Warner Norcross attorney, 2010 Leader in the Law honoree dies at 56

Michael Cruse died of cancer Aug. 3, 2012. He was 56.

Cruse

Born Sept. 15, 1955, in Highland Park, Mr. Cruse, a Rochester resident, was a partner at Warner Norcross & Judd LLP’s Southfield branch, where he specialized in business reorganization, bankruptcy and debtor-creditor relations, commercial law and litigation.

He graduated from the University of Detroit Mercy School of Law in 1985.

Prior to his legal career, Mr. Cruse served nearly 10 years as a police officer for Bloomfield Township, and stayed as a volunteer reserve officer with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department while a lawyer.

In 2010, Mr. Cruse was named one of Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s 25 “Leaders in the Law.”

Outside of law, he founded the Embrace the Day Foundation, an organization to raise awareness and funds for the cure to pancreatic cancer. He also enjoyed long cruises on his Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

Mr. Cruse is survived by his wife, Jane; two children, Aaron and Natalie; his mother, Mary; two brothers, Walter and Jeffrey; one sister, Elena Borrie; and extended family.

A memorial service was held Aug. 8 at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Rochester.

Memorial gifts may be directed to: Embrace the Day Foundation, 756 Loggers Circle, Rochester, MI 48307.

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Michigan panhandler law struck down

The Associated Press has reported that U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker has ruled a state law banning panhandling in public places violates First Amendment protections for free speech and the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause.

The opinion concerns James Speet and Ernest Sims, two Grand Rapids men arrested in 2011 for begging. They were represented by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Speet, who is homeless, was arrested for holding up signs seeking “work or help.” Sims pleaded guilty to panhandling after asking for spare change. Both men receive food stamps, and Sims also receives $260 per month in state disability insurance.

Grand Rapids enforced the panhandling ban 399 times between Jan. 1, 2008, and May 24, 2011, the ACLU said.

“Pending future developments in this case, Grand Rapids police will not be enforcing this state law,” said Catherine Mish, Grand Rapids’ city attorney, adding that it’s too early to tell whether an appeal will be filed.

Nadis & Neuman acquired by Couzens Lansky

Couzens, Lansky, Fealk, Ellis, Roeder & Lazar PC has absorbed the lawyers and staff of Farmington Hills firm Nadis & Neuman PC.

Ronn Nadis and Phillip Neuman have become shareholders, while Michael Dorocak and Sarah Heisler Gidley are associates and Robert Berlow is of counsel. They specialize in commercial real estate transactions, real estate litigation, landlord-tenant matters, commercial and corporate law, and business disputes.

Couzens Lansky, which has offices in Farmington Hills and Detroit, was ranked 34th largest firm in the 2012 edition of Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s “Michigan’s Largest Law Firms.”

$3.6 million award in Frankenmuth Wal-Mart deal reversed

A federal jury’s $3.6 million award to a Frankenmuth family that lost out on a deal to sell its land to Wal-Mart has been reversed by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

As reported in Lawyers Weekly, the plaintiffs in May 2005 signed an agreement to sell 37 1/2 acres of their land to Wal-Mart for $4 million. But seven months later, the city passed an ordinance restricting the size of buildings inside the zoning area that their land sits on to 65,000 square feet. As a result, Wal-Mart backed out.

The 6th Circuit panel determined that there were problems with the jury verdict form, in that the jury was instructed it could find the city of Frankenmuth liable for the deal falling through under either the no-conceivable-basis or animus theory of liability:

But … only the no-conceivable-basis theory was properly submitted to the jury. Because nothing on the verdict form indicated which theory formed the basis for the jury’s decision, the question is whether we may presume that the jury found for the Loesels[] under the factually sufficient no-conceivable-basis theory or whether we must vacate the verdict and remand for a new trial.

In addition, the panel took issue with the damages awarded:

[It] strikes us as excessive, in large part because the verdict itself renders the zoning ordinance unconstitutional and unenforceable. Had the jury verdict been upheld, the Loesels would have retained their property unencumbered by the zoning ordinance and been awarded $3.6 million, which is 90% of the full purchase price from Wal-Mart. This outcome would have let the Loesels recover twice, an impermissible result. …

So, the panel said that, should the case go back to the trial court, the damages should have a specific formula: the amount the plaintiffs would have received from Wal-Mart had the ordinance never been enacted minus the property’s value unencumbered by the zoning ordinance:

Although the jury was instructed by the district court to “award [the Loesels] such a sum as you find by the preponderance of the evidence will fairly and justly compensate them for actual losses you find they have suffered as a direct result of the defendant’s conduct,” we believe that this instruction was overly vague.

The plaintiffs said the city’s action violated their 14th Amendment equal protection rights by improperly rezoning land they owned (north of the downtown area), and that the city manager conspired to come up with justified ordinance options to prevent Wal-Mart from building a store in the city.

The city, meanwhile, said that its future-land-use master plan for its Commercial Local Planned Unit Development zone never called for large-format retailers to be built at the plaintiffs’ site. Also, because Wal-Mart never asked for injunctive relief or for the ordinance to be struck down upon its passing, the city said the retailer didn’t take the matter seriously enough to fight for it.

Jury: Shirvell must pay $4.5 million for defamation

Former University of Michigan student government president Chris Armstrong prevailed Aug. 16 in his federal defamation suit against former Michigan assistant attorney general Andrew Shirvell, as the jury awarded Armstrong $4.5 million in damages.

Armstrong, who was represented by Bloomfield Hills civil attorney Deborah Gordon, claimed Shirvell inflicted intentional emotional harm on his blog in 2010, while Armstrong was in his senior year.

Shirvell attacked Armstrong for his “radical homosexual agenda,” calling Armstrong “Satan’s representative on the student assembly” and a “privileged pervert.” He also accused Armstrong of getting minors to drink alcohol and trying to recruit others to become homosexuals. [For a complete rundown of Shirvell’s acts, click here.]

The day before the verdict was reached, the Detroit Free Press reported that “Shirvell questioned himself on the witness stand for more than an hour Wednesday [Aug. 15], trying to convince the jury he was upset by Armstrong’s push for gender-neutral housing at U-M. Shirvell graduated in 2002.

“‘My blog was political speech,’ Shirvell testified. ‘I viewed my blog as a movement to get Mr. Armstrong to resign. I personally felt Mr. Armstrong was too radical for the position.’”

Gordon told The Michigan Daily that she doubts Shirvell’s plans to appeal the verdict will be realized.

“He’s not going to win his appeal. It’s just another waste of time just like this trial was. This should never have occurred, because he just should have retracted these statements a long time” ago, she said.

CLE credits are offered at annual Veterans’ Summit

Attorneys are invited to receive updated information about VA benefits at the Canton Community Foundation’s third annual Veterans’ Summit. It takes place Sept. 12 at Laurel Manor Banquet & Conference Center in Livonia.

During the 1-4:30 p.m. session, attorneys and advocates will learn about the benefits claim process, including types of claims, ways to prove a claim, veteran status and discharge status. Also on tap is discussion about the appeal process, followed by an ethics review.

Attendance at the program provides attorneys and advocates with the required three credit hours of continuing education, including a half-credit for ethics training. The foundation is the only organization in Michigan that provides training.

The training is part of the annual two-day Veterans’ Summit, which includes a Sept. 13 seminar for veterans and their families to learn about potential VA benefits.

Fee for the event and CLE is $150. Learn more at www.cantonfoundation.org or (734) 495-1200.

A ‘Houseparty’ divided can’t stand

Boston’s legendary J. Geils Band has long been Detroit’s adopted sons, but it looks like at least one of its members is taking umbrage to being disowned.

Reuters reports that the blues-rock-soul group’s namesake guitarist, John Geils, filed suit this week against the other members — Richard “Magic Dick” Salwitz, Danny Klein, Peter Wolf and Seth Justman — claiming they are unlawfully using the band’s trademarked name for an upcoming tour without him and interfering with his business activities.

The band members had planned 11 concerts without Geils under the moniker “The J. Geils Band,” beginning Aug. 25. In the suit, filed in Boston Superior Court, Geils is seeking full rights to the trademark, prevention of other members’ use of the name, and damages.

James Weinberger, the attorney representing the other members of the band, said, “We will address the claims in the lawsuit including our own claims against John Geils and Francesca Records [a label Geils co-owns] at the appropriate time,” he said.

So does this mean ticketholders for the band’s Dec. 7 gig at the Fillmore in Detroit might see a different name on the marquee? Not sure simply taking the “J. Geils” part out would help — then the estates of Levon Helm and Rick Danko would have to file a suit of their own.

UPDATE: Billboard reports more details of the suit.