Firm bucks rumor of shutdown

It’s not the first time that Joseph Bourgon, CEO of Southfield-based Sommers Schwartz PC, has heard rumors of his firm shutting down. And again, he says, the rumors are untrue.

“The last time was in 2007 or 2008 when there was an exodus of attorneys from the firm, some by our choice, and some who just decided to go on and do other things,” Bourgon said.

This time, the rumors are centering around a much smaller exodus — three attorneys who are leaving the firm and a couple who are deciding to be of-counsel — and a move sometime later this year. About the latter, Bourgon said that the firm has for a long time occupied the ninth and 10th floors of the 2000 tower of Town Center. And that’s just much more space than the firm needs.

“We’re coming to the end of a 10-year lease, and saw this as an opportunity to look at what kind of firm we are, what kind of firm we want to be, and get right-sized,” Bourgon said.

Senior Shareholder Richard Groffsky said that the new space will still be in Southfield (possibly in Town Center, though the firm has not yet made a final decision). At the beginning of the firm’s 10-year lease, the firm employed 80 attorneys, Groffsky said. And every lawyer had his or her own secretary.

“We haven’t operated that way for a long time,” Groffsky said. Now, the firm has 40 lawyers. He said that the lease ends Dec. 31. Bourgon said the firm will likely have agreements on new space by July 15.

“But any rumor that the firm is dissolving is 100 percent untrue,” Groffsky said.

MSC: The last word on one-year-back and sewage liability

It’s the end of the appellate road for the parties in two Michigan Supreme Court cases decided last month.

The MSC, on a 4-3 vote, with Justices Michael Cavanagh, Marilyn Kelly and Diane Hathaway dissenting, has denied rehearing (Rehearing No. 582) of Joseph v. Auto Club Ins. Ass’n.

Joseph was the latest answer to the frequently asked question of whether the minority/insanity tolling provision in MCL 600.5851(1) tolls the no-fault act’s damage-limiting one-year-back rule, MCL 500.3145(1).

It doesn’t, a divided MSC ruled last month.

Joseph overruled University of Michigan Regents v. Titan Ins. Co., a 2010 decision in which a divided MSC ruled that the minority/insanity tolling provision did indeed toll the one-year-back rule.

Regents, in turn, had overruled Cameron v. Auto Club Ins. Co., the 2006 MSC case that the Joseph Court reinstated last month.

The Court has also put to bed an issue that produced decidedly less appellate fireworks by unanimously denying rehearing (Rehearing No. 584) in Department of Environmental Quality v. Township of Worth.

In that case, a 6-1 majority, with Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. dissenting, ruled that townships can be held responsible when private parties discharge raw sewage.

New steak gets patent world salivating

You’ve probably heard about the new cut of red meat called Vegas Strip Steak™. Thus far it’s only available at a limited number of high-end restaurants.

And while the meat itself can be considered common — it comes from the area of the cow that produces beef for burgers — the three entrepreneurs behind the Vegas Strip claim the cut is, according to, “so earth-shatteringly original that they will be filing a patent for their knife strokes.”

Of course, the cow itself can’t be patented — unless it’s “genetically engineered for science” — but the technique for getting the cut from it can:

“According to law professor Chris Buccafusco of the Illinois Institute of Technology, butchers could make the argument that they innovate much like genetics researchers, who earn patents for the ways they isolate genes.”

And, it turns out, the archives at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office house dozens of meat-production processes.

The article can be found here. If it doesn’t pique your interest in terms of learning more about food patent law, at the very least it’s a nice pre-lunch read.

MJA seeks nominations for Hilda Gage Judicial Excellence Award

Judge Hilda Gage

Judge Hilda Gage, the inspiration for the MJA’s Hilda Gage Judicial Excellence Award.

Do you know a current or former circuit court or Court of Appeals judge worthy of recognition for an outstanding legal career?

The president of the Michigan Judges Association, Judge Timothy Hicks, wants to hear from you.

The MJA is accepting nominations for its third annual Hilda Gage Judicial Excellence Award. The award recognizes current or former Circuit or Court of Appeals Judges who have demonstrated exemplary service by excelling in trial and docket management, legal scholarship and contributions to the profession and the community.

The award is named in honor of the late Judge Hilda Gage. Gage served with honor on the Court of Appeals and Oakland Circuit Bench before passing away in 2010. She was renowned for her courage and scholarship. She was the first female President of MJA and the first woman to chair the Judicial Tenure Commission.

Past recipients of the Hilda Gage Judicial Excellence Award include the Hon. J. Richardson Johnson, of the Ninth Circuit Court in Kalamazoo, and the Hon. James Ryan, formerly of the Third Circuit Court in Wayne County, the Michigan Supreme Court, and the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hicks said that MJA seeks nominees who follow in Judge Gage’s footsteps by “serving their state and their communities with integrity, skill, and courage every day.”

Nominations are due by July 20. Here’s a nominating form and instructions or give Hicks a call at (231) 724-6337.

MAJ spokesman moves on

Longtime spokesman for Michigan Association for Justice Jesse Green has left the association to focus on another (yet undisclosed) professional opportunity.

Green announced his departure earlier this week saying that he was leaving the position he’d held for 11 years, and was ending on a high note, having “battle[d] to fend off the medical error immunity bills [in the legislature] for the summer.”

It wasn’t an easy decision, he said this morning, to leave the post. But the timing, though never ideal, was the best he could ask for because the legislature has wound down for the summer, the association’s new president has been installed, and it seemed like a good time for the association to make the transition.

Southfield firm dissolves, moves to Clark Hill

Crain’s Detroit Business has reported that Southfield-based firm Kupelian Ormond & Magy PC will be absorbed into Clark Hill PLC come the end of June.

Managing shareholder Stephen Ormond and firm shareholders Peter Kupelian and Paul Magy will join the firm as members; Stephon Bagne, Douglas Chapman, Matthew Schlegel and Carol Schley will be installed as senior counsel; and David Blau and Jason Canvasser will be associates. Kupelian shareholder Mark Kaylian has declined the Clark Hill offer.

Kupelian Ormond & Magy’s specialties were in real estate, bankruptcy, retail, municipal law and insurance defense and coverage work.

Clark Hill was ranked as fifth-largest Michigan law firm in Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s 2012 edition of “Michigan’s Largest Law Firms.”

Latest court rule orders from the MSC

Late last month, the Michigan Supreme Court unanimously ruled in People v. Cole, that a defendant who pleaded guilty to sex crimes could withdraw his plea because the trial court neglected to tell him that along with a 5- to 15-year prison sentence would come a lifetime of electronic monitoring.

Justice Michael Cavanagh’s opinion stated::

MCR 6.302 and constitutional due process require a trial court to inform a defendant pleading guilty or no contest to first-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSC-I) or second-degree criminal sexual conduct (CSCII) that he or she will be sentenced to mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring, if required by MCL 750.520b(2)(d) or MCL 750.520c(2)(b).

Yesterday, the Court amended MCR 6.302 to explicitly reflect the holding in Cole. The added language is underscored in the block quote below.

MCR 6.302(B)(1) now provides:

(B) An Understanding Plea. Speaking directly to the defendant or defendants, the court must advise the defendant or defendants of the following and determine that each defendant understands:

(1) the name of the offense to which the defendant is pleading; the court is not obliged to explain the elements of the offense, or possible defenses;

(2) the maximum possible prison sentence for the offense and any mandatory minimum sentence required by law, including a requirement for mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring under MCL 750.520b or 750.520c[.]

The amendment is effective immediately, although the Court will take comments until Oct. 1, and will consider the matter at a later public hearing.

In a proposed amendment of MCR 2.105,  plaintiffs seeking a court order for substituted service of process would be required, as part of the “diligent inquiry” to locate the defendant, to use the Internet.

The proposed amendment is underscored in the block quote below.

MCR 2.105(I)(2) would provide:

A request for an order under the rule must be made in a verified motion dated not more than 14 days before it is filed. The motion must set forth sufficient facts to show that process cannot be served under this rule and must state the defendant’s address or last known address, or that no address of the defendant is known. If the name or present address of the defendant is unknown, the moving party must set forth facts showing diligent inquiry to ascertain it. For purposes of this rule, “diligent inquiry” shall include an online search if the moving party has reasonable access to the Internet. A hearing on the motion is not required unless the court so directs.

To submit comments concerning the changes to either rule, follow the appropriate link for information.

High schoolers to be MSC in mock hearing

High school students will fill the proverbial robes and literal seats of Michigan Supreme Court justices for a mock trial at the Hall of Justice on June 29.

Twenty students will participate by the roles of the justices and attorneys to hear Patterson v. Nichols and Sutton, an actual MSC case in which the plaintiff sued when a 911 operator disregarded a five-year old boy’s calls for help when his mother suffered a heart attack. The mother died.

The event is open to the public and begins at 11 am. Pie and punch will be served.*

* Not really.

‘Lived-in’ look leads to landlord nightmare


[Screencap taken from video]

Upon moving to a new home, I’ve heard many people loudly proclaim that they aren’t selling their old one because they’ll just rent it out and make money off of it. Many times, they wind up with a crash course in landlord-tenant law when their tenant turns out to be something less than ideal.

A woman in Texas was sitting on a McMansion she was trying to sell after moving back to Boston. She didn’t want to keep the house, but had a hard time selling it.

Her realtor had a great idea: give the home a more “lived-in” feel by hiring a company to temporarily place a family. And by family, I’m sure the landowner was thinking Mom, Dad, Connor, Tucker and Chloe, a tricycle on the front walk and may even a sandbox in the back.

Instead, she got the Evil Clampetts. [

The tenants were supposed to be two brothers. But then they invited the whole family to move in. Then they brought in a  pitbull, despite the lease forbidding pets. Then they parked a pickup on the grass that leaked oil on the lawn. Finally, they started planting crucifixes everywhere, including one that was 10 feet tall.

In other words, this house wasn’t selling.

She had wanted lived in, and she got it. She complained that the crosses violated homeowner association laws. They claimed they were being discriminated against on religious grounds and threatened to go to the Department of Justice.

So just evict them, right? They violated the terms of the deal by having the dog and other family members move in.

She and the company filed for eviction of the family. The brothers left … but Dear Old Dad — the trunk on that family tree — isn’t going anywhere.

It doesn’t matter, [Nathan] Burgess told CBS 11, that he wasn’t expected to be in the home in the first place. He was “invited” by his sons, he said, before the eviction order came down.

“Sometimes, I’ve learned, you can’t run from things. You just have to hit em head on,” Burgess said.

He said he would have likely moved out with the rest of his family if Aji and Castle Keepers had been nice about it.

“They call and said, ‘Oh, you have a dog on the property.’ Ever since then, the level of abuse has gotten worse and worse,” Burgess said.

Burgess is vowing to exhaust all appeals before he leaves, like he’s on death row or something.

When the listing agent brought in a prospective buyer, they were met with a sign instructing them that the house is occupied and that nothing is to be touched.

The house was eventually removed from the market while the eviction mess is sorted out. She claims that neither she, nor her agent, can go into the house until it’s sorted out.

Cooley, Davenport to offer JD/MBA

The Thomas M. Cooley Law School and Davenport University announced yesterday that the two schools have entered an agreement to partner up in providing students a dual JD/MBA degree.

The program will start in the fall, and will be offered at Davenport’s and Cooley’s Lansing campuses.

Students interested in the JD/MBA program must meet the established admission criteria at each school. Cooley students may begin taking classes in Davenport’s MBA program after successfully completing at least one year of Cooley courses. Davenport students may begin in Cooley’s JD program after successfully completing the initial one year of the MBA course work at Davenport University.