MSC rules that mandatory Michigan Sentencing Guidelines are unconstitutional; sentencing guidelines are now advisory

In People v. Lockridge, No. 149073, the Michigan Supreme Court declared the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines unconstitutional as they are currently used. The Court held that, based on decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court in Apprendi v. New Jersey, 530 U.S. 466 (2000) and Alleyne v. United States, 133 S. Ct. 2151 (2013), it violates the Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial to base a minimum sentence guidelines calculation on facts not admitted by a defendant or found by a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. The court held that, for the application of the Michigan Sentencing Guidelines to be constitutional, (1) MCL 769.34(2) must be severed to the extent that it imposes a mandatory minimum sentence based on facts not admitted by the defendant or found by a jury; (2) the requirement under MCL 769.34(3) that sentencing judges articulate substantial and compelling reasons for departing from the guidelines range must be struck down; (3) the sentencing guidelines must be advisory only. The court held that trial courts, however, must still calculate and consider the guidelines range for each defendant as part of its sentencing decision.  Read More

COA holds that The Friend of the Court office is shielded from liability when acting as an arm of the family court

In Denhof v. Challa, No. 321862, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that the Ottawa Country Friend of the Court (FOC), was shielded from liability on the basis of quasi-judicial, absolute immunity. Read More

COA: Parolees are not immune from prosecution for prison escape under MCL 750.193

In People v. McKerchie, No. 321073, the Michigan Court of Appeals clarified that a defendant who escapes from a facility, where he was placed as a condition of his parole, can be found guilty of both a parole violation and a separate charge of prison escape under MCL 750.193.   In reaching this conclusion, the Court held that MCL 750.193(3) does not provide parolees with immunity from prosecution for prison escape.  Rather, the statute simply requires the prosecutor to prove all elements of the crime (prison escape), instead of merely relying on the parole violation as the sole basis for prosecution under MCL 750.193. Read More

MSC: There is no res gestae exception to MRE 404(b)

In People v. Jackson, No. 149798, the Michigan Supreme Court held that there is no res gestae exception for Michigan Rule of Evidence (“MRE”) 404(b).  Accordingly, the trial court improperly admitted testimony from the victim’s aunt who testified at trial that defendant had engaged in prior sexual conduct with underage parishioners. However, because the Supreme Court held that the improper introduction of the evidence was not outcome determinative, defendant was not entitled to a new trial. 
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COA holds that PERA prohibits an employer from collective bargaining over any decision with regard to teacher placement

In Ionia Public Schools v. Ionia Education Association, No. 321728, the Michigan Court of Appeals concluded that, under the Public Employee Relations Act (PERA), MCL 423.201 et seq., teacher placement is a “prohibited subject of bargaining” with regard to collective bargaining.  Read More

COA: MERC erred in refusing to permit employer to pursue an alternative claim

In Faust Public Library v. AFSCME Council 25, No. 318467, the Court of Appeals found that there was competent, material, and substantial evidence to support the Michigan Employment Relations Commission’s (“MERC”) conclusion that the head of the Library’s children’s services department did not qualify as a statutory supervisor. As such, the challenged ballot cast by that employee in a union representation election would be opened and counted with the election results.  However, the Court concluded that the MERC erred in refusing to permit the Library to pursue an alternative claim that if the head of the children’s services department is a nonsupervisory position, then the heads of two other departments are also nonsupervisory positions such that the challenged ballots cast by those two employees should also be opened and counted. Read More

MSC: Defendant is entitled to new trial because trial court’s conduct created appearance of advocacy or partiality against a party

In People v. Stevens, No. 149380, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the defendant was entitled to a new trial, in front of a different judge, because the nature and tone of the judge’s demeanor during trial amounted to bias against the defendant.  In reaching this conclusion, the court ruled that a judge’s conduct violates the defendant’s constitutional right to a fair trial when, in light of all of the circumstances of trial, it is likely that the judge’s conduct created the appearance of advocacy for or partiality against a party. 
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MSC decides ninth MMMA case in just three years in latest attempt to clarify the law.

In the combined cases of People v. Hartwick, No. 148444, and People v. Tuttle, No. 148971, the Michigan Supreme Court granted defendants’ leave to appeal to once again called upon to interpret two important sections of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA).  The Court held that under Section 4, the availability of immunity is a question of law to be decided before trial, and a defendant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of evidence his or her entitlement to immunity. Under Section 8, a caregiver must present prima facie evidence of each element of the defense for him- or herself and for each registered qualifying patient to which the caregiver is connected to raise an affirmative defense.  Read More

COA: A properly crafted named-driver exclusion in a vehicle insurance policy allows insurers to exclude coverage for damages caused by specific drivers

In Frankenmuth Insurance Co. v. Poll, No. 320674, the Michigan Court of Appeals reviewed the trial court’s ruling on a motion for summary disposition as well as de novo issues involving statutory construction and construction of insurance contracts as they apply to named-driver exclusion provisions in an insurance policy under the No-Fault Act, MCL 500.3101. The Court of Appeals held that a named-driver exclusion may allow insurers to exclude specific drivers from an insurance policy. Read More

MSC rules that convictions for both OWI and OWI causing injury, arising out of same incident, violates double jeopardy

In People v. Miller, No. 149502, the Michigan Supreme Court held that conviction and punishment of both operating while intoxicated (“OWI”) and operating while intoxicated causing serious impairment of another person’s body function (“OWI-injury”) arising from the same incident violates the constitutional protection of double jeopardy. Except where explicitly authorized by statute, double jeopardy protects defendants against successive prosecutions for the same offense and against the imposition of multiple punishments for the same offense. 
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