Nominations open for Daniel J. Wright Lifetime Achievement Award

Nominations are now being accepted for the Daniel J. Wright Lifetime Achievement Award, which recognizes outstanding work for Michigan’s children.

The award is a joint effort of the Michigan Supreme Court and the Department of Human Services, according to the MSC’s Office of Public Information.

The award was established in honor of the late Daniel J. Wright, an attorney and longtime leader in child support and child welfare reform.

He was credited with the “Michigan Miracle” in 2002 when, as special assistant to then-Chief Justice Maura D. Corrigan, he led the state’s efforts to upgrade Michigan’s child support enforcement system by federally mandated deadlines. By meeting the deadlines, Wright saved the state $142 million in federal fines and earned the state a $36 million refund for fines it had already paid. Later, as director of the Friend of the Court Bureau and Child Welfare Services divisions of the State Court Administrative Office, Wright helped create the state’s “Adoption Forums” to deal with adoption barriers that were stranding children in foster care. He worked on legislation to give foster children a greater voice in decisions about their lives; among other things, the law now requires courts to consult the child’s wishes when holding a hearing about placing the child in a permanent home.

According to Marcia McBrien, the MSC’s Public Information Officer, the selection committee includes Dan’s wife, Lynne Wright, who will also present the award on Adoption Day. Also on the panel: DHS Director and former Chief Justice Maura Corrigan; Steven D. Capps, director of SCAO’s Friend of the Court Bureau division; and Kelly Howard, director of SCAO’s Child Welfare Services division.

Information about nominee qualifications and how to submit a nominee for consideration is available here.

MSC media coverage ‘unsophisticated’ says columnist

Matthew Davis, a Lansing-based attorney and political columnist for Mlive.com, has an interesting take on media coverage of the Michigan Supreme Court.

His well-founded gripe is the tendency to view the Court’s decisions through a political lens only when reporting for a general audience.  Matthew Davis: Media’s analysis of Michigan Supreme Court decisions should rise above 8th grade level

But at the bottom, says Davis, there are cases in which the end result doesn’t fit the notion that the Court’s justices are only looking to hand victories to the political party that backed them.

In one-high profile case after another, the court has sought to serve its only constituent — the law.

It’s a thoughtful piece. Check it out.

Daniel Jerome Wright, 63, long-time MSC staffer

Daniel Jerome Wright

Daniel Jerome Wright

Daniel J. Wright, a former Michigan Lawyer of the Year who accomplished the “Michigan Miracle” when he saved the state $178 million in 2003 and became the namesake of the state’s Daniel J. Wright Lifetime Achievement Award, died July 31 in Lansing, MI after a long illness.  He was 63.

Wright pulled off the “Michigan Miracle” when he led the state’s efforts to upgrade Michigan’s outdated child support payment system by federally mandated deadlines.  As a Special Assistant to then Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Maura Corrigan, he met with officials from every state circuit court and relevant agency to solve the previous system’s failure to track child support payments and punish those responsible for missed payments.  When he met the deadlines, Wright saved the state $142 million in federal fines and earned the state a $36 million refund for fines it had already paid as a federal incentive to meet the deadlines.  Federal officials acknowledged at the time that it took a “miracle” for the state to meet the deadlines.

Former Chief Justice Corrigan, now director of the Michigan Department of Human Services, said Wright was the reason the “Miracle” occurred. “He was a tremendous diplomat and a person of his word,” Corrigan said. “He had a lot of convincing to do to bring all of the counties in line. That was the reason the Michigan Miracle happened.”

For his work to perform the “miracle” and overall dedication to the betterment of children and families throughout Michigan, the state created the Daniel J. Wright Lifetime Achievement Award in 2011.  The award recognizes an outstanding advocate for Michigan’s children and families. Wright received his award from Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder during a ceremony in Lansing last November. Corrigan said Wright told her that the award and the ceremony made for the “happiest day of my life.”

Michigan Lawyers Weekly named Wright “Lawyer of the Year” for his work to implement the program.  In his career with the Supreme Court, he has been head of the Friend of the Court Bureau, an administrative division connected to the court, and directed the court’s Child Welfare Services Division.

He is survived by his wife, Lynne; a daughter, Margaret; a son, Eamonn;  a brother, J. Patrick (Debby); three sisters, Maureen, Kathleen (Michael) Conway and Eileen (Ronald) Dimick; nieces and nephews Kara Conway, Maureen Conway, Ellie Dimick, Julie Dimick, Mary (William) Scott, Mary “Molly” Wright, JJ Conway and Patrick Wright.

Visitation for Mr. Wright will be Monday, August 6 from 4-8 pm at Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel, 325 W. Washtenaw St., Lansing, MI. Deacon John Fitch will conduct a memorial rosary at 7 pm.

Visitation will also be from 10-11 am Tuesday, August 7 at St. Casimir Catholic Church, 815 Sparrow Ave, Lansing, MI. Fr. William Lugger will celebrate a memorial mass immediately follow at 11 am.

Pelton reappointed to law examiners board

Eric Pelton of Kienbaum Opperwall Hardy & Pelton PLC, has been reappointed to the State Board of Law Examiners for a five-year term.

The board certifies attorneys for admission to the bar in this state by examination (Rule 2) or, on the basis of admission in another jurisdiction, without examination (Rule 5). The board also recertifies attorneys following periods of inactivity in practice (Rule 8). See generally, Rules for the Board of Law Examiners.

Pelton was renominated by the Michigan Supreme Court. Governor Rick Snyder announced the reappointment earlier this week.

Pelton served on the Michigan Board of State Canvassers from 2002-2005. He currently serves as a member of the labor law section of the State Bar of Michigan, a fellow for the Michigan State Bar Foundation, an executive committee member for the Federalist Society and as a member of the Oakland County Bar Foundation board of trustees.

He holds a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, a master’s degree in public administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a law degree from Syracuse University.

Judicial officers could preside by video under MSC proposal

The Wizard of Oz

We’re fairly certain it won’t look like this.

Judicial officers could hold court via video conferencing equipment under a proposed Michigan Supreme Court administrative order.

The proposal would allow judicial officers, under certain circumstances, to preside from a remote location without the parties’ consent.

Remote participation by judicial officers shall be limited to the following specific situations:

1) judicial assignments;

2) circuits and districts that are comprised of more than one county and would require a judicial officer to travel to a different courthouse within the circuit or district;

3) district court districts that have multiple court locations in which a judicial officer would have to travel to a different courthouse within the district;

4) a multiple district plan in which a district court magistrate would have to travel to a different district.

The judicial officer who presides remotely must be physically present in a courthouse located within his or her judicial circuit, district, or multiple district area.

Under the proposed administrative order, multicounty circuit and district courts seeking permission to have judicial officers preside via video equipment must submit a proposed local court rule for the State Court Administrator’s approval. The State Court Administrative Office will monitor video equipment use and let the MSC know how things are working out.

The MSC is seeking comments about the proposal through Nov. 1. Refer to the proposal for more information about submitting comments.

MSC seeks comment on proposed judicial performance measures

The Michigan Supreme Court is interested in measuring trial court performance and providing public access to the reports.

Proposed Administrative Order No. 2012-XX would authorize the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO) to create standardized methods for evaluating trial court performance.

The proposal is broad in concept but short on details.

The concept:

Performance measurement is a critical means to assess the services provided to the public and the processes used to deliver those services. Performance measurement can assist in assessing and recognizing areas within courts that are working well, and those that require attention and improvement.

Trial court performance measures are not a new concept. The National Center for State Courts first issued the 10 CourTools in 2005; in the 1990s, SCAO formed a task force, including judges and court administrators, to study how to measure a court’s performance. In 2009, the state court administrator convened the Trial Court Performance Measures Committee, which piloted performance measures and offered recommendations. The committee stressed that all trial courts should embrace performance measures as an opportunity to provide high-quality public service in the most efficient way. Further, because transparency and accountability are integral elements of an efficient and effective judiciary, SCAO’s standardized statewide performance measure reports should be readily available to the public.

How might all of this work? That’s largely being left to the SCAO to figure out:

A. The State Court Administrative Office is directed to:

1. Develop a plan for implementation of performance measures in all trial courts.

2. Assist trial courts in implementing and posting performance measures.

3. In conjunction with the Trial Court Performance Measures Committee, assess and report on the effectiveness of the performance measures and modify the measures as needed.

B. Trial courts are directed to:

1. Comply with the trial court performance measures plan developed by the State Court Administrative Office.

2. Report performance measure information to the State Court Administrative Office.

C. SCAO’s standardized statewide performance measure reports shall be made available to the public on the Internet.

Got some thoughts about this? Refer to the proposal for information on submitting comments. The comment period closes Nov. 1.

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.