COA: State Law’s preference for placing Indian children within Indian culture more robust than that of Federal Law

The Michigan Indian Family Protection Act (“MIFPA”) endeavors to protect an Indian child’s Indian culture by giving trial courts less discretion than under the federal Indian Child Welfare Act (“ICWA”).  MIFPA grants courts less discretion than ICWA to deviate from placing a child with a member of the child’s extended family, a member of the Indian child’s tribe, or an Indian family.  Because of this, the Michigan Court of Appeals vacated a non-Indian couple’s adoption of an Indian child in In re KMN, Nos. 322329 and 322883. Read More

COA holds that Workers Compensation magistrates must consider all information in a criminal indictment before excluding the entire document

The Michigan Court of Appeals in Omian v. Chrysler Group, LLC, No. 310743, held that the Michigan Compensation Appellate Commission erred, in part, when it upheld the exclusion of a criminal indictment in its entirety for impeachment purposes in a workers’ compensation claim.
 
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COA finds that suspicion of future violation of law suffices in whistle-blower claims

To establish a prima face case under Michigan's Whistleblower Protection Act ("WPA"), the plaintiff must show the following: (1) the plaintiff was engaged in a protected activity; (2) the plaintiff was discharged or discriminated against; and (3) a causal connection existed between the discharge or adverse employment action.  West v. General Motors Corp., 665 NW2d 468 (Mich 2003).  In Pace v. SIREN Eaton Shelter, Inc., No. 319223, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that reporting a suspected future violation of law is engaging in a protected activity under the WPA. Read More

COA: Parties may move for modification of spousal support after support obligation ends

Georgii and Irina Loutts married in Russia in 1988. They later moved to the United States. During their marriage, they each earned a Ph.D. Georgii, a professor by day, also started QPhotonics, a business that buys, sells, imports, and exports light emitting diodes (LEDs). Irina worked as an adjunct professor and as QPhotonics’ accountant.
 
The couple divorced in 2008 and the court entered a judgment dividing most of their property 50-50. The court also awarded Irina four years of rehabilitative spousal support, a cash payment of $247,788 as an “equalizer,” and half of the value of QPhotonics—approximately $140,000. Seven years later, in Loutts v. Loutts, No. 318468, the Court of Appeals concluded that a motion to modify spousal support, made after the termination of spousal support, lacked the necessary support to establish a chance of circumstances since the divorce. Read More

MSC clarifies standard of review for unemployment-benefit determinations

In lieu of granting leave to appeal and without hearing oral argument, the Michigan Supreme Court in Hodge v. U.S. Security Associates, Inc., No. 149984, reversed the Court of Appeals and held that an administrative law judge applied the proper legal standard in determining that an employee was not entitled to unemployment benefits. Read More

MSC to consider parameters of subject-matter jurisdiction for district courts

The district court has exclusive jurisdiction in civil actions when the amount in controversy does not exceed $25,000.  MCL 600.8301(1).  However, as plaintiffs increasingly structure pleadings to stay under this threshold, the Michigan Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the district court may retain subject-matter jurisdiction in cases where the plaintiff will seek more than $25,000 at trial, despite pleading lesser damages.  In Hodge v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company, No. 149043, the Supreme Court has granted defendant leave to appeal the limited issues of whether a district court is divested of subject-matter jurisdiction when a plaintiff alleges less than $25,000 in damages in his complaint but seeks more than $25,000 in damages at trial, and if not, whether such conduct nevertheless divests the district court of subject-matter jurisdiction on the basis that the amount alleged in the complaint was made fraudulently or in bad faith.
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MSC to consider whether police officers’ false statements can be used against them in prosecutions for obstruction of justice

In the consolidated appeal of People v Harris, Nos. 149872, 149873, 150042, the Michigan Supreme Court granted applications to appeal the Court of Appeals’ July 15, 2014 opinion. Three police officers lied during an excessive force investigation and were charged with obstruction of justice. The trial court held that the officers’ false statements were barred in the prosecution for obstruction of justice under the Fifth Amendment and MCL 15.393. However, the Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s decision and reinstated the charges.  On appeal the court will consider: 1) whether the Disclosures by Law Enforcement Act, MCL 15.391, et seq. bars the use of false statements by a police officer in prosecution for obstruction for justice; and, 2) whether the defendants’ signed waivers bar the use of false statements in criminal prosecution under their state and federal rights against self-incrimination. PAAM and CDAM are invited to file briefs amicus curiae.

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MSC orders resentencing after determining the conspiracy offense to be a crime against public safety not against a person

In People v Bennett, No. 149264, the Michigan Supreme Court vacated the Oakland County Circuit Court sentence and remanded the case for resentencing. The defendant was convicted of conspiracy. Under MCL 777.18 and People v Bonilla-Machado, 489 Mich 412 (2011), the conspiracy offense is considered a crime against public safety not a crime against a person. Thus, the defendant was wrongly assessed 25 points for offense variable (OV) 13. The Michigan Supreme Court orders the trial court to resentence defendant within the guidelines, or alternatively allow defendant to withdraw his guilty plea.
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No-fault insurer liable for attorney fees after its attempt to “rewrite” statute and failure to pay first and seek reimbursement later

The Court of Appeals held a no-fault insurer liable for the plaintiffs’ attorney fees where it attempted to “rewrite” a parked vehicle exception and disputed the availability of workers’ compensation benefits  and priority between potential no-fault insurers.  Because there was no legitimate question of statutory interpretation regarding the parked vehicle exception, the no-fault insurer in Adanalic v. Harco National Insurance Co., No. 317764, should have paid the personal injury protection (“PIP”) benefits and then exercised its subrogee rights to pursue worker’s compensation benefits or reimbursement from the other no-fault insurer.  Read More

MSC grants mini-oral argument on whether trial court’s failure to give jury instruction on effect of character evidence is reversible error

In People v. Lyles, No. 150040, the Michigan Supreme Court granted mini-oral argument to consider an application for leave to appeal where the issue is whether a trial court’s failure to a give a portion of a jury instruction on the importance and effect of character evidence was outcome determinative. Here, the defendant was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole. At trial, the court did not read the following portion of Michigan Criminal Jury Instruction 5.8a(1): “[e]vidence of good character alone may sometimes create a reasonable doubt in your mind and lead you to find the defendant not guilty.” On appeal, the Court of Appeals held that the defendant was entitled to the entire instruction and that the error required reversal because failure to read the entire instruction deprived the defendant of the full benefit of his character evidence. The Michigan Supreme Court ordered the parties to submit supplemental briefs on whether it was more likely than not that the failure to give the character evidence instruction properly was outcome determinative.

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