Monday, February 29, 2016

Medical marijuana sales could generate up to $63 million annually, says report

The report, commissioned by the Michigan Cannabis Development Association, says Michigan could expect revenues between $44.3 million and $63.5 million per year. Regulation could also create about 10,000 jobs.

The amounts are based on the number of registered patients who can legally buy medical marijuana. The 2015 medical marijuana patient population was 182,091, according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory affairs, a press release said.

Article here (via mlive), Also: Michigan cannabis development association

Embezzler pleads guilty to theft from non-profit fundraiser

The former president of a local motorcycle club has pleaded guilty to stealing money from the EZ Memorial Ride, a fundraiser for fallen Kalamazoo Public Safety Officer Eric Zapata, prosecutors said.

Joseph Weeks Sr., 55, of Comstock Township, pleaded guilty to one count each of embezzlement from a non-profit charitable organization of $200 or more but less than $1,000 and firearm possession by a felon, Kalamazoo County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Carrie Klein said.

Article here (via mlive). 

Not law related: Vault of Midnight expands to Detroit!

The noted Ann Arbor-based comic book and board game shop Vault of Midnight (which also has a Grand Rapids location on Monroe Center) is opening a new location in downtown Detroit in one of businessman Dan Gilbert's properties.

The store and Gilbert's Bedrock Real Estate Services announced today that Vault of Midnight will open in a storefront at 1226 Library St., between Gratiot and Grand River, and hire five new full-time employees.

Article here (via freep). 

Implied Consent law: Kansas Supreme Court overturns implied consent (alcohol testing) refusals

An Implied Consent law means that when you as a driver obtain the privilege to drive, you also "impliedly consent" to being tested for alcohol use while you are driving. If you refuse to be tested - say you are pulled over and an officer requests you "blow" for a roadside breath test, you will have violated that "implied consent" and face a fine, or restriction of your driving privilege, or both, depending on the State.

In Kansas, however, the supreme court has struck down the violations, on the basis that they violate a driver's right to unlawful search and seizure under the Fourth Amendments to the Constitution.

Article here (via reason hit & run blog).

From the article - with my commentary in italics:

In the absence of consent or a special justification, searches (of a person or their property) generally require a warrant. That is why every state has an "implied consent" law saying that drivers, in exchange for the "privilege" of operating motor vehicles on public roads, agree to be tested should they be arrested for DUI. If they refuse to cooperate with alcohol testing, they can lose their licenses through an administrative process. Kansas is (or was) one of 13 states that also treat test refusal as a crime.(Michigan does not treat it as a crime, it's an administrative loss of driving privilege. In Michigan, your license will be suspended by the Secretary of State, and you will face that for one-two years, even if you are never convicted of the underlying charge of DUI/drunk driving.)

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Apple is withstanding pressure from Federal subpoena to "hack phones" of the San Bernadino shooter. What penalties?

The fines and punishments that Apple could face by continuing to defy the FBI's demand that it help unlock the iPhone of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook are considerable, even by the standards of one of the richest companies in the world.

Many of the possible penalties are discretionary to the court where the dispute is currently being heard. The case, at least for now, resides in the U.S. District Court for California's Central District. If Apple openly defies or ignores the demands in the order signed by Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym, the court would most likely wield a civil contempt-of-court charge as the mechanism to coerce Apple to comply, explains Cooper Levenson attorney Peter Fu in an email to Fast Company.

Article here. 

Fines of up to $250,000 per day are possible . . .

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

MIchigan Senator proposes decriminaliztion of marijuana

Sen. Coleman Young II today introduced a Joint Resolution to amend the Michigan Constitution to decriminalize marijuana and a companion bill to legalize and tax marijuana. 

Both have been referred to the Judiciary Committee, where it may perhaps be tabled for quite some time.

Language of the resolution can be found here.

Marijuana news: improper transport law struck down by Allegan County's Judge Cronin

The criminal offense of Improperly Transporting Medical Marijuana was signed into law by the governor on December 27, 2012.

This law created a new criminal offense of improperly transporting medical marijuana inside a motor vehicle or self-propelled vehicle, such as a car, truck, tractor, motorcycle, snowmobile, moped, four wheeler, etcetera. To qualify as a vehicle, it must have: (a) an engine, and (b) be designed for land travel. The new criminal misdemeanor charge does not apply to marijuana plants or marijuana material that is not considered "usable."

(The above paragraph is from the Bruce Block website).

It's similar to an "open container" charge for alcohol - if the driver - or passenger - can consume alcohol while driving, then the police can write a ticket for that. So the improper transport law sort of seems to have a logical basis.

So the question arose whether the Improper Transport law, as applied, would be constitutional, as it makes the goals of the Medical Marijuana Act, and the intent of the voters who approved that Act.  How would a qualified patient (or caregiver), who is otherwise immune from prosecution for criminal offense, be able to transport his or her MJ once obtained? It seems to create a double negative: qualified patients can't be prosecuted, unless they're transporting? Makes no sense at all. 

So the answer (so far) is that the Improper Transport law is not constitutional, according to a ruling by Allegan County's Judge Kevin Cronin. The thing is, though, that the decisions of Circuit Courts aren't binding on other Courts. However, the Michigan Court of Appeals is waiting to hear a similar case in the next few months.

State Bar of Michigan hosting panel discusson on use of police body cameras

The State Bar of Michigan Law and the Media Committee will host a panel discussion on the use of police body cameras.

Up to 95% of police departments in US major cities plan to implement body cams in the near future. (Grand Rapids already has implemented it). This is according to a study by Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sherrifs Association.

The thing is that wearing cameras impacts other areas of law, such as constitutional rights, and privacy.

Article here (via SBM blog).
The State Bar of Michigan Law and the Media Committee will host a panel discussion called “Body Cams: Competing Issues of Transparency, Privacy, and Constitutional Rights” from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on March 9 at the Spencer M. Patrich Auditorium at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. The Wolverine Bar Association will cosponsor the discussion.
A recent survey conducted by the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriffs' Association found that up to 95 percent of large police departments in the U.S. plan to implement a body camera program in the near future.
- See more at:
The State Bar of Michigan Law and the Media Committee will host a panel discussion called “Body Cams: Competing Issues of Transparency, Privacy, and Constitutional Rights” from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on March 9 at the Spencer M. Patrich Auditorium at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit. The Wolverine Bar Association will cosponsor the discussion.
A recent survey conducted by the Major Cities Chiefs Association and Major County Sheriffs' Association found that up to 95 percent of large police departments in the U.S. plan to implement a body camera program in the near future.
- See more at:

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Bob Dylan explained "standing" (or so says Chief Justice Roberts)

“Bob Dylan captured the whole notion behind standing,” Roberts said. “In that case, the party didn’t have anything at stake in the case and had nothing to lose, and the case should have been thrown out on that basis.”

Article here (via ABA Journal). 

Standing is the legal concept that in order to appear in a law suit, the parties have to have some skin in the game. If you're mad because a law was enacted, but the law doesn't effect you, then you have no standing, and can't sue to "test" the law. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

Taxes are fun and sexy! Or not

This tax season, local accountants who get creative with their marketing—if not their deduction strategies—are coming up with ways to make filing taxes a little more fun. Or at least palatable to folks who might otherwise try to blunder through a Schedule C on their own.
Mr. Mason is a CPA with a day job preparing taxes for high-net-worth clients. But three nights a week, he sets up shop at the bar accompanied by an antique brass lamp and a little framed sign: “Resident Accountant—Get Your Taxes Done.” Consultations, starting at $135, include a free cocktail.

Article here (via taxprof blog).  

Related: I'm meeting with my tax person next week! But not at a bar.

Finite terms for SCOTUS justices would solve problems, says editorial

The Washington Post’s editorial board sees a connection between life tenure for Supreme Court justices and the “dysfunctional politics of judicial nominations.”

In an editorial published on Sunday, the Washington Post says the Constitution relied on life tenure to strike a balance between democratic accountability and judicial independence. But that mechanism is failing, the editorial says.

Article here (via ABA Journal). 

Kalamzoo Shooting: 5 things we know

A press conference was held by the Kalamazoo County Prosecutor to announce what is known about the Kalamazoo County shooter, Jason Dalton.

Article here (via mlive)

From the article:

Here's what we know about Dalton:
• The father of two children, Dalton has been married since 1995.
• Neighbors said Dalton was an insurance adjuster.
• There is no known criminal history or mental illness, authorities said.
• Dalton was an Uber driver, apparently taking fares between shootings.
• He was a "car-guy" who liked to tinker with old vehicles.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Possible Supreme Court nominees - to replace Justice Scalia

My thought was that President Obama would have announced a few nominees at this point. Since the weekend is a slow news time, I assumed he was waiting for Monday or Tuesday to announce with a press conference.
But he hasn't yet.

No matter, I am sure he has a short list waiting to be announced to the public (if I were Prez, I'd have a list for appointments ready to go for lots of positions as the number one rule in Political Science is that "people die.")

This article (via ABA Journal) covers who might be nominated.

Monday, February 15, 2016

"To Kill a Mockingbird" to be adapted for Broadway (the Consider this Fair Warning department)

Scott Rudin, producer,  said the Atticus Finch in the Broadway play will be the principled character in Mockingbird, rather than the racist man portrayed in Harper Lee’s novel released last year, Go Set a Watchman.

Writer Aaron Sorkin, however, will take some liberties with Mockingbird by including new dialogue and scenes that aren’t fully depicted in the book.

 le Sigh!

Article here (via aba journal).

In case you missed it: Supreme Court Justice Scalia has died

Justice Antonin Scalia, an influential advocate for an originalist view of the Constitution, died on Saturday at the age of 79.

The New York Times describes Scalia as “leader of a conservative intellectual renaissance” due to his “transformative legal theories, vivid writing and outsize personality.” He was nearing his 30th year on the court and was its longest serving current member, the National Law Journal (sub. req.) reports.

Article here (via aba journal). 

Flint water: Link to miscarriages?

Has the lead levels in water been responsible for higher level of miscarriages?

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, of Flint's Hurley Medical Center, and the state Department of Health and Human Services confirmed their work researching a link between lead and miscarriages is already underway, but each said it is premature to draw any conclusions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says too much lead in a pregnant woman's body puts her at risk for miscarriage, as well as increasing the risk of a baby to be born too early or too small.
That's because lead can cross the placental barrier, exposing both mother and unborn child to the toxin.

Article here (via mlive). 

Michigan lawmaker leads "hate group," says Southern Poverty Law Center

A civil rights group based in Alabama is calling an organization led in Michigan by state Rep. Gary Glenn a "hate group" once again.

Article here (via mlive).

The accusation targeting the American Family Association is part of a new report by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Glenn, (R- Larkin Township) who represents parts of Midland and Bay counties, declined to comment on the group's accusation. He is a freshman in the Michigan house of Representatives, and has long served as president of the American Family Association, which is based in Mississippi.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Lawsuit claims "scarlet letter" passports for sex offenders are unconstitutional

A bill that President Obama signed into law on Monday requires that passports used by registered sex offenders carry a "conspicuous" mark to ensure the bearers are properly scrutinized, shunned, harassed, and stigmatized wherever they might travel.

A federal lawsuit filed yesterday in San Francisco argues that the so-called International Megan's Law (IML), which passed both houses of Congress on voice votes without any real debate, violates the First Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, and the Ex Post Facto Clause.

Article here. 

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Michigan's primary is March 8 (but yesterday was the deadline to register for that primary)

Only a month away is Michigan's primary election. Yesterday was the deadline for registration (if you weren't already a Michigan voter) for that primary.

 If you missed registering to vote in the primary, you can still be eligible to vote in future elections.

More information here.(via Secretary of State website)

Ethics problem: Former Texas prosecutor disbarred for creating false testimony.

A former prosecutor who used false testimony and withheld evidence to send a now-exonerated man to Texas' death row has lost an appeal to overturn his disbarment.
The Dallas Morning News ( ) reports that the Board of Disciplinary Appeals on Monday upheld the decision of the State Bar of Texas to disbar Charles Sebesta. The board's decision is final.

In case you were wondering, yeah, it's illegal, and even more: prosecutors are supposed to held to a higher standard as they often have access to information that others do not. 

What's an unmarried man's rights to an unborn child? Can he claim paternity?

Q: I'm an unmarried father-to-be. My concern is that my ex (things went south after we found out she was pregnant), will try to move out of state, or keep my from seeing my child. Even though our relationship went south, doesn't mean that I want to be uninvolved with my child's life. What can I do? Can I claim paternity right now? 

A: No, you can't. or at least, not yet. 
Barring exceptional circumstances, a Michigan court is not going to issue an order to grant custody to the unmarried father of an unborn child.

The law currently will place custody of the newborn with the mother, unless there are those circumstances that would show the mother is a risk to the child already.

If a couple is married, there is a legal presumption that any child of those adults is a product of the marriage (although that presumption can be rebutted). By contrast, an unwed dad can't claim paternity, parenting time or custody rights (which are typically accompanied by a need to pay support for the child) until the child is born.

Once that child is born, the father needs to act to claim his rights to paternity, etc. He can do that by acknowledging paternity through singing the birth certificate, or through the assistance of an attorney (if, for example, the mother hides her pregnancy from the father who is then unaware of the child until after it is born).

Novel ideas in law: don't believe the click-bait! Or: Proposed change to MI Animal law includes ban on oral sex, or does it?

Maybe you've seen this article on your social media. It's claim is that Michigan, through it's senate, will ban some types of sex, and penalize it up to 15 years.  (article from Freethought). It even is posted with an alluring bedroom photo.

If you were thinking to yourself "That can't be true, it seems so outdated," then you're probably right. The article is written mostly to get you to click on it (hence the term click-bait, the sad substitute for journalism that's ad-driven instead of fact driven.) 

The article isn't accurate. Michigan's senate was attempting to amend the laws currently on the books to make it illegal for someone who's already been convicted of animal abuse to be able to adopt an animal from a shelter or rescue.

Here's the original  law, which is at MCL 750.49 et seq. It was originally written in 1931, and has been amended time after time, as it contains all of Michigan's criminal laws and penalties. 

Here's the proposed changes to the act (full text). If you start reading from the top, you will see that the bill focuses on animal abuse.

However, the thing is the click-bait article only SAMPLES from the full text of the bills, and ignores the fact that the Senate was trying to amend law regarding animal abuse. This makes the click-bait quite misleading.

And the news ran an article on the proposed changes to the law, which didn't mention the "sex" portion of the bill at all. (Here's the article on Mlive). 

But there is some accuracy to it - since the law it's sampling from seems to say "these types of sex are illegal."  So it also leads one to ask the question: why not clean up the original language of the bill while the Senate was busy writing new parts of the law?

Your guess is as good as mine as to why they didn't do a little "housecleaning" on the bill. My thinking is that maybe the Senate didn't know it needed to.

But the rule that "don't believe everything you read" should be followed here.

PS: The Michigan Legislative website is a great resource for what's currently in the law in Michigan, and what's being proposed as changes to the law. I use it almost daily! Hints from your local law nerd.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Federal Appeals Court rules gun legislation must be held to "strict scrutiny" standard (instead of rational-basis)

For the first time, a federal appeals court has held that a state’s ban on “assault” long guns and “high-capacity” magazines must be held to the highest level of judicial scrutiny. In a 2–1 decision, the Circuit Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit (which covers Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia) held that Maryland’s Firearm Safety Act must be evaluated under the same stringent standard that courts routinely use to strike down race-based governmental discrimination and categorical bans on speech, since, like them, the law seeks to restrict a core constitutional freedom.

Read more at this link
 (via National Review). 

Just so you know: the difference between rational basis review and strict scrutiny is pretty big. Rational basis means that if a court hears a case that is trying to determine the constitutionality of a law, and the court itself can devise a reason why it might be constitutional, then the court can allow that law to then be constitutional * (this is my explanation of the more complete, wordier version that you can read here on Wiki).

Strict scrutiny, by contrast, is the highest (hence using the word strict, and scrutiny) level of review for cases that are about constitutional issues. When a case is touching on fundamental rights, that are part of the Bill of Rights or other parts of the Constitution, they will be presumed to have violated the Constitution unless it can be 1) justified by a compelling governmental interest, and 2) it is narrowly tailored, and 3) it is also the least restrictive means for achieving that interest. Laws often (not surprisingly) fail this test. (again, read the Wiki outline of SS here).

** RB review: "if the court can merely hypothesize a "legitimate" interest served by the challenged action, it will withstand rational basis review"