MSC to hear MOA on meaning of order that eliminated retiree benefit contributions

The Michigan Supreme Court granted oral argument on the application for leave to appeal in Board of Trustees of the City of Pontiac Police & Retiree Prefunded Group Health & Insurance Trust v. City of Pontiac, No. 151717, to address the meaning of language contained in the City of Pontiac’s Emergency Manager’s Executive Order No. 225.  That order amended the City of Pontiac’s contributions to the Retiree Prefunded Group Health and Insurance Trust.  The Trust sued to force the continuation of contributions for the fiscal year ending on June 30, 2012, lost on summary disposition in the circuit court, and won in the Court of Appeals. The Michigan Supreme Court will resolve whether the Emergency Manager’s order had retroactive effect to excuse contributions in the 2012 fiscal year. Read More

COA: Parties’ intent determines whether health care benefits survive CBA’s expiration

An employer does not have an absolute right to alter unilaterally a collective bargaining agreement (“CBA”) providing health care benefits to retirees, held the Michigan Court of Appeals in Harper Woods Retirees Association v. City of Harper Woods, No. 318450.  But nor do retirees have an absolute right to continued health care benefits after the CBA’s expiration.  Rather, a trial court must analyze the language of the contract between a retiree and the employer to determine the intent of the parties at the time of agreement.  The Court of Appeals held that the trial court erred in granting summary disposition to defendant and remanded the case for further proceedings. Read More

COA: Gag order violated First Amendment

In the consolidated cases of People v. Sledge, No. 324680, and People v. Collins, No. 324681, the Michigan Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s denial of a motion by the Detroit Free Press to vacate an order precluding “all potential trial participants” from commenting to media about the cases (collectively “gag order”).  The court held that the gag order was overbroad and constituted an unconstitutional prior restraint on the freedom of speech and freedom of the press.
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MSC agrees to hear Swain innocence appeal

In People v. Swain, No. 150994, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to hear Defendant Swain’s latest appeal of her post-conviction motion for relief.  Among the issues that the Court ordered the parties to brief are: (1) whether the test set forth in People v. Cress, 468 Mich. 678, 692 (2003), for determining whether a defendant is entitled to a new trial based on newly discovered evidence applies in determining whether a second or subsequent motion for relief from judgment is based on “a claim of new evidence that was not discovered before the first such motion” under MCR 6.502(G)(2); (2) whether the defendant is entitled to a new trial as a remedy for a Brady violation; (3) what standard(s) Michigan courts consider a defendant’s assertion that the evidence demonstrates a significant possibility of actual innocence in the context of a motion brought pursuant to MCR 6.502(G), and whether the defendant in this case qualifies under that standard; (4) whether the Michigan Court Rules provide a basis for relief where a defendant demonstrates a significant possibility of actual innocence; (5) whether, if MCR 6.502(G) does bar relief, there is an independent basis on which a defendant who demonstrates a significant possibility of actual innocence may nonetheless seek relief under the United States or Michigan Constitutions; and (6) whether the defendant is entitled to a new trial pursuant to MCL 770.1.  
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COA: Application of mandatory sentencing guidelines after Lockridge requires remand to determine whether error is harmless

In People v. Terrell, No. 321573, the Michigan Court of Appeals held when a trial court erroneously employs mandatory sentencing guidelines, the appellate court must follow the same procedure for resentencing as the Court of Appeals recently established in People v. Stokes. As a result, even if judicial fact-finding does not increase the minimum sentence guidelines, which was the previous requirement for applying the Stokes-remand remedy, the Court of Appeals is now required to remand the case to determine whether the error was harmless when a trial court erroneously applied compulsory sentencing guidelines.
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COA: Where Old Chief stipulation is insufficient to prove element of offense, prosecution may introduce evidence of defendant’s prior driving history.

In People v. Bergman, No. 320975, the Court of Appeals held that defendant was not entitled to an Old Chief stipulation that her license was suspended at the time of the fatal car accident.  The stipulation that defendant merely had a suspended license was not a sufficient substitute for the malice element of second-degree murder, for which the prosecution sought to introduce evidence of defendant’s prior driving history. The Court further held that the advisory Michigan sentencing guidelines do not violate the Sixth Amendment, as long as the minimum number of points for that offense variable level could be sustained based on facts found by the jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
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COA upholds retroactive repeal of the Multistate Tax Compact

In Gillette Commercial Operations North America & Subsidiaries v. Department of Treasury, No. 325258, the Michigan Court of Appeals rejected a number of constitutional challenges to 2014 PA 282, which the Legislature enacted to retroactively rescind Michigan’s membership in the Multistate Tax Compact (the “Compact”). Read More

Gov. Snyder appoints Professor Joan Larsen from U of M to replace Justice Kelly on the MSC

Minutes ago, Governor Snyder announced his appointment of Professor Joan Larsen to fill the Michigan Supreme Court vacancy when Justice Mary Beth Kelly leaves the bench for private practice. Read More

MSC holds that contracts with unlicensed residential builders are not “void,” contrary to statements in prior precedent

It seems esoteric, but “void” and “voidable”—a distinction that has long confused Michigan courts—may mean the difference between treble damages for conversion and no damages at all.  The Michigan Supreme Court in Epps v. 4 Quarters Restoration LLC, No. 147727, held that contracts with the homeowner might have granted the contractor authority to cash insurance checks to pay for restoration work at the time because the contracts were only ‘voidable” by the homeowner, not “void” from the start.  The Court also confirmed that the occupational code does not bar an unlicensed builder from defending against a homeowner’s claims on the merits and does not create a cause of action for homeowners. Read More

Gov. Snyder appoints Oakland Circuit Judge Colleen O’Brien to the Court of Appeals

Oakland Circuit Judge Colleen O’Brien has been named to the Michigan Court of Appeals to replace Judge Pat Donofrio, who has retired. Governor Snyder announced the appointment on Tuesday, September 29, ending any speculation that he might appoint Judge O’Brien to the Michigan Supreme Court. Read More
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