, most of which was perfectly legal (as Mike Kinsley famously observed, “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal; it’s what’s legal”).

From “What does it mean to call law school a scam?

Also interesting was “Understanding the rage of recent graduates” although quoting any of it required quoting the whole thing, so I’ll just link and let you read it directly from the site. The post discusses the popular rationalizations of the current law school system and why he feels they are wrong.

He’s also discussed keeping costs down and what the student’s tuition actually pays for, such as a professor’s law review article.

But he’s a law professor, so he must be part of the problem, right. From his first ever post, “Welcome to my nightmare”:

When people say “law school is a scam,” what that really means, at the level of actual moral responsibility, is that law professors are scamming their students.
We don’t mean to, of course. Like my learned colleagues, I’m just a soul whose intentions are good! And anyway it’s mostly the dean’s fault — it’s not like I was ever consulted about raising tuition 130% etc. etc. Yes there are so many excuses — I hear them every day (or would if I ever saw my co-workers in the office in the summer. Oh yes they’re “working at home.” More on that soon . . .). . .

In the end, the fact that law professors don’t intend to scam their students is irrelevant. We are scamming them, or many of them, and we know we are — or we would know if we paid any attention at all to the current relationship between legal academia, legal practice, and the socio-economic system in general, which naturally is why so many of us avoid doing so at all costs.

The blog certainly seems worth following if you’re interested in the subject.

MBJ announces short story winners

Kudos to Eli D. Greenbaum, the first-place winner of the Michigan Bar Journal‘s third annual short story contest.

Greenbaum’s winning entry, Leo’s Dilemna, is a clever tale about how an elderly Holocaust survivor resolves a self-created estate-planning problem.

Other winners include:

The MBJ received 43 entries and selected 19 winners and finalists.

They’re good reads — all of them.

Legislature mulls medical marijuana bills

Michigan lawmakers are preparing bills to clarify the current state of confusion surrounding a voter-approved medical marijuana law, according to The Associated Press.

New bills are being drafted for introduction to the Legislature within the next few months, joining some that already have been introduced. The bills would require stricter doctor-patient relationships before a patient could get authorization to use the drug and likely cut down on the number of marijuana dispensaries in the state.

The law, approved by Michigan voters in 2008, has sparked confusion as local governments, police, patients and businesses try to sort out exactly what is legal. Some of the legislative changes proposed would require support from three-fourths majorities in both the Republican-led House and Senate.

Among the changes being considered, according to The AP:

Attorney General Bill Schuette wants to make it a felony for physicians to knowingly give false certification of a patient’s debilitating condition and to knowingly submit false information on an application for a patient or caregiver card.

Some police agencies want a better system to verify the authenticity of authorization cards, concerned that it’s difficult to tell fakes from legitimate ones.

The state has issued more than 80,000 medical marijuana patient registrations.

Women in the Law 2011 selected

After receiving numerous nominations for Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s Women in the Law for 2011, 20 honorees have been chosen.

The honorees will be recognized in a special section to be published Sept. 12, and at the second annual Women in the Law luncheon Sept. 26 at the Detroit Marriott in Troy. The 2011 Woman of the Year, chosen from the 20, also will be named at the event

A Lawyers Weekly editorial panel selected the 20, and considered a number of criteria, including how the nominees:

• Commit to excellence in the practice of law;

• Serve as inspiring and accomplished leaders in the profession;

• Are mentors to other women; and

• Contribute significant time and effort to volunteerism and/or pro bono.

“We received so many great nominations, it really shows the breadth and depth of women in the legal community in Michigan,” said Publisher Donald Stemmermann. “There were difficult decisions to be made, but in our view, all of the nominees are winners. With so many great candidates comes a great opportunity for us to showcase the best of the best with these honorees.”

The honorees are:

Natalie Alane, Alane & Chartier, PLC

Hon. Dorene S. Allen, Midland County Probate Court

D. Jennifer Andreou, Plunkett Cooney

Mary V. Bauman, Miller, Johnson, Snell & Cummiskey, PLC

Elizabeth K. Bransdorfer, Mika Meyers Beckett & Jones PLC

Hon. Diane M. Druzinski, Macomb Circuit Court

Elizabeth J. Fossel, Varnum LLP

Lisa Sommers Gretchko, Howard & Howard Attorneys, PLLC

Jennifer M. Grieco, Neuman Anderson, P.C.

Eileen K. Husband, Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C.

Nancy L. Little, Bernick, Radner & Ouellette, P.C.

Andrea L. Moody, Bowman and Brooke LLP

Kary L. Moss, American Civil Liberties Union

Kathryn L. Ossian, Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C.

Linda Paullin-Hebden, Warner Norcross & Judd LLP

Abby L. Pendleton, The Health Law Partners

Tonya Schuitmaker, Schuitmaker Cooper Schuitmaker Cypher & Knotek, P.C.

Tricia A. Sherick, Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP

Janet K. Welch, State Bar of Michigan

Zena D. Zumeta, Mediation Training & Consultation Institute

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Attorneys ask Small to disqualify herself from drunk driving cases

Lately, much has been made of Bloomfield Township district court judge Kimberly Small and her policy of sentencing first time drunk driving offenders to jail.

Two Oakland County attorneys, Robert Larin and Kenneth Mogill, filed a motion in the 48th District Court asking for her to disqualify herself from future drunk driving cases in the court. []

Small, the motion says, is legislating from the bench and is creating mandatory jail time when Michigan law does not require it. Larin and Mogill argue that she should disqualify herself from hearing the cases because she has made public statements showing what they say is a deep bias on drunken-driving cases.

The motion is filed on behalf of one of Larin’s clients, Thomas Cygan, a 67-year-old West Bloomfield man who was recently arrested for the first time on charges of operating while intoxicated. The case is assigned to Small. …

Larin said he filed the motion “on behalf of anybody charged with a first offense at present, in the past, or in the future.”

“I have nothing against Judge Small, but it is time this matter is resolved in the courts,” he said.