MSC orders amendments to summary disposition, default judgment rules

The Michigan Supreme Court approved a slew of court rule amendments on October 3. The amendments were made to MCR 3.979, MCR 2.116, MCR 2.603  and MCR 9.113(A).

Perhaps the two with the widest effect on the industry are the changes to MCR 2.116 and 2. 603. Both amendments were discussed in the most recent administrative conference on September 27.

The amended MCR 2.603 allows for entry of a default judgment if “the damages amount requested isn’t greater than the amount stated in the complaint.”

The amended MCR 2.116 adds forum selection agreement as grounds for summary disposition under subsection (C)(7).

The remaining two amendments affect juvenile guardianships and grievance procedure. MCR 3.979 was changed to allow continuing court jurisdiction over a guardianship if the Department of Human Services continues to provide subsides after a ward reaches the age of 18, and to require annual review hearings in such cases.

MCR 9.113 was amended to give the grievance administrator “discretion to withhold all or part of respondent’s answer and any supporting documents from the person who filed the request for investigation.” [From staff comment].

DNA testing is ordered in Flint judge’s paternity case

An Oakland County judge has ordered DNA testing to determine whether Genesee County Circuit Judge Archie Hayman is the biological father of the children of a Flint attorney.

Mlive reported that Judge Cheryl Matthews also rejected a motion from Hayman’s attorney to seal records in the case, and suggested Hayman and Flint attorney Denise Ketchmark keep their focus on the two children at the heart of the complaint.

Ketchmark claims Hayman, an outspoken advocate of the role of fathers in their children’s lives, neglected and failed to support Ketchmark’s two children before and after signing affidavits of parentage for each.

Her lawsuit seeks more than $4 million in damages and support.

Matthews ruled against a motion from Hayman’s attorney to seal records in the case from public view.

Ex-Flint mayor sues city over $4.5M judgment

Ex-Flint Mayor Don Williamson is suing over a demand that he pay $4.5 million awarded to police officers who claimed race was a factor in promotions to a special unit in 2006.

The Flint Journal/Mlive reported that a status conference is set for Oct. 15 in U.S. District Court for the lawsuit, which also demands back wages.

The city said the lawsuit is without merit and has asked that the case be dismissed.

The Citizens Service Bureau was later disbanded, but not before 48 officers sued the city and Williamson in state and federal court. The case went before arbitrators, who ruled in favor of the officers and awarded them $3.8 million. The money owed grew with interest, and Flint wants Williamson to pay.

Williamson resigned in 2009 while facing a recall election.

Campaign finance controversy hits Oakland judicial race

In “The Distinguished Gentleman,” Eddie Murphy’s character won a congressional election on name recognition alone after his predecessor with a similar name died in office. Murphy’s character, Thomas Jefferson Johnson, shortened his name after Rep. Jeff Johnson died, staying out of the media and running on the slogan “the name you know.”

Since the Supreme Court of the United States’ 2010 decision in polarizing Citizens United decision, pundits have pontificated about the potential effect of unfettered spending on our presidential and congressional elections. And, of course, if you don’t watch everything on television from a DVR, you’re seeing those effects. (One thing is evident: the Moroun family has a lot of money to spend on television ads).

But perhaps not enough was made on the potential effect on local elections, where candidates generally aren’t funding their campaigns with million (or should I say billions) of dollars of other people’s money. A person with a lot of money to burn could tilt the balance of an election by allowing a candidate to flood the media with ads that the opponent couldn’t possibly match.

According to Detroit Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson, that may be happening in Oakland County circuit judge elections.

We know some anonymous donor is trying to buy himself a couple of seats on the Oakland County Circuit Court.

We know he’s dishonest.

We know he’s a coward.

We know he’s prepared to spend upward of $1.2 million on behalf of two little-known candidates who have made themselves scarce on the campaign trail and appear to have raised little or no campaign funds of their own.

The two candidates supported in advertising bought by the anonymous donor are both members of Attorney General Bill Schuette’s staff, William Rollstin and Deborah Carley. Both Rollstin and Carley are former Detroit area prosecutors. Carley was the chief deputy prosecutor under former Oakland prosecutor David Gorcyca. She left the office shortly before current prosecutor Jessica Cooper took over. Rollstin was a drug prosecutor in Wayne County.

Carley and Rollstin seem to have taken a page from Jeff Johnson: Their ads are plastered all over airwaves, but the candidates themselves are lying low.

Neither has made many public appearances since a political action committee bankrolled entirely by three conservative GOP donors based in Pennsylvania, Oregon and Virginia paid for the collection of petition signatures and other organizing expenses earlier this year. And neither participated in a videotaped candidates forum sponsored by the Oakland County League of Women Voters, the Oakland County Bar and the Free Press earlier this month.

Dickerson said neither of them responded to his calls or emails seeking comment.

The groups paying for the ads are “Americans for Job Security” and “Judicial Crisis Network.” Of the five judges running for re-election, the ads seem to be specifically targeting Oakland Circuit Judge Phyllis McMillen. Three of the other four judges were appointed by John Engler. The fifth judge, Leo Bowman, was appointed by Jennifer Granholm.

SADO assistant defender analyzes her SCOTUS argument

Valerie Newman, assistant defender at the State Appellate Defender Office in Detroit, will reflect on how she prepared for and successfully argued Lafler v. Cooper at the Supreme Court of the United States.

Her “A View from the Podium: Reflections on a Supreme Court Argument” presentation is 12:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4, at the Spencer M. Partrich Auditorium at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit.

In Lafler, Newman convinced a 5-4 majority that a defendant who receives ineffective advice that results in rejection of a plea offer and conviction at trial, may be entitled to relief from the sentence after conviction.

In the years leading up to the country’s high court, Newman — who was honored recently as one of Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s 2012 Women in the Law — said that the state courts were not willing to address the matter as a Sixth Amendment ineffective assistance of counsel argument. Instead, they wanted to blame the defendant.

Admission to the presentation is free, and lunch will be served. Learn more at http://law.wayne.edu.

Supreme Court justice named our Woman of the Year

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly was named as Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s Woman of the Year at our 2012 Women in the Law luncheon on Sept. 27.

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Marilyn Kelly holds her award after being named Michigan Lawyers Weekly’s 2012 Woman of the Year at the Detroit Marriott, Troy. (Photo by Mark Bialek)

Kelly has accomplished a lot in her career, including public service spanning the last 48 years.

As noted in her Women in the Law profile (see our Sept. 10, 2012, edition), Kelly was the first woman elected to State Board of Education in 1964, and was re-elected in 1968 and 1972.

While still on the board, she enrolled at Wayne State University Law School and graduated with honors in 1971. She was elected to the Court of Appeals in 1988, and re-elected in 1994. In 1996, she was elected to the Supreme Court for the first of her two terms. She was the Court’s chief justice from 2009-11.

Her push to make courts more accessible has resulted in last month’s launch of a new legal self-help website, Michigan Legal Help.

Kelly also was a loud and unwavering voice in the call for more comprehensive and fair indigent representation. She surely is gratified with HB 5804, to create the Michigan Indigent Defense Commission, going to the full House with strong bipartisan support.

That Commission would set standards, attempt to stabilize funding and promote best practices.

And, as Kelly told MiLW writer Ed Wesoloski for her Women in the Law profile, she counts G. Mennen Williams — Michigan’s 41st governor and a Supreme Court justice — among her heroes and mentors. She recalls him as a charismatic man, who was forever extending his arm to “give a warm, firm handshake.”

She also mentioned that she is a SCUBA diving enthusiast, and to this day still actively participates in the sport. In addition, she confessed to Ed the guilty pleasure of reading spy novels.

Kelly started a Limited English Proficiency Program to assist non-English speakers navigate their way through the legal system.

Her most visible effort, without question, was her work on the Michigan Judicial Selection Task Force on which she served as co-chair with Senior Circuit Judge James Ryan, of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

They brought together a group of lawyers, non-lawyers, businesspeople and campaigners and researched the judicial selection process.

The task force released a comprehensive report calling for more transparency in the selection and campaign process and offered sensible solutions and alternatives that would make the judicial selection process more effective and transparent.

Those recommendations are still being considered.

Testing for textualism

Bryan Garner and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia have written a treatise entitled Reading Law: The Interpretation of Legal Texts.

It has everything you ever wanted to know about the subject matter, prefaced by an essay, in which Scalia predictably explains that textualism is the only valid approach to the interpretation of law.

What the book doesn’t have, explains Garner in the latest issue of the ABA Journal, is a textualism test that he and Scalia were considering for inclusion in their 567-page epic.

A sample:

  • A contract entitles a caterer to be reimbursed for the expense of supplying “trays, glasses, dishes, utensils or other tableware.” In his reimbursement schedule, the caterer lists $1,500 for paper napkins. Is this expenditure reimbursable?
  • No. Under the ejusdem generis canon the phrase or other tableware is limited to things of the same types as in the preceding list: trays, glasses, dishes, utensils. Those are sturdier items that are more or less durable (even if plastic); paper napkins are flimsy and are more often disposed of within seconds after use. The listed items are for serving food and facilitating consumption; paper napkins, by contrast, are for cleaning. If, as seems likely, the caterer drafted the contract, the contra proferentem canon would reinforce this result.

There’s plenty more where that came from. Check it out.

HT: SBM Blog