MSC to hear mini-oral argument on whether evidence of “dissimilar” acts of sexual abuse is admissible in CSC case

The Michigan Supreme Court scheduled mini-oral argument to decide whether to grant leave to appeal in in People v. Uribe, No. 151899.  This criminal appeal concerns the question of whether the trial court abused its discretion in denying the admission of testimony, under MCL 768,27a, that the defendant had molested another young victim, because the court found that the abuse was “dissimilar” to the abuse alleged in this case. Additionally, the Court has ordered the parties to address whether the Court of Appeals properly applied People v. Watkins, which held that MRE 403’s exclusionary power should be used even more sparingly in the context of evidentiary determinations made pursuant to MCL 768.27a, in reversing the trial court’s ruling.
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COA determines that a member of the public lacks standing because the statute provides no legal cause of action for the public

In White v. Highland Park Election Commission, No. 329222, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the plaintiff lacked standing to challenge MCL 168.674(2), an election statute, because her legal cause of action was no different than any other member of the public.  The statute requires appointment of at least one election inspector from each major party.  The Commission did not appoint any Republican inspectors.  Plaintiff brought suit.  The trial court determined:  1) the plaintiff lacked standing to challenge the political party composition because the statute designated that right to the county chairs of major political parties; and 2) the defendants did not violate MCL 168.674(2) because no Republican representatives applied to be an election inspector. Read More

COA: Estate planning documents that name the drafting attorney as a beneficiary are not per se invalid

The Michigan Court of Appeals held in In re Mardigian Estate, No. 319023, that a will and a trust that devised gifts to the drafting attorney and his family were not per se invalid.  Rather, the proponents of the documents must overcome the presumption of undue influence arising from the attorney-client relationship. Read More

COA: No time limit for trial court to correct Judgment of Sentence to impose lifetime electronic monitoring for CSC-I conviction

In People v Comer, No. 318854, the Michigan Court of Appeals reaffirmed that a defendant convicted of criminal sexual conduct in the first degree (“CSC-I”) is subject to mandatory lifetime electronic monitoring, even if the trial court mistakenly omitted the electronic monitoring from defendant’s first Judgment of Sentence.  The court further held that a trial court is empowered to correct an invalid sentence at any time, in this case 20 months later to provide for lifetime electronic monitoring. MCR 6.429(A) does not impose a time limit for correcting an invalid sentence.  
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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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