Man sues couple he kidnapped for breach of contract

Jessie Dimmick/ Image from

If you’ve been a lawyer, or even in law school, for longer than two weeks, chances are you’ve bumped into someone complaining “how someone can break in your house and sue you if they get hurt!” Because, you know, that happened once. You read about it in the first week of law school (Katko v. Briney).1

Boogeyman plaintiffs like Mr. Katko really are an anomaly; the exception, not the rule. But a recent lawsuit in Kansas might rival the Katko case in bringing out rhetorical idiocy: a man has sued a couple he took hostage for breach of contract because the three of them had “agreed” that the couple wouldn’t tell the police. []

A man who held a Kansas couple hostage in their home while fleeing from authorities is suing them, claiming that they broke an oral contract made when he promised them money in exchange for hiding him from police. The couple has asked a judge to dismiss the suit.

Jesse Dimmick of suburban Denver is serving an 11-year sentence after bursting into Jared and Lindsay Rowley’s Topeka-area home in September 2009. He was wanted for questioning in the beating death of a Colorado man and a chase had begun in in Geary County.

Dimmick alleged in his complaint that he told the couple that he was being chased and feared for his life, and the agreement to pay the couple to “hide” him was a binding oral contract. He’s asked for $235,000 in damages, mostly to pay for hospital bills from his being shot by police during his arrest.

It probably shouldn’t be much of a surprise to find out that Dimmick isn’t Lex Luthor, “the finest criminal mind of our generation.”

Neighbors have said that the couple fed Dimmick snacks and watched movies with him until he fell asleep and they were able to escape their home unharmed.

The couple’s attorney said the “contract” is invalid, if it even was a contract, because there was no agreement on price. There’s another argument that any agreement would be illegal because it would require the couple to commit the crime of obstruction of justice.

1 Lost in this person’s “recollection” of the Katko case is that he wasn’t able to sue for being injured while illegally trespassing on Briney’s property based on general negligence, but that he was shot by a spring gun booby trap.

The basic math behind PIP reform

The anticipated upshot of proposed changes to personal injury protection in no-fault auto insurance is up for debate. Some say that if the Michigan Legislature passes House Bill 4936, it will bring down insurance costs and keep no-fault sustainable. Critics of the bill say it would only limit the amount of care injured drivers can get.

Michigan Public Radio’s Lester Graham did an excellent analysis of the costs and benefits of Michigan no-fault.

Read it here. Graham estimates that savings would be about $11 per month if a driver chose to buy less PIP coverage. He asks the question: is it worth it?

Former Borders workers get $797 for their hard work

Nearly 200 ex-Borders employees will be getting severance pay of sorts, thanks to a settlement with the now-defunct bookseller. reported that Borders Group Inc., which is in the final stages of liquidating its estate, will pay $240,000 to those who filed a class-action lawsuit. The suit accused the bookstore chain of violating federal regulations regarding large-scale layoffs.

The agreement amounts to $797 per person after legal fees are paid, according to a document describing details of the settlement that was filed with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York.

The plaintiffs accused the company of failing to give corporate employees proper notice of their layoffs under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act.

The report added that Borders claimed it did provide proper notice — and even if it did not, attorneys said Borders was exempted from the WARN Act under a stipulation that allows fast layoffs in the event of “unforeseeable business circumstances.”

Then again, there’s always the argument that the book-/coffee-/DVD-/CD-/general trinket-seller could have seen such circumstances a long time ago.

MSC mulls changes to Code of Judicial Conduct

The Michigan Supreme Court is considering amendments to the Code of Judicial Conduct that would clarify judges’ obligations concerning extrajudicial activities, especially where money is involved.

The Court has published two alternative proposals for comment.

Alternative A would impose the same obligations regarding extrajudicial activities for both law-related and other activities. This would be accomplished by combining Canons 4 and 5.

Canon 4 would be amended to clarify what civic and charitable fundraising activities are allowed or prohibited.

Alternative B would accomplish much of the same but would be loosely based on the ABA Model Code of Judicial Conduct.

According to the staff comment accompanying the proposed amendments:

The most recent iteration of the ABA Model Code splits the existing language of Michigan’s Canon 4 through Canon 6 into 15 separate rules.

For purposes of the proposed language of Alternative B, however, the separate model rules are combined in the proposed revised text of Michigan’s current two Canons, and would retain nearly all the language that currently exists in Canon 4 and Canon 5.

But the proposal is similar to the ABA Model Code in that proposed Canon 4 would begin with a description of the underlying foundational requirements for any extrajudicial activities (i.e., participation in the activity must not undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality) and other general requirements, and then would set out the allowed fundraising and other financial activities in Canon 5.

Both proposals would permit judges to accept testimonials, which Canon 7 currently prohibits with this language:

C. Fundraising Other Than for Campaign Purposes Prohibited.
Except as provided in 7B(2)(b) and (c),
(1) No judge shall accept a testimonial occasion on the judge’s behalf where the tickets are priced to cover more than the reasonable costs thereof, which may include only a nominal gift[.]

The Court wants your comments on the proposal. Send them in writing or by email to: Supreme Court Clerk, P.O. Box 30052, Lansing, MI 48909, or

The comment period closes March 1, 2012. Refer to ADM File No. 2005-11.

Snyder appoints three to 36th District Court

Michael Wagner, Shannon Holmes and Prentis Edwards Jr. have been appointed to the 36th District Court in Detroit.

“I am very impressed by the legal skills, extensive experience and community involvement demonstrated by Michael Wagner, Shannon Holmes and Prentis Edwards Jr.,” said Gov. Rick Snyder in a prepared statement. “All three are highly successful attorneys and I am confident all three will make excellent judges.”

The appointments fill open seats created by the death of Judge George Chatman and the resignations of Judges Nancy Farmer and Noceeba Southern.

Wagner and Edwards Jr. were previously employed by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office. Holmes has worked as chief of staff for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing.

All three must run for election in 2012 to retain their seats.

Eastern District Bankruptcy Court amends local rules

A slew of amendments to the Federal Rules of Bankruptcy Procedure, and two brand-new rules, take effect Dec. 1, 2011.

As a result, the Local Court Rules of the Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Michigan are a bit out of kilter and have been amended on an interim basis to conform with the new federal changes.

Local Bankruptcy Rule 2015-5(a) and Local Bankruptcy Rule 3001-2, conflict with new F.R.Bankr.P. 3002.1. The court has issued Administrative Order 11-08, which also takes effect Dec. 1, to bring its local rules into compliance.

There are some new forms to deal with as well.

A copy of the new rules, the amended rules and extensive commentary on their formulation was issued earlier this year by the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

Law professor’s study suggests cost of law school not worth it

If you frequent our blog or our Twitter feed, you’ll notice we seem to post a lot about the diminishing value of a legal education. It’s not just a Michigan thing, but it’s certainly a big deal within the legal community. Last week we posted a web poll on our home page asking readers if they would recommend a recent college grad even try going to law school. A considerable majority of you are saying “No.”

Yesterday, Douglas Levy wrote of two Yale law professors putting forth the idea of offering students a one-half rebate on first year tuition if they choose to leave law school.

A Vanderbilt law professor studied the value of a law degree and found that such an offer might be a sucker bet: the student should probably take the money.

In his law journal article “Mama’s 2011, Is a Law Degree a Good Investment Today?”, professor Herwig Schlunk weighed the earning power of three hypothetical law school candidates and the cost of going to an appropriate level law school along with the percentage chance they’ll land a job with a big firm.

He found that the low man, the hypothetical Also Ran, who graduated from a middle-of-the-road college with a non-marketable major (I’m thinking English) and will attend a Tier III law school would actually outpace Ms. Hot Prospect, graduate of a highly ranked college with a marketable major and will attend a top tier law school. Of course, this is based more on the difference between tuition costs between the two potential law schools versus the smaller disparity between the lost chance of income if they would have just found jobs within their major.

Sounds complicated? ABA Journal has more.

‘Pass law school or your money back’: The new way?

Over the weekend, one headline stood out among the others on the Pulse news-aggregating app: “Paying Students to Quit Law School.”

A radical idea?

According to Yale law professors Akhil Reed Amar and Ian Ayres, yes.

And one that just could help students “protect themselves and reduce[] the government’s risk of unpaid loans in the future.”

Their article, published Nov. 18 at Slate, suggests:

Law schools might analogously offer to rebate half of a student’s first-year tuition if the student opts to quit school at the end of the first year. (If the student has taken out government loans, this rebate would first go to repay this debt.) A half-tuition rebate splits the loss of an aborted legal career between the school and the student. Each has skin in the game, so students will not go to law school lightly, and law schools will have better incentives not to admit students likely to fail.

The idea is to mark the end of the first year, after students have received their grades, as a salient decision-making point. At that time, students will have learned more about their legal abilities and inclinations. Law schools will also have learned more about each student’s abilities, and schools could now disclose how previous students with similar first-year grades fared after graduation.

They compare this to a popular online shoe seller’s method:

At the end of a four-week training course, Zappos offers new employees a one-time offer of $3,000 to quit. In part, the company uses the offer as a screening device. If you’re the type who prefers a quick three grand to the opportunity to work at a great company, then Zappos isn’t the place for you.

The thing is, at least the Zappos people would know who they were working for. And considering Amar and Ayres are “lobbying our dean [Robert C. Post] to unilaterally offer our students a bribe to quit,” this radical idea could just have the Yale board thinking that the authors might want to work somewhere else, too.

USDC to unseal Tamara Green lawsuit docs

For local conspiracy theorists, Christmas is coming early this year, as U.S. District Court Judge Gerald Rosen said he’s unsealing some of the documents from the Tamara Green case. [Detroit Free Press].

The court will release the transcripts of former Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, two former police chiefs and other police executives.

Of course, “Christmas” won’t be as sweet as they might expect as several deposition transcripts will remain sealed, including those of former attorney general Mike Cox, who once famously declared the rumored Manoogian Mansion party that allegedly led to Green’s murder to be an urban legend. Others whose transcripts will remain sealed are former Kilpatrick chief-of-staff Christine Beatty, former city law department head Ruth Carter, Kilpatrick’s wife, Carlita, and two former Kilpatrick bodyguards.