Juvenile life sentences revisited: MSC holds that a life sentence without parole for a juvenile homicide offender is not categorically barred and Miller v. Alabama does not apply retroactively

In this consolidated appeal, People v. Carp, People v. Davis, and People v. Eliason, Case Nos. 146478, 146819, and 147428, the Michigan Supreme Court addressed two follow-up questions to the United States Supreme Court’s 2012 decision in Miller v. Alabama which addressed the constitutionality of life sentences without parole for juvenile homicide offenders.  Importantly for criminal practitioners, the court held the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S Ct 2455 (2012), was procedural in nature and therefore does not apply retroactively to juvenile cases in which direct appellate review became final before Miller was decided. Additionally, the court held that the Michigan and U.S. Constitutions do not categorically bar life sentences without parole for juveniles. Read More

COA concludes that employer's unilateral promise of severance pay was not an enforceable contract and was merely a policy that could be revoked

In Klein v. HP Pelzer Automotive Systems Inc., No 310670, the Court addressed the enforceability of an employer's promise to pay certain employees a severance package in the event their employment "is terminated or ended in any manner."  Several months later this promise was revoked by the employer, and the employees resigned and then sued to collect the severance pursuant to the earlier promise.  The trial court awarded summary to the employees, finding the promise of severance pay was an enforceable contract.  The Court of Appeals disagreed and remanded the case for an entry of summary disposition in favor of the employer. The Court concluded that as the employer's promise did not require anything of the employees, such as continuing to work for the employer for a specified period of time, it was merely a gratuity.  Additionally, the Court found that this promise was, essentially, a severance pay policy that could be changed at any time by the employer.  Thus, because the employer revoked that policy prior to the employees resignation, the employees could not recover under either an implied contract or promissory estoppel theory.   Read More

MSC to consider granting leave to define the perimeters of "penetration" for purposes of CSC-I conviction

On Monday, the Michigan Supreme Court granted mini-oral argument to consider whether the Court should grant the application for leave to appeal in People v. Overton. The Court further ordered the parties in this case to submit supplemental briefs within 42 days. The briefs are to address whether directing a victim to digitally penetrate her own body is sufficient to prove that the defendant made an “intrusion, however slight, of any part of a person’s body or of any object into the genital or anal openings of another person’s body,” sufficient to sustain a conviction for first-degree criminal sexual conduct (“CSC-I”) under MCL 750.520b. The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan and the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan have been invited to file briefs amicus curiae. Other interested groups may move the Court for permission to file briefs amicus curiae.
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COA upholds DEQ’s decision to deny oil companies’ applications for drilling permits

In Schmude Oil, Inc. v. Dep't of Environmental QualityNo. 313475, the court upheld the Department of Environmental Quality’s (“DEQ”) decision to deny a group of oil companies’ applications for permits to drill and operate Antrim Shale wells on privately owned land located within the Pigeon River Country State Forest (“PRCSF”).  The Court held that the plain language of the Pigeon River Country State Forest Hydrocarbon Development Act (“PRHDA”) restrictions on drilling applied to all land within the PRCSF boundaries.  It also rejected the companies' takings and equal protection claims because, among other things, the restrictions were in place when the companies purchased their property interests and the regulations had a rational basis.  Read More

COA holds mere presence of a warehouse does not qualify a property as industrial for tax purposes

In CVS Caremark v Michigan State Tax Commission, No. 312119, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that property is not to be classified as “industrial” under MCL 211.34c(2)(d)(ii) merely because it contains a warehouse. The definition of industrial property in Section 211.34c(2)(d) includes “[p]arcels used for utilities sites for generating plants, pumping stations, switches, substations, compressing stations, warehouses, rights-of-way, flowage land, and storage areas.” CVS argued that this definition was ambiguous and, therefore, ought to be construed in CVS’s favor—that is, all properties containing a warehouse should be classified as industrial. The COA found that the definition is not ambiguous, and that any property classified as industrial under MCL 211.34c(2)(d)(ii) must be used for “utility-related purposes.” Because CVS presented no evidence that it used the relevant property for utility-related purposes, the COA upheld the State Tax Commission’s denial of reclassification from commercial to industrial property. Read More
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