COA concludes that donors’ names are subject to FOIA disclosure

In Bitterman v Village of Oakely, No. 320985, the Court of Appeals held that citizens can request the names of those who donate private funds to public use under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) without triggering FOIA’s privacy exemption.  In addition, information regarding police reservists is only exempt from FOIA requests under its law enforcement exemption if their powers and duties actually relate to law enforcement.  Thus, the Court of Appeals reversed the circuit court’s grant of summary disposition in favor of the Village to the extent that the court declined to order disclosure of the names of police fund donors, and remanded for further proceedings as to whether the Village’s police reservists qualify as law enforcement officers or agents within FOIA’s law enforcement exception. Read More

COA affirms torture, home invasion, and assault convictions in one of the worst criminal cases it has ever seen.

In People v Cooper, No. 318159, the Court of Appeals affirmed the jury’s decision to convict the defendant of first-degree home invasion, assault with intent to commit murder, and torture.  Defendant, a 12th habitual offender, has been sentenced to spend the rest of his life in prison.  The details of the home invasion and assault are, according to the Court of Appeals, among the worst it has seen. On appeal, the Defendant argued that his trial court was ineffective for pursuing questions with several witnesses which elicited testimony regarding defendant’s history of drug dealing, for failing to cross-examine one Government witness, and for failing to object to “prosecutorial misconduct”.  The Court of Appeals disagreed and ruled that counsel’s trial strategy was not ineffective, especially, because counsel was, in large part, acting in accordance with defendant’s instructions to discredit the witnesses.  Further, the mere disclosure of a plea agreement, which includes a provision for truthful testimony, does not constitute improper vouching or bolstering of a witness by the prosecutor.  Accordingly, defendant’s trial counsel was not ineffective for failing to object to this testimony.
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Court of Appeals finds Ferris is entitled to attorney fees against law firm for frivolous case

Asserting frivolous claims against Ferris State University will cost Cummings, McClorey, Davis & Acho, P.L.C. and its client nearly $300,000.  In Bonacci v. Ferris State University, Nos. 318136, 319101, the trial court concluded that the law firm, which represents various community colleges, failed to adequately investigate the factual basis of the employment claims it asserted on behalf of Plaintiff Bonacci against Ferris in violation of MCR 2.114.  The Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversing only the award of appellate fees.
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COA holds that prosecution must provide notice of intent to use other acts evidence in writing or orally in open court under MRE 404(b)(2)

In People v. Johnson, No. 317206, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that if it intends to introduce other acts evidence under MRE 404(b)(1), the prosecution must provide notice in writing or orally in open court. A jury convicted the defendant of second-degree home invasion, MCL 750.110a(3). At trial, a witness testified about a similar burglary that had been linked to the defendant. On appeal, the defendant argued that the witness’s testimony was inadmissible other-acts evidence under MRE 404(b)(1) and MRE 404(b)(2).  
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COA upholds former Assistant Attorney General’s just-cause termination for public anti-gay remarks

In a case that has garnered immense public scrutiny, former Michigan Assistant Attorney General Andrew Shirvell appealed his termination after participating in numerous high-profile television interviews denouncing then president of the University of Michigan’s Student Assembly, Chris Armstong, as a “racist liar,” who used his position to promote his “radical homosexual agenda.”  In Shirvell v. Dep’t of Attorney General, Nos. 314223, 314227, and 316146, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s decisions upholding Shirvell’s termination and reversed the trial court’s determination that his actions did not amount to misconduct sufficient to disqualify him for unemployment benefits.  Read More

COA holds municipalities may provide electrical delivery services to customers outside of city limits so long as another utility company is not presently providing such services

The Michigan Court of Appeals in the consolidated opinions of Holland v. Consumers Energy Corp. No 315541 and City of Coldwater v. Consumers Energy, No 320181 held that a customer receiving electrical services by a municipality outside of that municipality's boundary is lawful provided that no other utility company was presently providing the services. Further, the Court held that the Michigan Public Service Commission ("PSC") has no authority to regulate municipal distribution of electrical services. Read More

COA holds that a trial court's decision terminating parental rights under the one-parent rule may be challenged on direct appeal

The Michigan Court of Appeals in In re S. Kanjia Minor, No 320055, vacated its previous order and held that if a parent was not a party to the termination proceedings and had its rights terminated under the one-parent rule that parent may contest the findings on direct appeal. It further held that the Sanders decision has limited retroactive effect. Read More

COA holds Quiet Title statute is constitutional and clarifies a party's right to a jury under the statute

The Michigan Court of Appeals in New Products Corp. v. Harbor Shores BHBT Land Development, LLC, No 317309, held that the Michigan Quiet Title Statute, MCL 600.2932, is constitutional and permits the trial court to determine whether the action is in equity or in law to decide a party's right to a jury trial. Read More

MSC grants oral argument to consider several parts of the Revocation of Paternity Act

The Michigan Supreme Court granted leave to appeal the Michigan Court of Appeals' decision in Glaubius v. Glaubius.
The Plaintiff and Defendant were married for four years and during this time the Plaintiff became pregnant and gave birth to a daughter. Soon after the child's birth, the couple divorced and both parties agreed in a divorce settlement to joint legal custody and a visitation schedule for the Defendant. Later, the Plaintiff filed a motion under the Revocation of Paternity Act (RPA) contesting the Defendant's paternity. The Defendant first argued that he was an "affiliated father" under the RPA rather than a "presumed father" which placed a greater burden on Plaintiff to revoke paternity. He next argued that the divorce judgment constituted a determination of paternity and that res judicata barred the Plaintiff's action to revoke his paternity. The Court of Appeals determined that the Defendant was a presumed father under the RPA; that the issue of paternity was not decided by the trial court in the divorce judgment; and that res judicata did not bar the claim.
The Supreme Court has asked the parties to brief and argue (1) Whether the Defendant was a presumed father or an affiliated father under MCL 7202.1443; (2) Whether the Plaintiff lacked a remedy under the RPA for the reason that the divorce judgment precluded her effort to obtain a determination that the minor child was born out of wedlock; and (3) whether the claim was barred by res judicata.
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MSC vacates COA’s opinion where it provides a hypothetical that modifies the defendants’ business purpose

In lieu of granting leave to appeal, the Michigan Supreme Court in Bailey v. Schaaf, No. 149311, vacated part of the Court of Appeals opinion that set forth a hypothetical scenario in which several defendants, Hi-Tech Protection and its two security guards, were not in the business of providing security. The Court then denied the application for leave to appeal in all other respects because the Court was not persuaded that the questions presented should be reviewed. Read More
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