MSC to determine whether pre-Sanders decisions relying on defunct “one parent doctrine” may be collaterally attacked

Earlier this summer, in In re Sanders, No. 146680, the Michigan Supreme Court held that the “one-parent doctrine” is unconstitutional based on due process grounds. The one-parent doctrine allowed a trial court to terminate the rights of a parent who did not participate in adjudication, so long as the other parent participated.  The "one parent doctrine" had been a longstanding doctrine and many courts had relied on it, including the court in In re Farris, No. 311967.  The Supreme Court previously ordered the application for leave to appeal in Farris to be held in abeyance pending the Sanders outcome.
Significant to Farris, the Supreme Court in In re Hatcher, 505 N.W.2d 834 (1993), held that a parent’s collateral attack on the probate court’s assumption of subject matter jurisdiction was improper. There the Court reasoned that, although the court erroneously exercised its discretion in applying jurisdiction, it had general jurisdiction over the cause and parties. The Court further explained that a discretionary error such as the one made in Hatcher will not render an opinion void or subject to collateral attack unless formally set aside.  Now the question is, how many prior court decisions are open to question as a result of Sanders.

The Court has now granted leave in Farris, No. 147636, on the following issues:
(1)   whether and to what extent the collateral attack analysis in Hatcher extends to the due process issues disposed of by Sanders;
(2)   whether the Court of Appeals properly applied the plain error standard of review in light of Hatcher;
(3)   to the extent a collateral attack is permissible, whether the Court’s decision in Sanders applies retroactively to this case; and
(4) if so, what is the appropriate remedy.
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Criminal defendant has unqualified right to withdraw guilty plea where court never accepted plea on the record

A criminal defendant has an unqualified right to withdraw a guilty plea under MCR 6.31(A) where the court never accepted the plea on the record. In People v. Dyer, No. 148861, the Michigan Supreme Court remanded to the circuit court to allow the defendant, who was charged with offenses related to domestic violence, to withdraw his guilty plea because the court never accepted the plea on the record prior to sentencing. The Michigan Supreme Court also noted that the judgment of sentence reflected an overpayment to the defendant’s trial counsel, which is to be corrected if the defendant decides not to withdraw his guilty plea. If he does withdraw his plea, imposition of attorney fees is not permitted under MCL 769.1k(1)(b)(iii).
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MSC to consider another converting another's wine to one's "own use" can mean something besides drinking or selling it

Obviously, the best use of wine is drinking it.  But there may be many ways to use another’s wine that will run afoul of Michigan’s conversion statute.  The Michigan Supreme Court has granted leave to appeal in Aroma Wines and Equipment v. Columbian Distribution Services Inc., No. 148907, on the question of whether a storage facility converted Aroma Wines’ stored cases of wine for its own use by holding them as collateral for payment and, at one point, removing them from climate-controlled storage.  As the Court of Appeals noted, the precise meaning of the phrase “own use” in the context of this statute has never been addressed. Read More

MSC to consider whether failure to properly swear the jury requires new trial

In People v. Cain, No. 149259, the Michigan Supreme Court granted the prosecutor’s application for leave to appeal the Court of Appeals’ May 2, 2014 order which granted the defendant’s motion for peremptory reversal based on failure to properly swear the jury. The Court of Appeals found that failure to properly swear a jury is considered a structural error that requires a new trial under People v. Allan, 299 Mich App 205; 829 NW2d 319 (2013). The Supreme Court will consider whether the Court of Appeals correctly concluded that the failure to properly swear the jury is a structural error that warrants a new trial, even if the parties failed to offer a timely objection. The Supreme Court invited the Criminal Defense Attorneys of Michigan and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan to file briefs amicus curiae.
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People v. Smart back at MSC: Court grants mini-oral argument to consider if a prosecuting attorney must be present for statements made in plea discussions to be excluded under MRE 410(4)

The Michigan Supreme Court has granted oral argument to consider the prosecutor’s application for leave to appeal in People v. Smart, No. 149040.  Smart concerns the question of whether, for purposes of excluding a defendant’s statement made during plea negotiations under MRE 410, the plea negotiations must directly involving a prosecuting attorney. Here, the defendant made numerous incriminating statements during meetings between the defendant, his attorney, and the detective.  At least one of the meetings was scheduled at the defendant’s request because he sought to secure a better plea deal.  The trial court held the defendant’s statements inadmissible under MRE 410 because the statements were made during the course of plea negotiations.  The Court of Appeals affirmed.  However, the court did not address the issue of whether a prosecuting attorney must be directly involved in the discussions, because it found that the prosecutor had conceded that some of the defendant’s statements were excluded under MRE 410(4), even though no prosecutor was present at the meetings.

This is the second time that Smart has appeared on the Michigan Supreme Court's docket.  In February 2014, the Court affirmed the order of the trial court suppressing the incriminating statements made by the defendant, finding that the defendant had reasonably believed his statements were made in the course of negotiating a plea deal.  Our post regarding this February 2014 ruling is here.
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