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One Court of Justice Blog

Dec 2016
12
December 12, 2016

COA holds identities of anonymous bloggers protected by First Amendment

In Fazlul Sarkar v John Doe, Nos. 326667 and 326691, the Court of Appeals held that the identities of anonymous bloggers who comment on other's research online are protected by the First Amendment.  

Dec 2016
09
December 09, 2016

Two MSC justices recuse themselves, leaving 5 to hear a recount petition appeal

Chief Justice Young and Justice Joan Larsen have recused themselves from participating in two cases challenging the recount of votes by the Board of State Canvassers because President-Elect Donald Trump is a party to one of the cases and they both appear on Trump's list of 21 potential nominees to fill the vacancy on the United States Supreme Court.  See Donald J Trump v Board of State Canvassers, No 335958 and Attorney General v Board of State Canvassers No. 335947.  Justice Larson readily recused herself, whereas Chief Justice Young did so only reluctantly, stating that "anybody can make a list" and the chances of being selected from the list is remote and both “speculatively hypothetical and in his case, improbable.”  The Court highlighted the duty to sit is required because justices who recuse themselves cannot be replaced. Thus, their disqualification alters the composition of the Court that the citizens have chosen thereby disrupting the decision-making process in a particular case. Neither Chief Justice Young nor Justice Larsen sought inclusion on the list and both disclaimed any notice or contact with the President-Elect. Though Chief Justice Young highlighted that recusal is mandated only when a judge is actually biased and cannot impartially hear a case, both disclaimed any actual bias and no one claimed otherwise. The justices instead granted the motion for disqualification because of the unique circumstances of the case and to avoid any perceived conflict. Interestingly, the Chief Justice noted that this case in particular called out for judicial restraint, and strongly suggested that his classmate, United States District Court Judge Mark Goldsmith, should have exercised more restraint, rather than ordering the recount to begin earlier than state laws allowed.

Dec 2016
08
December 08, 2016

COA: Deliberately withholding information from police during criminal investigation may result in felony charge

It is one thing to plead the Fifth Amendment and make no statement to police at all, it is quite another to deliberately mislead police by making a statement that omits material information.  In People v Williams, No. 330853, the Court of Appeals held that a person who withholds material information in the course of making a statement to police during a criminal investigation runs the risk of being charged with a felony under MCL 750.479c. This provision makes it a felony to “[k]nowingly and willfully make any statement to [a] peace office [sic] that the person knows is false or misleading regarding a material fact in [a] criminal investigation.”  In this case, Jamari Williams said he and two friends were riding in a car the night of his pregnant girlfriend’s murder and divulged the stops they had made, but the police later found evidence that the car had parked briefly at her apartment—a stop Williams had not disclosed—and Williams later admitted that a fourth person was in the car.  This was sufficient to bind over the defendant for trial on the charge of misleading an officer.

Dec 2016
04
December 04, 2016

Court of Appeals clarifies that not all false accusations of criminal behavior will constitute defamation per se

Despite a series of inconsistent opinions throughout the years, in Lakin v Rund, No. 323695, the Court of Appeals adhered to Taylor v Kneeland, 1 Doug 67, 72 (1843), in clarifying what types of crimes were actionable in a defamation per se action.  The Court concluded that a false accusation of simple battery would only constitute defamation per se if the crime of battery subjects a plaintiff to an “infamous punishment,” which the Court concluded it did not.

Dec 2016
04
December 04, 2016

Crime victims generally have no right to intervene in claims brought by the State Treasurer under the State Correctional Facility Reimbursement Act, says the Court of Appeals

In State Treasurer v. Bences, No. 327657, the Court of Appeals held that a crime victim’s restitution order does not create a perfected interest in a claim under the State Correctional Facility Reimbursement Act (“SCFRA”).  Because the restitution order does not take priority over the Treasury’s SCFRA claim, the victim cannot intervene in the suit.

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