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January 2015

Jan 2015
30
January 30, 2015

Communications with mental health crisis line worker are not privileged where defendant made threats of violence against third parties

In People v. Carrier, No. 322020, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a defendant’s communications with a mental health crisis line worker were not privileged where the defendant made threats of physical violence against reasonably identifiable third persons and he had the apparent intent and ability to carry out the threats in the foreseeable future. Under these circumstances, MCL 330.1946 requires a mental health professional to report the threats to law enforcement authorities.  Accordingly, the court held that this statute operated to waive the otherwise applicable privilege protecting communications between a caller and mental health professional.

Jan 2015
26
January 26, 2015

COA concludes that donors’ names are subject to FOIA disclosure

In Bitterman v Village of Oakely, No. 320985, the Court of Appeals held that citizens can request the names of those who donate private funds to public use under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) without triggering FOIA’s privacy exemption.  In addition, information regarding police reservists is only exempt from FOIA requests under its law enforcement exemption if their powers and duties actually relate to law enforcement.  Thus, the Court of Appeals reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary disposition in favor of the Village to the extent that the court declined to order disclosure of the names of police fund donors, and remanded for further proceedings as to whether the Village’s police reservists qualify as law enforcement officers or agents within FOIA’s law enforcement exception.

Jan 2015
25
January 25, 2015

Emergency manager's power to appoint school board official is superior to the board's appointment power, according to COA

Emergency mangers reign supreme when it comes to assigning positions of power within their jurisdiction, as demonstrated in Martin v. Murray, No. 319509.  When the Detroit Public Schools (“DPS”) board of education challenged the school system emergency financial manager’s ability to fill a vacancy on the board when a board member resigned, the Court of Appeals sided with the emergency manager. Though the Board has such authority by statute, so does the emergency manager.  Because the emergency manager law is more recent and specific than that which empowers the Board, the Court resolved the conflict in favor of the emergency manager.

Jan 2015
23
January 23, 2015

COA affirms torture, home invasion, and assault convictions in one of the worst criminal cases it has ever seen.

In People v Cooper, No. 318159, the Court of Appeals affirmed the jury’s decision to convict the defendant of first-degree home invasion, assault with intent to commit murder, and torture.  Defendant, a 12th habitual offender, has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.  The details of the home invasion and assault are, according to the Court of Appeals, among the worst it has seen. On appeal, the Defendant argued that his trial court was ineffective for pursuing questions with several witnesses which elicited testimony regarding defendant’s history of drug dealing, for failing to cross-examine one Government witness, and for failing to object to “prosecutorial misconduct”.  The Court of Appeals disagreed and ruled that counsel’s trial strategy was not ineffective, especially, because counsel was, in large part, acting in accordance with defendant’s instructions to discredit the witnesses.  Further, the mere disclosure of a plea agreement, which includes a provision for truthful testimony, does not constitute improper vouching or bolstering of a witness by the prosecutor.  Accordingly, defendant’s trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to this testimony.

Jan 2015
16
January 16, 2015

COA holds that prosecution must provide notice of intent to use other acts evidence in writing or orally in open court under MRE 404(b)(2)

In People v. Johnson, No. 317206, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that if it intends to introduce other acts evidence under MRE 404(b)(1), the prosecution must provide notice in writing or orally in open court. A jury convicted the defendant of second-degree home invasion, MCL 750.110a(3). At trial, a witness testified about a similar burglary that had been linked to the defendant. On appeal, the defendant argued that the witness’s testimony was inadmissible other-acts evidence under MRE 404(b)(1) and MRE 404(b)(2).  

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