Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Want to go to law school for less? Get into Wayne State Law School.

Wayne State University Law School is battling a drop in enrollment with a tuition freeze and guaranteed scholarships for every incoming student.

The Detroit law school says in a press release that tuition will be frozen at about $28,000 for all incoming and current students through at least the 2015-16 school year. In addition, the school is guaranteeing scholarships of at least $4,000 annually to all incoming students and offering nearly $1 million in new scholarship opportunities to current students. TaxProf Blog noted coverage in the Detroit Free Press.

Article here (via abajournal). 

Monday, October 20, 2014

Mom's facebook message to Dad not sufficient notice about adoption, court rules

A pregnant unwed mother can’t use Facebook alone to notify the father about the baby before putting the child up for adoption, Oklahoma’s highest civil court has ruled.

The case was the latest to test the legal weight of communication through Facebook and other social media. Previously, for instance, courts have debated whether a plaintiff in a lawsuit could use Facebook to serve legal papers — such as summonses or hearing notices — on a defendant.

Article here.  (via Wall Street Journal law blog).

Friday, October 17, 2014

Requiring sex offenders to disclose online screen names isn't a Free Speech violation, says court.

A Pennsylvania law requiring convicted sex offenders to reveal their Internet aliases does not violate the First Amendment, according to an en banc panel of Pennsylvania’s intermediate-level Commonwealth Court.

The sex offender, Richard Coppolino, had alleged the law violated his right to anonymous online speech, report the Legal Intelligencer and the Allentown Morning Call. He alleged the reporting requirement was overbroad because it was intended to protect minors, but his crime did not involve a minor or the Internet.

Article here (via ABA journal).

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Incapacitated individuals and family law: who can file for divorce?

Q: Can a guardian or conservator file for divorce on behalf of an incapacitated individual?

A: Yes. 

The Michigan Court of Appeals has recently ruled on this issue. See In Re: Burnett Estate,
834 NW 2d 93 - Mich: Court of Appeals 2013.

If an individual becomes incapacitated, it's likely that he or she will then have a person acting for him or her. It could be a conservator -- who's in control of his or her finances, or a guardian -- who's in control of his or her personal decisions (like where to live, what doctors to see, etc.). 

That guardian or conservator -- whether appointed by a court or selected through another method-- is allowed under Michigan law to file suit, and be sued on the incapacitated individual's behalf. (See Michigan Court Rules 3.202 (A) and 2.201 (E)). Under the Burnett case, that includes a suit for divorce (and, presumably custody). 

In the Burnett case, a divorce was filed by the conservators of the Plaintiff. The Defendant later motioned the court for summary judgment, asking for the circuit court judge to dismiss the action, based on the case being filed by a conservator.

The circuit court dismissed the summary judgment motion, saying a conservator does have authority to file on behalf of an incapacitated individual. Other issues existed in the case. But once the case was decided, the Defendant appealed on multiple grounds, including the grounds that the conservator should not have been allowed to file, and that the circuit court should have granted the summary judgment motion.

The Court of Appeals disagreed with this ground of Defendant's appeal, and interpreted the Court Rules to allow for a divorce to be filed by a conservator or guardian.

"Had the legislature intended to prohibit an action by a guardian on behalf of a spouse, it could have expressly said so in the language of [the statute]." Burnett, at 97.

Have more questions about family law or estate planning (or the inter-twining of the two)? Ask me! Post your comments or questions on this blog. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Prison sentence for man who assaulted his girlfriend for not wanting him to go to strip clubs

A Traverse City man was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for trying to strangle his girlfriend who, according to investigators, did not like him going to strip clubs.

Article here

Dissent makes strange companions: Ginsberg, Scalia and Thomas join in dissent

"Cert" or certiorari, is the process whereby  the US Supreme Court decides whether to hear a case. A party  -- who has already had a ruling from a "lower" court -- has to petition the US Supreme to hear the case. This is called a "petition for certiorari." When the justices review a case, but decide not to hear any oral argument, they deny its certiorari (which leads to its being "cert denied").

Justices can, but most often do not, write a dissent against cert being denied. Why? Because the justices would be writing them all the time. The vast majority of cases that are appealed to the US Supremes are denied.

So it's unusual for justices to write a dissent about denial of a cert petition. And it's more rare still when justices Ginsberg, Scalia, and Thomas, who usually have such otherwise- opposing view points, join in that dissent.

Article here.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the dissent (PDF), joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “The present petition presents the nonhypothetical case the court claimed to have been waiting for,” Scalia wrote.

Jurors had convicted three drug defendants in the case for distributing small amounts of crack cocaine, but acquitted the defendants of conspiring to distribute drugs. The sentencing judge nonetheless found that the defendants had engaged in the conspiracy and, relying largely on that finding, calculated guidelines ranges that were much higher than for distribution convictions.
“Petitioners present a strong case that, but for the judge’s finding of fact, their sentences would have been ‘substantively unreasonable’ and therefore illegal,” Scalia wrote. “If so, their constitutional rights were violated.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Justice in Stapleton case, according to Autism Advocates

Kelli Stapleton, a mom in Northern Michigan, attempted to kill her autistic daughter and herself in 2013, and was charged with first-degree child abuse.

Stapleton was sentenced earlier yesterday, and received the maximum penalty under Michigan's sentencing guidelines for the crime.

The Autism Self Advocacy Network (ASAN) celebrates the success of the justice system in a press release today.

Article here (via mlive).

By imposing a similar sentence as would be expected for someone who committed the same crime against a non-disabled child, the court has sent the message that Issy’s life was as valued as any other.