Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Michigan medical marihuana law - a Q&A

Q: What areas of law does the Michigan medical marihuana act cover?
A: This act (referred to as the MMMA) ensures that someone who qualifies as a registered user or caregiver (what is a qualifying condition, see below) can't be arrested, or subjected to other prosecution, simply because they are registered. It also ensures that those registered users/ caregivers can't lose privileges, such as work-related licenses.

Q: Can a registered user or caregiver also "deal" marihuana?
No. The MMMA only provides protection against prosecution for caregivers/users when they are using it for medicinal purposes. That means if a registered user/caregiver does sell to someone, they are then charged with a felony of up to 2 years + $2,000 fine possible, in addition to other criminal penalties for distribution of marihuana. For example, the prosecuting attorney can also charge use, possession, possession with intent to distribute, and so on, which all have separate possible penalties, as well as the penalties under this act.

Q: OK then, so this means that it's supposed to be a closed system, right?
A: Yes. The caregivers and registered users are supposed to keep the M to themselves, use it for medicinal purposes, and not sell to others, period. 

Q: What if I am over at my friend's house - who's an MMMA registered user. Can I get in trouble for that?
A: No. As long as it's being used medicinally, then being in the vicinity of medical use won't get you in trouble with the law, or charged with a crime.

Q: My friend has joint custody of his kids, and he's an MMMA registered user. He worries that his ex will try to use this against him in court. Is that something he should be concerned about? Will he lose custody of his kids?
A: No. Registered MMMA use can't be the basis for denying custody or visitation, unless there is other behavior that creates danger to the kids.

Q: What types of medical condition qualify someone? 

A: The MMMA has a list here of conditions, they include: cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, agitation of Alzheimer's disease, nail patella, or the treatment of these conditions,  severe nausea; seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of multiple sclerosis. Other conditions can be approved as necessary, through legislative approval.

Q: Can a drug dealer become a caregiver? 
A: Maybe not. A caregiver has to be at least 21 years old not been convicted of any felony within the past 10 years and has never been convicted of a felony involving illegal drugs or a felony that is an assaultive crime.

Q: How do I apply to become a registered user or caregiver?
A: It's described in detail at the Michigan department of regulatory affairs website.

Have more questions? post them on the blog, or contact me directly: ballastnancyl@gmail.com

Petition for marijuana legalization to be placed on Michigan ballot? Michigan canvassers board to review petition

The Michigan Cannabis Coalition, which has been described as "a loosely formed group of business and political folks," wants to legalize and tax recreational marijuana, devoting any proceeds to education, public safety and public health.

It's one of three marijuana legalization groups eyeing the 2016 ballot, and its proposal is unique in that it would give state lawmakers a prominent role in the legalization process.

Article here. 

Detroit -area attorney charged with mortgage fraud scheme

Steven Barry Ruza, 52, of Orchard Lake and his company, Home Legal Group, promised upwards of 114 victims they could obtain mortgage modifications and save their homes from foreclosure but then did nothing, or very little, to obtain mortgage modifications for the victims, Schuette's office said. They did, however, collect hundreds of thousands in fees.

 Article here. 

School standardized testing: Should it be required by law?

Illinois now allows parents to choose that a student can "opt out" of standardized testing. 

So this week, the aba journal would like to ask you: Should school standardized testing be required by law? Or should individual districts, schools or students decide whether or not to participate?
Answer in the comments.

Do you write fiction - that's legally themed? Enter this contest.

The lawyerist's short-fiction contest is open to all writers. If you have a story to tell (in 5,000 words or less), we want to read it! Submissions are due on June 1st, and the top two entries will receive cash awards and be published right here on Lawyerist.

Submission Guidelines

Entries must be original works of fiction of no more than 5,000 words that feature a lawyer as a prominent character. Entries must be submitted by email to email@lawyerist.com no later than June 1, 2015.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Child Support, Modifications and Arrears: a family law Q &A primer

Q: I've been making my child support payments, but sometimes I can't pay the monthly amount due. What happens now?
A: That amount you didn't or can't pay will become an arrearage.

First of all, the obligation to support a child is with both parents. The Michigan Child Support Formula considers the amount of time each parent has with the minor child(ren), the income of the parties, and other factors when calculating support owed. Typically, the custodial parent will be paid support, and the non-custodial parent will be the payor of support, but this isn't always the case, since it depends on income, number of children, and other factors.

Support will typically be ordered during the pendency of a divorce or custody case (before judgment is entered), or if either parent is receiving state assistance. After the judgment is entered, an adjustment may be made to the support amount, and a new UCSO (uniform child support order) will be issued.

Q: What if I think the amount ordered should be different? I can't pay what I currently owe. 
A: You can request a modification of the support amount through Friend of the Court, or through an attorney.

Either party - the parent who pays, or the parent who receives support  - can request modification, if that parent can show a change in circumstances.

Statutes provide a low threshold for modification, based on circumstances of the parents or as the benefit of the children require,[1] upon proper application to the court and due notice to the opposite party,[2] and for proper cause shown or change in circumstances.[3]

A change in circumstance is a fact-based question. It could be the parent has changed jobs, has a medical concern and can't work, and so on. Also, the Friend of the Court can request a modification of the support amount.  

A parent who's income changes should notify Friend of the Court of this change, whether requesting a modification or not. 

Otherwise, if no parties request a  modification, a support review will be done, typically every three years. 

Q: I requested a modification and the Court agreed with me. What's next? Will this take care of the arrears I owe? 

A: The modification has to be made into an order. Your attorney can prepare that, or Friend of the Court will send you a copy eventually if no attorneys are involved. 

But typically modifications do not address arrears - they only modify the amount of support going forward.  (This is also referred to as "no retroactive modification of support," see MCL 552.603 (2)) 

If the amount of arrears is owed to the other parent, it's possible that parent can forgive the amount of arrears owed. Talk to your attorney about that. 

Q: The amount of arrears I owe is really high. Is there anything I can do about that?
A: Maybe. The Friend of the Court may let you ask for a payment plan on your arrears amount.  Talk to your attorney about discharge of the amount you owe. Again, the parent receuving support has to consent to this as well. 

Q: Can I go to jail for not paying the support amount?

Friend of the Court can enforce support orders through bench warrants, license restrictions (including recreational licenses), withholding tax refunds, among other means. Friend of Court offices can request through "show cause" hearings that the payor make payments, and explain why payments haven't been made, or go to jail.

In addition, the possibility of felony child support non-payment exists.That can happen when the amount owed is in excess of $20,000 (MCL 750.165). At that point, a warrant can issue to arrest the payor of support. Felony child support violations can carry a penalty of 4 year's imprisonment. No laughing matter. 

[1] MCL 552.17 (1): Divorce, separate maintenance, annulment.
[2] MCL 552.45:  Family Support Act.
[3] MCL 722.27 (1) (c): Child Custody Act.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Are you a lawyer and billing clients for your time? Do it smarter.

Making sure clients get invoiced is the way you get paid, right? So do it right.

Hopefully that is a no-brainer for everyone who reads this post, but I doubt it. I have known plenty of lawyers who reconstruct time at the end of every month — or every couple of months — from their calendar, emails, and memory. Even if you only put together your bill at the end of the month, you need to track your time as you go. These are the major tools for doing that.

However you decide to track your time, pick a method and stick to it. When you sit down to assemble your invoices, the fewer places you have to go to get the raw data, the better. The more methods you use to track your time, the more mistakes you will make.

Article here (via the lawyerist). 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Melted snow uncovers meth labs

Spring weather means Michigan residents might be more likely to come across debris associated with meth production, police say.

Since many products used in the manufacturing of methamphetamine might have sat snow-covered along roadways and within isolated areas all winter, now is the time they might be visible, according to Traverse Narcotics Team Commander Detective Lt. Daniel King.

meth lab pic.jpgOfficials with the Traverse Narcotics Team are advising Michigan residents to be on the lookout for materials used to manufacture meth which may have recently become visible with the recent arrival of spring. 
These materials, including chemical components, and bottles with hoses attached, should be reported to local law enforcement, King said.

Article here (via mlive). 

February 2015 Michigan Bar Exam results - published by seat number

This list is the exam takers who have passed, as identified by the seat number assigned when they took the exam. Results by name will be forthcoming in the next few days.

List here.

Update! May 11, 2015: List by name has now been published: link here.  

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Lawyers uses $200K in legal fees to make movie about medical malpractice case

Bill Lundy had never made a movie before.

But, inspired by one of the difficult cases he had ever worked on, the Georgia trial lawyer used $200,000 in legal fees from winning a nursing home medical malpractice case to film A Larger Life, recounts the Daily Report (sub. req.).

The 112-minute film stars Lundy as well as well-known actor and former U.S. senator and attorney Fred Thompson, as well as actor Todd Litzinger and other members of the Lundy family (the lawyer’s real-life wife played his on-screen spouse). It premiered last month in Atlanta, as the Standard Journal details.

Article here (via aba journal). 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Same gender couples: Who gets your stuff? (an estate planning Q & A Primer)

The issue: Michigan law currently does not recognize same gender couples. This is true regardless of how the relationship was formed, or whether the relationship was formed in Michigan or another state.

This means that decisions about to whom property should pass, or the person who can make health care decisions will become the "default" person under Michigan law. In other words, instead of letting a partner in a same gender couple make decisions, that power will then fall to next of kin.

  I am in a long-term same-sex relationship, what will happen to my property or assets when I die?
A: That depends. If you have a validly executed will, you can name the person to whom property will pass, otherwise, Michigan law appoints how it will pass through its laws of intestacy. This will be your blood relations, and will ignore any same-gender relationship, regardless of the length of the relationship, any verbally stated intentions, or whether that relationship is legally recognized in another state.

Q: My parents have always had a hard time recognizing that I have decided to live this way. What should I do to show that I want my partner to inherit I am gone?
A: You should get your intentions written into a estate planning documents (a will, trust, or other document). At a bare minimum, a will needs to appoint an executor (also known as personal representative), and determine to whom property will pass at your death. A will can also make it so that other people in your family won't inherit property, if that is what you choose.

Q: I think it would be better if my personal matters remain private. Is there a way I can achieve this?
A: Yes. You can create a trust.  A trust can operate to distribute your property while you are alive, or after you die. The advantage of a trust (over a will) is that it will not be part of public record -- wills are "probated" which will then become public record. Trusts are not.

Q: I am concerned about whether my partner will be listened to if I am hospitalized. Can my family - who have never been comfortable with our relationship - exclude him from seeing me?
A: The family will have to recognize your wishes if you write them into a health care power of attorney (also called Patient Advocate designation). This document will outline how you wish to have your body treated, who can make that decision for you if you become incompetent, and any other health care decisions. Without this document, that duty will fall to immediate family members.

Q: Can my partner make financial decisions if I become incapacitated?
A: Yes, but only if a financial power of attorney (POA) is executed. You can write a POA to either become valid when you become incapacitated (also called "Springing") or for it to become effective on executiion (called "immediate.") Without a financial POA, again, Michigan will allow blood relations to make those decisions instead, in spite of any perviously stated intentions.

Q: What is your recommendation?
I think it's essential for same-gender couples to talk with an estate planning attorney to determine what documents are needed. At a minimum, a will, financial POA, and health care POA should be written to show what each person had planned.