COA holds that Sanders decision, abolishing one-parent rule for termination of parental rights, has limited retroactive effect

In In re S. Kanjia, No. 320055, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that its decision in In re Sanders, No. 146680, abolishing the one-parent doctrine in termination of parental rights cases, has limited retroactive effect and will be applied to cases that were pending on appeal at the time Sanders was decided in June 2014. The one-parent doctrine formerly provided that a trial court only needed to adjudicate one parent unfit in order to establish jurisdiction over the child, and then it could issue orders regarding the child that affected both parents. In Sanders, the Court of Appeals held that this doctrine violated the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause because it interfered with the constitutionally protected parent-child relationship without a finding that the parent was unfit. Read More

COA rules that limitations period in the Court of Claims Act applies to alleged constitutional violations

In Rusha v. Department of Corrections, No. 317693, Mr. Rusha brought a claim against the Department of Corrections (DOC) alleging cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Michigan Constitution.  Rusha’s allegations are serious: that due to a questionable compensation method for independent medical contractors, prison doctors were incentivized to provide substandard care to prisoners, and as a result, Rusha was refused treatment for his previously diagnosed multiple sclerosis, eventually forcing him into a wheelchair.  The problem with Rusha’s claim, however, is that he failed to comply with the Court of Claims Act (specifically, MCL 600.6431(3)), which requires claimants alleging personal injury or property damage to either file a claim, or to provide notice of his intention to file a claim against the state, within six months.
The sole issue for the Court was whether Rusha’s failure to comply with the six-month statutory notice period of MCL 600.6431(3) barred his claim.  The COA overruled the Court of Claims and granted summary judgment for the DOC, holding that the statute provided an unambiguous condition precedent to suing the state and that a claimant’s failure to comply strictly with this notice provision warrants dismissal of the claim.  Rusha contended that because the Constitution trumps statutes, the Act’s statutory notice requirement could not interfere with his constitutional tort claim, but the Court gave scant consideration to this argument.  Instead, the Court found that the legislature may impose reasonable procedural requirements on a plaintiff’s available remedies, even when those remedies pertain to constitutional violations.   Read More

COA holds that the time of day is relevant when considering whether a building is open to the public for purposes of Michigan’s governmental tort immunity exception

In Pew v. Michigan State University, No. 317727, the Court of Appeals held that a government building is not subject to the governmental immunity exception if public access is restricted at the time of the alleged tort.   Read More

COA: The Governor did not violate the Michigan Constitution in terminating department positions

In Robert Aguirre v. Department of Corrections, No. 316918, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that Governor Snyder had express authority under the Michigan Constitution to reorganize the executive branch and the elimination of members’ positions under his restructuring Executive Order 2011-3 did not breach their contracts. The court also interpreted Order 2011-3 and found that the eliminated board members’ contracts were not transferred to the newly formed board. Read More

MCS to consider whether punishment for both OWI and OWI causing serious injury violates Double Jeopardy

In People v. Miller, Case No. 149502, the Michigan Supreme Court granted the defendant leave to appeal so the court could consider whether the Double Jeopardy Clauses of the Michigan and United States Constitutions prohibit punishment for both Operating While Intoxicated causing serious injury, MCL 257.625(5), and Operating While Intoxicated, MCL 257.625(1) and (9)(a). The compound offense of OWI causing serious injury and the predicate offense of OWI have alternative elements. The Court also ordered the parties to brief: 1) whether the existence of prior convictions under third-offense OWI, MCL 257.625(9)(c), amounts to an element for the purposes of Double Jeopardy analysis the provision punishing OWI after two prior OWI convictions, MCL 257.625(9)(c); and, 2) whether punishment for both third-offense OWI and OWI causing serious bodily injury violates the Double Jeopardy Clause.
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