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.

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AG: No marijuana growers’ cooperatives

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has taken a narrow view of how marijuana can be legally cultivated under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

The act authorizes licensed caregivers to grow up to 12 plants for each of five patients.

Schuette has issued Opinion 7259, which states:

The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, Initiated Law 1 of 2008, MCL 333.26421 et seq, prohibits the joint cooperative cultivation or sharing of marihuana plants because each patient’s plants must be grown and maintained in a separate enclosed, locked facility that is only accessible to the registered patient or the patient’s registered primary caregiver.

Schuette’s opinion was issued in connection with Rep. John Walsh’s (R-Livonia) announcement of a package of bills “that will ensure public safety by clarifying the many ambiguities in the Medical Marihuana Act.”

All of this comes on the heels of the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision to take up several issues regarding affirmative defenses provided by the MMA. See “MSC will hear medical marijuana appeals.”

Of note in the Legislature: Divorce property divisions and COA filing fees

Statutory presumption for marital property splits proposed: Property acquired during a marriage, regardless of how the title is held, would be presumed to be marital property under HB 4672 and HB 4673.

The presumption could be rebutted by evidence to the contrary. The presumption would apply to real property and stocks.

HB 4673 also contains a list of factors courts must consider when untangling commingled marital and nonmarital assets, and another list of factors to determine how marital property should be divided.

The bills are currently in the House Judiciary Committee.

Bill would nix lower COA filing fees: Two statutory motion fees in the Court of Appeals would remain intact under HB 4731. The standard $100 motion fee and $200 fee for expedited appeals, see MCL 600.321, would have dropped to $75 and $150, respectively, on Oct. 1, 2012.

The bill is in the House Appropriations Committee. A hearing is set for June 22.

Bills would streamline adoption process for foster care children

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan Supreme Court Justice Mary Beth Kelly and Michigan Department of Human Services Director Maura D. Corrigan have urged legislators to approve bills before both chambers that will streamline the adoption process for children in foster care. The passage of these bills could pave the way for expedited placement in qualified, permanent homes for more than 1,100 children.

Currently, the only person authorized to approve adoptions for children in foster care is the Michigan Children’s Institute (MCI) superintendent. Since April 2010, the MCI superintendent has received 1,100 such cases for approval.

Under the bills, the MCI superintendent, the legal guardian for children committed to MCI when parental rights have been terminated, may authorize a designee to provide written consent to the adoption, marriage, guardianship or emancipation of MCI wards. The designee would be allowed to authorize adoption requests where the child is already living in the recommended adoption home and a review by a caseworker and supervisor has determined there are no concerns about the placement.

Kelly said her experience as a family court judge convinced her that the bills are needed.

“No matter how good a job the MCI superintendent does, he or she is only one person, and it is simply unrealistic to expect one person to perform in-depth reviews of hundreds of these cases each year,” Kelly told legislators.

While finding a permanent, loving home for children in foster care is a key mission for DHS, Corrigan was clear that the expedited process will not sacrifice due diligence in the examination of potential adoptive families. The department will be systematic, careful and considerate when determining who will be named as a designee, Corrigan told members of the Senate Families, Seniors and Human Services committee.

“The best place for a child is in a stable, permanent home. That is our goal for each of the 4,150 children in foster care available for adoption. Joining a family should not be delayed because only one person in the entire state can authorize a child’s adoption or guardianship,” Corrigan said.

Among the bills’ supporters is the Michigan Probate Judges Association. In a March 15 letter to Sen. Judith Emmons, Judge Dorene Allen, chief judge of the Midland County Probate Court and chair of the MPJA’s Juvenile and Adoption Issues Committee, wrote that the legislation “will facilitate the permanency of children in the abuse and neglect system, certainly a goal we can all agree upon.”

Source: Michigan Department of Human Services

Probate judges like Lipton

The Michigan Probate Judges Association has honored state Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton as the group’s Legislator of the Year.

Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton

Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton

The MPJA recognized Lipton’s legislative efforts on behalf of children and the mentally ill.

Susan L. Dobrich, chief judge of the Cass County Probate Court and MPJA president, says:

[A] bill that she introduced earlier this year, HB 6046, would make it easier for courts to order treatment for mentally ill persons before they harm themselves or others. This is the kind of proactive approach we need.

Lipton, a freshman legislator, represents the 27th House District, which includes Berkley, Ferndale, Pleasant Ridge, Hazel Park, Huntington Woods and part of Oak Park in Oakland County.

She is vice-chair of the House Judiciary Committee and also serves on the House’s Energy & Technology, Tax Policy, and Insurance committees.

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Michigan Medical Marihuana Act: Perfectly unclear

The rulings by Court of Appeals Judges Patrick M. Meter and Donald S. Owens in People v. Redden are clear enough:

  • defendants charged with manufacturing marijuana can invoke the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act as an affirmative defense even though they weren’t registered under the act when the police raided their home.
  • the prosecutor can take them to trial and try to prove that their patient relationships with the doctor who authorized their marijuana use were too tenuous to be bona fide, they possessed an unreasonable amount of marijuana and that their medical conditions didn’t warrant the doctor’s authorization.

“I concur,” said Judge Peter D. O’Connell.

And most folks would concur with what O’Connell went on to say: the MMMA is perfectly unclear.

O’Connell notes that the law is “inartfully drafted,” creates “much confusion,” is internally contradictory, and also contradicts the state Public Health Code and federal drug laws.

The police, prosecutors, defense attorneys and trial judge wrestling with the MMMA, through no fault of their own, don’t know which end is up.

And “healthy recreational marijuana users incorrectly view the MMMA as a de facto legalization of the drug, seemingly unconcerned that marijuana use remains illegal under both state and federal law.”

O’Connell’s 30-page concurrence exhaustively dissects the MMMA and makes a cogent case for legislative and administrative officials to issue a comprehensive set of administrative rules to implement the act.

It’s required reading for anyone who has an interest, academic or otherwise, in issues arising under the MMMA.

Legal notices 21st-Century style

The Michigan House Judiciary Committee will take up a package of bill this Wednesday that would permit legal notices to be posted on the Internet or cable television under certain circumstances.

HB 5828 would permit website or cable television posting of legal notices when there is no newspaper in the required area that meets the statutory requirements to publish such notices. HB 5828 also spells out qualifications a website must meet to carry legal notices.

Here are the other bills in the package:

  • HB 5826 Civil procedure; other; publication of legal notices; remove requirements from revised judicature act.
  • HB 5827 Natural resources; other; reference to definition of newspaper in the natural resources and environmental protection act; revise to reflect repeal of statutory definition.
  • HB 5845 Townships; charter; posting of legal notices as alternative to publishing; provide for.
  • HB 5847 Townships; general law; posting of legal notices as alternative to publishing; provide for.
  • HB 5916 Villages; general law; posting of legal notices as alternative to publishing; provide for.
  • HB 5917 Villages; home rule; posting of legal notices as alternatives to publishing; provide for.
  • HB 5853 Counties; other; methods for public notice disclosure; expand.
  • HB 5848 Cities; home rule; posting of legal notices as alternative to publishing; provide for.

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