Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Store owner guilty of food stamp fraud, money laundering, now accused of avoiding cigarette tax

This guy fits the definition of "doesn't know when to quit."

Fresh from a two-year stint in federal prison, former gas station and convenience store owner Hai “Henry” Bui could be looking at time in state prison for illegally selling cigarettes.
Bui, 41, was released from federal prison on Aug. 27 after he was sentenced to 27 months behind bars in U.S. District Court in July 2011.

Article here.

Survey: 47% of Michigan leaders support Right-to-Work

Just under half of local government leaders in Michigan support the state’s year-old right-to-work law, but they don’t approve of an exemption the Legislature gave to police officers and firefighters, according to a University of Michigan survey to be released today.

article here. 

So, in other words, the law doesn't have as much support as it could, and those who do support it wish that it were written differently, so that police officers & firefighters were treated the same as others.

What to buy that nerdy, weird lawyer on your gift list

Figurines and trading cards!

Article here. (from the TaxProf blog).

Monday, December 16, 2013

Can corporations have a religious viewpoint protected by the Constitution?

That's the issue in the Supreme Court case Sibelius vs. Hobby Lobby.

The question is whether Hobby Lobby, based on the religious objections of its owners can deny its employees health insurance for contraceptives to which they would otherwise be entitled by federal law.

article here. (from the State Bar of Michigan blog), here (Volokh Conspiracy), and here (Balkanization).

Are Florida's advertising restrictions so overbroad that Abe Lincoln would have violated them?

State Bar associations get to write the rules as to how attorneys can advertise in that state. Some states are more restrictive than others. Florida is known for having a rather strict State Bar. And it's advertising rules are currently the subject of a lawsuit.

Article here. 

The plaintiffs (a law firm)
"complain that for decades the Florida Bar has "stood apart from the rest of the nation in the restrictiveness of its rules governing lawyer advertising," but  that now, well, they've really just gone too far . . .Indeed, Florida’s rules are so broad that they would have subjected Abraham Lincoln to discipline for stating, in an 1852 newspaper advertisement, that his firm handled business with “promptness and fidelity”—two words that are no more “objectively verifiable” than those the Bar concludes violate its ethics rules here.

A Year-in-Review of the Michigan Legislature.

Accomplishments this year include:
■ Establishing a hunt for up to 43 gray wolves in the Upper Peninsula, thwarting an anti-wolf hunt group’s efforts to get a repeal of the hunt on the 2014 ballot.
■ Adopting Common Core standards for education, which are a national set of expectations of what students need to know in order to be career- and college-ready when they leave high school. The standards were developed by the National Governors’ Association and have been adopted by 45 states.

Article here. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

What does lake-effect snow look like? A view of Michigan from 438 miles up

When bitter arctic air passes over the warmer waters of the lakes, it picks up moisture that eventually falls as snow if the right amount of ingredients come together. 

article here.

FCC versus Department of Transportation: Can you make a cell phone call while in flight?

The FCC is debating ending the prohibition on in-flight calls. But the Department of Transportation is thinking of creating a ban if that happens.

Article here.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

What to get for that lawyer on your gift list

The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.

From Above the Law

Motorcycle helmet debate continues in Michigan, where riders can choose not to use helmets

The law allows motorcyclists to ride without a helmet if they are at least 21 years old and and have been licensed to operate a motorcycle for at least two years or have passed a motorcycle safety course. . . .
The law repealed a provision in the state vehicle code that required all motorcyclists to wear helmets without exception.
Whether the law has resulted in more motorcycle deaths is a matter of ongoing debate.

article here.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A brief history of why law practice has changed

The force that rules law practice today is competition: To comprehend the profession’s economic trajectory, we have to understand the tremendous rise in market competition for legal services.

article here. 

Mr. Mom: Is This a Reality Now? High Achieving Moms Have Stay-at-Home Husbands

There was big news flash splashed across the front page of Sunday’s New York Times: superachieving moms on Wall Street have househusbands! The article pointed to a tenfold increase (since 1980) in the number of women in finance with stay-at-home spouses, allowing them to achieve success without the distractions of domesticity and child rearing.

article here.

Former lunch lady pleads not guilty to bribing students to beat up classmate

The former Campus Elementary lunchroom aide who allegedly paid $1 to have a fourth-grader beaten up by classmates has entered a not guilty plea, according to Grand Rapids District Court records.
Brooke Wilson-Johnson, 19, was scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday, Dec. 11, but opted to walk into court on Monday, Dec. 9, and make a plea and pay $200 bail for the Oct. 7 incident that got her fired.

article here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Does your law practice need updating? Technology concerns?

Do you have a tendency to be slow to change your ways? Have you resisted changing due to technological issues? It's not just a quaint thing, for lawyers to resist change & act in Luddite-like ways: instead, it's possible that a lawyer who fails to change due to technology could be facing ethical violations.

Article here. 

IRS used Google Maps to spy on taxpayers and organizations

Agents from the IRS are using Google Maps as part of their tool kit to audit taxpayers and organizations, The Daily Caller has learned.
A redacted IRS letter dated Sept. 8, 2011 [Priv. Ltr. Rul. 2013-13-031] reveals that at least in one case the IRS’s examiners used photos of a property, obtained through Google Maps, as evidence to revoke the 501(c)(4) status of a homeowner’s association.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Local public defender to be laid to rest this weekend

The unanimous verdict is that the Kent County Courts Building will be a less interesting place following the untimely death of one of Michigan’s longest-serving public defenders.

Thomas Parker died Nov. 29 at the age of 68, he would have turned 69 next month.

Article here. 

Federal agents say fake IDs produced in Wyoming, Michigan house; sold in Grand Rapids

After a months-long investigation, police have arrested two suspects who allegedly created and sold fake documents, including fraudulent permanent residency cards and Social Security cards, federal records show.

Tito Perez-Mijangos and Joel Baron-Vidal are named in a criminal complaint alleging the two conspired to produce and transfer fake identifications. The arrests are among a string in recent years where fraudulent documents have been produced, often in houses in Wyoming, and sold throughout the Grand Rapids area.

Article here. 

On this day: Prohibition was repealed!

Today is a great day for freedom. On this day in 1933, the 21st Amendment was ratified, thus repealing Prohibition. I plan to celebrate later with a home-brewed beer!

See: http://repealday.org/
Article here. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

MEA tells legislators Union Bylaws don't conflict with Michigan's Right to Work

Representatives from the Michigan Education Association told lawmakers investigating the union's compliance with the state's right-to-work law that its practices are in compliance with the law.

Article here.

Doug Pratt, the union's temporary director of member benefits, told the Senate Compliance and Accountability Committee on Wednesday that the union's "August window" for member withdrawals was protected by provisions of the right-to-work law passed one year ago.
"MEA is confident that we are consistently and fairly implementing our organization's rules about membership resignation, and that those rules are lawful," Pratt told the committee.

Grand Rapids man who robbed bank to keep home sentenced to prison

A man who robbed a Chase Bank branch on Plainfield Avenue NE in July was sentenced Wednesday, Dec. 4, to two years in federal prison followed by three years on supervised release.

Blaise James Balczak, 44, implied he had a weapon when he handed a demand note to a teller, but he didn't have weapon.

article here. 

Balczak wrote an  apology letter to the bank and the tellers. U.S. District Judge Robert Holmes Bell ordered Balczak to begin his prison term immediately.

Property Owners may face jail time in Michigan anti-blight bills

Michigan cities would have the tools to fight blight in quicker, more effective ways under a bill that passed the state Senate Thursday and are now on their way to Gov. Rick Snyder.

Article here. 

Are you an attorney? Do you always feel pressed for time? Blame law school.

Time management complaints begin early in students’ legal education and generally go unresolved. As a result, practicing attorneys identify time famine as a leading cause of job dissatisfaction. To better arm graduating students, law schools must treat time as an essential component of practice-readiness. Unfortunately, most law schools ignore their students’ time management concerns, despite growing calls for greater “skills” training in legal education.

Article here. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mysterious "tipsforjesus" patron may have visited Michigan

Employees at two Ann Arbor bars have seen some unusually big tips this year.
The Ann Arbor News reports that in September a $3,000 tip was left for an $87.98 bill at Bar Louie and $7,000 for a $200 bill at Alley Bar.

article here.

Why smart people can write so badly

Bottom line: It's content (what you mean to say) versus status (how you say it is so important it gets in the way of how you want to say it.)

Brian Garner, legal writing maven, released an interview with David Foster Wallace that sums this up quite nicely. Article (from state bar of Michigan blog) here.  also article (from ABA journal) here.

Mary Free Bed Hospital sued for discrimination

Grand Rapids - A nursing supervisor is suing Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, alleging the hospital granted a family's request not to have black employees care for a white male patient.
Jill Crane, a nurse and employee of the hospital since 2000, accuses the hospital of racial discrimination in the lawsuit filed Nov. 27 in U.S. District Court in Grand Rapids.

Article here.

Not law-related: Santa's NORAD tracker has added fighter jets to the simulator

NORAD, the US (and Canadian) air defense command for North America, has been “tracking” Santa Claus since the 1950s, and this year, for the first time, it’s going to include fighter jets in the animation video  it produces of Santa’s flight. 

article here.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How does the law apply to custody of unborn children?

What if a pregnant mother leaves the state, then files for temporary custody in the new state? This isn't just a hypothetical question, it's being played out in a custody battle in New York state between an Olympic skier and his girlfriend.

Article here.

The legal question is whether the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act gives courts authority to determine the custody, or jurisdiction of custody cases, based on the location of the pregnant mother. The tabloid question is who gets to raise baby Samuel Bode Miller-McKenna -- son of Olympic downhill ski legend Bode Miller and a former Marine he met through a "high-end" match-making service -- and where. The New York Times covers the story in "Custody Battle Raises Questions About the Rights of Women."

6 issues the Michigan legislature will likely address before the Holidays

The list:
1. Ban on traditional abortion insurance coverage.
2. Campaign finance reform.
3. Medical marijuana.
4. Education.
5. Medicaid expansion.
6. No fault insurance

Article here.

Monday, December 2, 2013

WSJ: Is now a good time to apply to law school?

As law school class sizes shrink and the legal job market shows signs of life, some industry observers are wondering whether it’s a smart time to apply to law school. It’s a debate that pits optimists against pessimists, both of whom make good points.

Article here. 

Michigan bill would make it easier to take your roadkill home.

Senate Bill 613 would allow a motorist to take the animal for eating and other uses, such as baiting, and keep a written record of where and when it was hit and get the salvage tag later. Finding appropriate authorities to provide a salvage tag after raccoon runovers and deer dents is inconvenient, Sen. Darwin Booher, (R-Evart) said, noting that road-killed animals sometimes stay put for weeks.

Article here.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Wednesday before Thanksgivng is one of the biggest "bar nights" of the year.

Since the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is one of the biggest "bar nights" of the year, here is a review of drunk driving law in Michigan. Don't take risks that could be avoided!

If you're thinking about going out for a night of drinking, and then getting behind the wheel, here are some things to consider.

Michigan law regards any BAC (blood alcohol content) above .08 percent as "impaired" driving, for a driver who is over age 21. Of drivers under age 21, any BAC at .02 percent or above is considered impaired (also known as "zero tolerance" of impaired driving for underage drivers). Also, it's illegal to drive under the influence of any amount of cocaine or a Schedule 1 controlled substance in your body. (For more information about Schedule 1 drugs, see section 7212 of the Michigan Public Health Code; MCL 333.7212.)

If you're impaired (between .08 - .16 percent BAC) and this is a first offense**, fines and penalties will be:
  • Up to $500 fine
  • Up to 93 days in jail
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Up to 180 days license suspension
  • 6 points on a driver's license. 
  • There's also the possibility you'll be required to use an ignition interlock device.
  • A reinstatement fee of $125 if your driver's license was suspended, revoked, or restricted. (More information at MSP and Michigan SOS).
  • This doesn't include lost time at work, lost wages from attending court, meetings with your attorney, time spent doing all the required community service, paying your attorney, and so on.  

Michigan has changed its law recently to include a higher BAC  with a higher penalty, also known as the "Super Drunk" law. If your BAC was .17 or higher,and this was a first offense, penalties are:
  • Up to $700 fine
  • Up to 180 days in jail
  • Up to 360 hours of community service
  • Up to one year license suspension
  • 6 points on a driver's license
  • Mandatory completion of an alcohol treatment program
  • Ignition interlock use and compliance after 45 days license suspension is required to receive a restricted driver's license. Convicted drunk drivers have limited driving privileges, are prohibited from operating a vehicle without an approved and properly installed ignition interlock device, and are responsible for all installation and upkeep costs for the device.
  • A reinstatement fee of $125 if your driver's license was suspended, revoked, or restricted. (More information at MSP and Michigan SOS
Michigan "ratchets up" fines and penalties when it's a second or third offense, with a third offense being a felony. And penalties go up if there's a death or serious injury. Also, refusing to take a chemical test to test your BAC results in a license suspension. But if you're still in the car, and not arrested yet, the PBT (preliminary breath test) and other roadside sobriety tests can be refused. Related article from my blog here. 

If you already have gotten arrested for drunk driving, it's essential that you hire an attorney who can defend you in court. A good defense attorney can perhaps get results of your BAC test thrown out, suppress incriminating statements you may have made, or perhaps throw out the traffic stop altogether. 

Want to calculate your potential BAC? Try this website.  Keep in mind that what you ate, how long ago it was, how close together your drinks were, how much you weigh, and how often you drink are all factors that can affect your BAC.

** And there are no fatalities or serious bodily injury. Different fines apply for drivers with a CDL endorsement as well.  

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Michigan Courts promote adoption across state

Michigan is celebrating adoption with public events in at least 30 counties and at the Supreme Court in Lansing.

article here.

About 2,300 children were adopted through the state or private agencies in the budget year that ended Sept. 30.

Why now is a good time to apply to law school

From the article:
These comments are addressed to a specific audience: those who think they want to be lawyers some day and are simply not pulling the trigger on applying because of all the bad news. Here’s why I think [the bad news] is a mistake.

article here. 

Holliday office party coming up? Here's some tips for you - 5 ways to shine at holiday office parties

Holiday office party coming up? Worried about the impression you're giving off? Here's an article that will help.

Personally, I can only take small talk for a short while before I hope the conversation turns to a topic with content.The way I turn the conversation from small talk to other topics, is by bringing up books, movies, or weekend hobbies. This also steers clear of "talking shop" at the party.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Kent County Commissioner out of jail on multiple sex charges

Kent County Commissioner Gary Rolls, facing sexual-assault charges that date to 1994, has posted $500,000 bond and been released from the Kent County Correctional Facility.

article here.

Rolls, 47, is facing four charges of first-degree criminal-sexual conduct, potential life offenses if he's convicted. Three of the charges involve sex assaults of a child. Another allegedly occurred when the victim was 17.
He’s also accused of using a computer to solicit another to tamper with evidence, and tampering with evidence, both 10-year felonies.

What should the mindset of a judge be?


SCOTUSBlog has an 8-part interview with 4th Circuit federal judge J. Harvie Wilkinson, III, who has established a sturdy reputation as a "conservative" judge, but nails what the mindset of a judge needs to be:

article here.

From the interview:
I think when judges sit on the bench — this applies at all levels — we don’t really think about ourselves as ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal.’ Those are labels that people apply to us. And . . . I understand why they do because you have to use short-hand. But, the interesting thing is, I don’t think most judges conceive of themselves as conservative or liberal. We think of ourselves as judges first and foremost . . .
Scotus blog link. 

It's still November, which is still Adoption Awareness month

A few links for adoption information:


Bethany Christian Services

Federal government profits on student loans by $41.3 billion

The federal government made enough money on student loans over the last year that, if it wanted, it could provide maximum-level Pell Grants of $5,645 to 7.3 million college students.

The $41.3-billion profit for the 2013 fiscal year is down $3.6 billion from the previous year but still enough to pay for one year of tuition at the University of Michigan for 2,955,426 Michigan residents.

article here.

Friday, November 22, 2013

What has changed in law schools in 25 years, and what hasn't?

The Lawyers, Guns and Money blog posts some feedback about its earlier entry, about law schools losing money.

From the article:

For example, at the University of Michigan, all the traditional first-year classes continue to be taught, and continue to be taught in very large sections, as they were when I was a student there in the mid/late 1980s. First-year students still take Contracts, Property, Torts, Criminal Law, Civil Procedure, and Constitutional Law — exactly the same courses I took as a first-year in 1986. Indeed three of these courses are being taught by the very same professors I had nearly 30 years ago. (The one significant alternation to the first-year curriculum is the addition of a Legislation and Regulation class, as law schools are now beginning to acknowledge that knowing something about the contemporary administrative state may be of more practical relevance than memorizing The Rule In Shelley’s Case.)
full article here. 

You think that legal writing requires legalese? (on writing well)

"Legalese" is a term given to phrases like "indemnify and hold harmless:" not everyone knows what it means, but since it sounds legal, lawyers can get away with using it, even though they shouldn't. Or even though they're sometimes not sure themselves what the "terms of art" mean.

One of my favorite reads is the monthly legal writing article in the Michigan Bar Journal. It's often written by Joseph Kimble, who is responsible for the Legal Writing classes I took in law school. His approach to legal writing is that it's something that shouldn't require a law school degree to interpret.This approach is also called Plain Language, or Plain English. It's not been wholeheartedly embraced by the legal profession, which is, not surprisingly, slow to change.

Anyway, this month's Bar Journal has another great column by Professor Kimble, titled "You Think the Law Requires Legalese?" From the article:

"lawyers tend to greatly exaggerate the extent to which the law requires specific, unalterable wording in legal and official documents. . . .
research show[s] that the terms are unnecessary, troublesome, best used together with plainer terms, or replaceable with a plain equivalent.  For example: give, not give, devise, and bequeath; interest, not right, title, and interest; together and individually, not jointly and severally.
  . . . Terms of art are more rare and more replaceable than lawyers think. . . . The law is no serious obstacle to writing clearly and plainly. 
 Full article here.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Driver arrested in Ohio for car's secret compartment filled with . . . nothing

Norman Gurley, 30, is facing drug-related charges in Lorain County, Ohio, despite the fact that state troopers did not actually find any drugs in his possession.
Ohio passed a law in 2012 making it a felony to alter a vehicle to add a secret compartment with the “intent” of using it to conceal drugs for trafficking.

article here.

Alcohol, intoxication and age: Does drinking change as you get older?

Your ability to drink changes as you age, according to the studies in this article.

Article here.

London police rescue 3 women held captive for 30 years

LONDON — Three women have been freed after spending 30 years held captive in a south London home, police announced Thursday, including one woman believed to have spent her entire life as a virtual slave.

article here. 

10 things not to say if you want your marriage to be healthy

Keep your marriage healthy & don't say these things!

article here.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Supreme Court justice interview - now on Youtube

In case you missed it, the interview of Justice Thomas is available to be viewed on Youtube.
Initial article appeared here.
Youtube version here.

Secret NSA court order released allowing collection of internet data

A secret court order that authorized a massive trawl by the National Security Agency of Americans' email and internet data was published for the first time on Monday night, among a trove of documents that also revealed a judge's concern that the NSA "continuously" and "systematically" violated the limits placed on the program.

article here

Default rates on student loans are skyrocketing

article here.

Law Schools losing money?

Paul Campos, the University of Colorado law prof (and Michigan grad) who gained fame and notoriety as the anonymous "scamblogger" of the since-retired Inside the Law School Scam blog, writes on on his new blogging homesite, Lawyers, Guns & Money, that he has looked at the operating budgets of a "representative sample" of law schools and estimates that 80-85% of law schools are losing money -- about 15% in real terms down from three years ago. 

article here.  

Michigan parent enters plea deal after allowing 9 year old son to drive

A Michigan woman charged with allowing her 9-year-old son to drive around their neighborhood has entered plea deal in the case.

WHMI-FM reports that Leah Jaglowski, 33, pleaded guilty Tuesday to allowing an unlicensed minor to drive. In exchange, a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor is being dismissed.

Article here

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

George Zimmerman charged with aggravated assault and domestic violence.

George Zimmerman, acquitted in July in the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, was arrested Monday afternoon for allegedly pointing a shotgun at his girlfriend and pushing her out of her house as he packed to move out, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office said.

Zimmerman, 30, was booked for aggravated assault with a weapon, a felony, in addition to misdemeanor battery-domestic violence and criminal mischief. Scheibe was not injured.

article here. 

What is Michigan law for self defense? Prosecutors mull charges in woman's death

DEARBORN HEIGHTS, Mich. — Prosecutors said Wednesday that they are reviewing possible charges against a suburban Detroit homeowner in the shooting death of a 19-year-old woman on his porch earlier this month after police provided additional material they had requested.

Article here. 

Under a 2006 Michigan self-defense law, a homeowner has the right to use force during a break-in, said Curt Benson, who teaches at Thomas M. Cooley Law School. “But if they’re not breaking in, you have to show you honestly believed your life was in danger,” Benson said.
“We don’t expect homeowners to behave perfectly. We don’t expect perfection. The standard is reasonableness,” Benson said.