Expect long waits in Wayne County for rest of 2011

The ultimate cost of forced worker furloughs in Wayne County will be your time.

Starting November 1, 2011, expect long lines and waits at the court services desk of the Wayne County Clerk’s office. According to a statement, the furloughs will affect your waiting time at both the counter and in the courtroom.

Included among the services that you should expect delays are court filings, including personal protection orders and courtroom proceedings.

Clerks will be taking their mandatory days off on their own, so there are no specific days that can be expected to be better than others, said spokesperson Jina Sawani.


Leave granted in no-fault bystander injury case

In March, The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that a woman who suffered psychological injuries from witnessing her son’s death in a motor vehicle accident was entitled to no-fault PIP benefits. See, “Mother can get 1st party benefits after seeing son’s death,” MiLW, March 21, 2011.

The Michigan Supreme Court has granted leave to appeal the COA’s decision in Boertmann v. Cincinnati Ins. Co.

The MSC has asked the parties to address:

whether a no-fault insured who sustains psychological injury producing physical symptoms as a result of witnessing the fatal injury of a family member in an automobile accident while not an occupant of the vehicle involved is entitled under MCL 500.3105(1) to recover benefits for accidental bodily injury arising out of the ownership, operation, maintenance or use of a motor vehicle as a motor vehicle.

The Court has invited the Michigan Association for Justice, the Michigan Defense Trial Counsel, Inc., the Commissioner of the Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation, and the Negligence Law Section of the State Bar of Michigan to file briefs amicus curiae.

Applying for law school? Check your Facebook page

Hey, law school applicants: You probably didn’t need a 1,439,953rd reason to remove all those drunken college photos from your Facebook page (or your abandoned MySpace page, for that matter), but here it is anyway: law school admissions offices are Googling you for more info. [Wall Street Journal, National Law Journal. HT: ABA Journal]

A healthy 41% of law school admissions officers said they have Googled an applicant to learn more about them, while 37% have checked out an applicant on Facebook or other social networking site. Only 20% of college admissions officers and 27% of business school admissions officers said they Googled an applicant, while less than a quarter of either group have visited an applicant’s Facebook page.

It follows then that law school admissions officers dig up the most dirt. The survey found that 32% of those who researched an applicant online discovered something that negatively impacted an applicant’s admissions chances. Only 12% of college admission officers and 14% of business school admissions officers found something online that negatively impacted an applicant.

Forty-one percent don’t have enough information from the massive application and essays to make a call about you. Thirty-seven percent think the possibility  you might be a degenerate is so high that they need to go to your Facebook page and see if you list “street chemistry” among your interests.

So clean up your page, or at least update your permissions. I’d hate to see you miss your chance at months of post-graduation unemployment because your old fraternity brother won’t remove that photo of you, the bong and that goat (“Chill out, brah!”)

SADO client, caught in crime lab debacle, gets new trial

Nathan Jacobs was convicted of second-degree murder in 2007, and was sentenced to 25-47 years in prison. But he’s getting a new trial in Wayne County, thanks to the work of the State Appellate Defender Office special Crime Lab Unit.

The unit was created in response to the closure of the Detroit Police Crime Lab; the lab closed in 2008 after a Michigan State Police audit of ballistics evidence turned up a 10 percent error rate.

At Jacobs’ new trial, there will be new evidence presented — the presence of a second firearm, where the original trial theory claimed one.

According to SADO, “Two eyewitnesses originally testified that Jacobs shot the victim with an AK-47, once in the head and twice in the abdomen, in front of the victim’s house. Detroit Crime Lab analysis found the bullet fragments too damaged for proper analysis. Through research and investigation, SADO’s crime unit discovered that an independent forensic laboratory, Ron Smith & Associates, had analyzed the same firearms evidence as part of the Detroit Crime Lab audit. This analysis materially contradicted the Detroit Crime Lab result, finding that the abdomen bullet fragments were consistent with an AK-47 while the bullet fragments taken from the deceased’s head were consistent with a pistol.”

Jacobs is the fifth person to get a new trial; three of those defendants are SADO clients.

William Lee was wrongly convicted of a violent rape when he was 17 years old, and received 15-30 years. He has been exonerated after DNA evidence was re-examined. Flawed crime lab analysis helped to convict Orande Thompson of first-degree murder for the accidental shooting of his girlfriend. On retrial, he was convicted of involuntary manslaughter.

E-filing expanded in Oakland County courts

The e-filing pilot project in Oakland County Family Court has been expanded to include divorce cases where the parties have minor children.

The Michigan Supreme Court, in Administrative Order 2010-3, Revised E-filing Pilot Project in Oakland Circuit Court, Family Division, has authorized, effective immediately, e-filing for all cases coded “DM” (divorce with minor children):

Recognizing the logistical challenges associated with implementing e-filing in “DM” cases, the Court authorizes the Family Division of the Sixth Circuit Court to gradually implement the pilot beginning with a limited number of cases assigned to a single judge and a single Friend of the Court referee team assigned to that judge. The Sixth Circuit Court may expand the scope of the pilot at any time to include additional judges and/or FOC referee teams without further authorization of the Court.

In addition, the MSC has revised and extended the time for the pilot e-filing project for the Oakland County Circuit Court. See, Administrative Order 2007-3, Revised E-filing Pilot Project in Oakland County.

The Court has also ordered a pilot e-filing project for the Oakland County Probate Court. See, Administrative Order No. 2011-6, Proposed E-filing Project in Oakland Probate Court, for details.

Proposed MCR amendment: Exhibits would stay with trial court

Trial courts would become the repositories for all trial exhibits, whether admitted into evidence or not, under a proposed amendment to MCR 7.210.

MCR 7.210(C)’s current language would be struck and replaced with the following:

The trial court or tribunal shall retain originals or legible copies of all documentary, photographic, video, or audio exhibits offered in evidence, whether admitted or not.

If no claim of appeal has been filed upon expiration of the time for doing so, the trial court or tribunal may return such exhibits to the parties who offered them.

By stipulation of the parties or order of the trial court or tribunal, exhibits in other forms may be returned to the parties who offered them.

Appellants are entitled to access the exhibits or proposed exhibits that are not in documentary, photograph, video, or audio form upon a showing of good cause and the filing of a motion seeking such access within the time for filing appellant’s brief on appeal.

When the record is returned to the trial court or tribunal, the trial court or tribunal clerk shall return the exhibits to the parties who filed them.

The amendment was proposed by James Neuhard, former director of the State Appellate Defender Office.

See ADM File No. 2010-25 for details and information about submitting comments on the proposed rule change.

MSC’s Cavanagh receives Ingham Bar’s Lifetime Achievement Award

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Michael F. Cavanagh is the 2011 recipient of the Ingham County Bar Association’s Thomas E. Brennan Sr. Lifetime Achievement Award.

The ICBA gives the award “to lawyers who have made a significant and longstanding contribution to the advancement or improvement of the justice system and the betterment of the legal profession in the State of Michigan and have also attained professional excellence as demonstrated by accomplishments in the law or service to the profession during his or her career.”

The award will be presented at the ICBA’s 117th Annual Dinner on Nov. 2 at the Country Club of Lansing.

The ICBA will also honor several of its members at the dinner:

  • Karen Bush Schneider – Leo A. Farhat Outstanding Attorney Award
  • Shauna L. Dunnings – Theodore W. Swift Civility Award
  • Michael Brennan Farrell – Camille S. Abood Distinguished Volunteer Award

In addition, Heather Spielmaker, Director of the Center for Ethics, Service and Professionalism at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and Sgt. Major David L. Dunckel will receive the ICBA’s Liberty Bell Award.

The award “recognizes outstanding service performed by a non-lawyer citizen who has given time and energy to strengthen the effectiveness of the American system of justice.”