Investiture ceremony for COA’s Boonstra announced

The investiture ceremony for Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Mark Boonstra takes place Sept. 27 at 3:30 p.m. at Michigan Library & Historical Center, 702 West Kalamazoo St. in Lansing, with a reception in the Hall of Justice following the ceremony.

U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Ralph Guy, Jr. will swear Boonstra into office. Boonstra served as Guy’s law clerk from 1983 to 1985.

Governor Rick Snyder appointed Boonstra to the COA last March for a term ending Jan. 1, 2013. Boonstra is running unopposed for a partial term ending Jan. 1, 2015.

Before his appointment, Boonstra was a senior principal in the law firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C., where he practiced for nearly 27 years.

Boonstra graduated from the University of Michigan in 1983 with both a Juris Doctor degree and with a Master of Applied Economics Degree. He is also a 1979 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Michigan State University, with a B.A. in Political Science.

For more information about the event, contact Deborah Allen at 517-373-0898.

The plot thickens: Johnson appointed to Inkster district court

Gov. Rick Snyder’s Sept. 5th appointment of Sabrina Johnson to the Inkster-based 22nd District Court could result in one of the shortest stays on the bench since Justice Alton Davis’s four-month stint on the Michigan Supreme Court in 2010.

Or it may be just the boost she needs to keep the job past the Jan. 1, 2013 expiration of her appointment.

Johnson, a long-time Wayne County assistant prosecutor with deep Inkster roots, was named to fill an opening created when the MSC removed Sylvia James from the bench on July 31 for misconduct. The Court found that James engaged in financial, administrative and employment improprieties, and then misrepresented the state of affairs to the Judicial Tenure Commission.

MSC Chief Justice Robert Young and Justice Stephen Markman voted with a unanimous Court to throw James off the bench. But they wanted even more. In a separate opinion, they argued in vain that James should be made to sit on the judicial election sidelines for six years. The two justices feared that James would simply run again and reclaim a seat on the very court she had just been booted from.

Seven days after being removed from the bench, James topped a field of eight contenders In the Aug. 7 primary for the 22nd District Court.

Here’s where the plot thickens. Johnson was also on the primary ballot. She finished second.

Johnson, now freshly appointed until the end of the year to fill the balance of James’ term, needs to win the November election or she’ll surrender the seat back to James.

A victory for James will give her the opportunity to thumb her nose at everyone who had anything to do with getting her kicked off the court. Young and Markman’s worst nightmares will come true.

Johnson will be listed on the ballot as an incumbent judge. James won’t. That usually does the trick in judicial elections and goes a long way in explaining Snyder’s appointment of Johnson.

But being forced from the bench for misusing public funds and telling whoppers to the authorities normally spells the end of a judicial career.

Except in Inkster, where some voters, caught up in a cult of personality, are apparently willing to reward James’ misconduct with another six-year term.

Appointments made to Wayne Probate, 36th District courts

Gov. Rick Snyder has appointed Lisa Marie Neilson, a probate and family law practitioner at Dickinson Wright, to the Wayne County Probate Court

The governor has also appointed Demetria Brue, an assistant prosecutor with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, to the 36th District Court.

Neilson replaces Judge Cathie B. Maher, who resigned. Neilson, a former partner of the law firm Zivian & Neilson, also served as a staff attorney for Oakland County Judge Linda Hallmark.

Neilson is also active in professional organizations, including the State Bar of Michigan, the Women Lawyers Bar Association, Federalist Society and the Catholic Lawyer’s Society. Neilson has a bachelor’s degree from Madonna University and received her law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

Brue replaces Judge Willie G. Lipscomb Jr., who resigned. As an assistant Wayne County prosecutor, Brue has decades of litigation experience, including felony and misdemeanor trials, preliminary examinations and traffic hearings.

Previously she worked as a defense attorney, and as an assistant prosecuting attorney for Oakland County. She is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, the National Black Prosecutors’ Association, and the Wolverine Bar Association. Brue received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn and a law degree from Wayne State University Law School.

Neilson will serve through Jan. 1, 2015, and will have to run for election in November 2014 for the remainder of Maher’s term, which expires Dec. 31, 2016. Brue will also serve through Jan. 1, 2015, and will have to run for election in November 2014 for a full term as well.

MSC: Emergency school manager oath-of-office case moot

Robert Davis, the Highland Park school board’s secretary who last week pleaded not guilty to federal charges of converting school district funds, has one less thing to worry about, courtesy of the Michigan Supreme Court.

The Court yesterday threw out his suit, Davis v. Emergency Manager of the Detroit Public Schools, which challenged Roy Roberts’ authority to serve as the emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools.

In May 2011, Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Roberts under MCL 141.1501 et seq., Michigan’s emergency manager law. Roberts went to work without taking an oath of office.

Davis, a vocal critic of the law who backs up his views with litigation, asked Attorney General Bill Schuette to initiate a quo warranto action, claiming that without the oath of office, Roberts had no authority to run the Detroit schools.

After Davis sought quo warranto relief, Roberts took the oath, and a few days later, Schuette declined Davis’s request.

Davis’s next stop was at the Court of Appeals, which also turned him down. In an order dated Oct, 6, 2011, the COA said Robert’s failure to immediately take the oath didn’t violate MCL 201.3(7), which meant the office of emergency manager “was not, and did not need to be, declared vacant.”

The COA also ruled that Roberts fixed the problem by taking the oath of office before Davis filed his COA action, and that before taking the oath, Roberts was functioning as a de facto officer.

The Michigan Supreme Court yesterday approved the result but not the reasoning.

[W]e VACATE that part of the of the Court of Appeals October 6, 2011 order providing the legal reasoning for the denial of the application.

In all other respects, the application for leave to appeal is DENIED as moot in light of the fact that Roy S. Roberts was reappointed to serve as Emergency Manager for the Detroit Public Schools, effective April 2, 2012, and he signed an Oath of Office on that date.

In a concurring statement, Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. questioned whether an emergency manager is even constitutionally required to take an oath of office. Young said the issue need not be decided because the case was moot.

Young’s concurrence prompted Justice Stephen Markman to respond:

Given that the responsibilities of the emergency manager are, during extraordinary economic circumstances, to carry out the duties of the mayor and the members of the city council of a municipality, all of whom themselves are required to take oaths of office, it would seem anomalous that an official serving in their stead would not also be required to make the same commitment to the laws and constitutions of the United States and Michigan.

Prosecutors can bypass circuit judges to get more help

Prosecutors can appoint assistant prosecuting attorneys without circuit court approval under legislation signed by Governor Rick Snyder.

2012 PA 73 eliminates an almost century-old requirement that a prosecutor must first obtain the circuit court judge’s consent before appointing assistants.

Snyder also signed related legislation, 2012 PA 72, which eliminates the judicial consent requirement when a prosecutor obtains assistance for a felony trial, or appoints an assistant to perform the prosecutor’s duties “during a period of disability.”

State Sen. Darwin Booher (R-Evart) sponsored the two-bill package, which sailed through both houses of the Legislature on unanimous votes.

Supreme Court recusal over spouse’s interest again at issue

Last February, Congressional Democrats sought to have U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recuse himself from the inevitable challenge of the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act of 2008. While Thomas himself had no history with the bill, his wife, Ginny, is a lobbyist that represents groups trying to overturn the controversial health care reform package.

So, the Dems argue, the Thomas family is profiting handsomely from opponents of the law, therefore, Justice Thomas should recuse himself.

A similar situation has developed here in Michigan in the challenge over the constitutionality of Gov. Snyder’s emergency financial manger bill.

The new law is being challenged in the Michigan Supreme Court. Opponents of the law have moved for the recusal of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Stephen J. Markman because his wife is defending the law in a federal suit. [The Detroit News].

Markman’s wife, Kathleen, who works for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, is one of two lawyers representing state officials in a federal lawsuit in which a city of Detroit pension fund alleges the emergency manager law is unconstitutional.

A recusal by Markman would be significant because it would erase the 4-3 majority on the court held by justices nominated by the Michigan Republican Party.

New law overrides effects of Woodman v. Kera (Bounce Party)

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder today signed legislation allowing parents to waive their right to sue if their child is injured while playing organized sports or participating in other recreational activities.

House Bill 4231, sponsored by state Rep. John Walsh, is needed because the Michigan Court of Appeals recently ruled that current state law does not allow parents to give up the right to sue on behalf of an injured child, even if a parent signed a liability waiver.  In making the ruling, the court asked lawmakers to address the issue with legislation.

“When parents give their children permission to play organized sports, they understand that there is an inherent risk involved.  Without this protection, community organizations and coaches have no way of defending themselves from lawsuits that may results from normal activity,” the governor said.

A parent who signs a liability waiver may still sue for negligence.

H.B. 4231 is now Public Act 61 of 2011.

Source: Governor Snyder’s office