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Michigan Task Force Fights for Emergency Manager Rule Reform

Flint. Its struggles are known the nation over, but no one seems able to do much about it — though they try. The clean water crisis that began in the riverbed has inspired Democrats and Republicans as part of a Joint Committee on the Flint Water Public Health Emergency to put forth 30 policy proposals intended to limit the amount of lead allowed in public drinking water and to punish those who disregard these guidelines. One such proposal would reform the state’s emergency manager rule, which grants which grants a single individual, appointed by the governor, the power to step in and mitigate crises.

The rule was designed and enacted to protect Michigan and its people in the event of an emergency, but two such individuals appointed in Flint stood idly by while the city’s water safety deteriorated. Attorney General has been quoted acknowledging the rule’s failure in this instance, but still argues its overall value. An independent task force appointed by Snyder, however, found that this string of unelected managers made “key decisions that contributed to the crisis,” effectively hindering “the checks and balances and public accountability that come with public decision-making.”

Michigan’s Emergency Manager Rule needs reform.

The following content originally appeared in the Detroit News on April 6, 2017.

In a report released more than a year ago, the task force called for a review of the emergency manager law, urged policy makers to consider alternatives and stressed the need to ensure proper support and expertise to help appointees run local governments or school districts.

The special legislative committee echoed those calls in October, suggesting the state replace the single emergency manager with a three-person financial management team comprised of a financial expert, local government operations expert and local ombudsman.

Beyond informal discussions last year, there have been no substantive talks about reforming the law, which Snyder signed in late 2012 after Michigan voters overturned an earlier version.

“Based on the fact the Legislature’s own special committee recommended changes, I think the Legislature is going to be hard up to explain why they haven’t addressed it,” said Ken Sikkema, a Republican and former state Senate majority leader who co-chaired the governor’s task force. “It’s not that complicated.”

New Muslim Travel Ban Faces Legal Challenges in Michigan

Thanks to a revised Executive Order signed on March 6, a new travel ban targeting majority Muslim nations will take effect this Thursday — or it might not. Attorneys from Michigan to Hawaii and beyond, as they work tirelessly in the name of civil rights and justice, have filed lawsuits demanding immediate censure of “an illegal and discriminatory attempt to ban Muslims,” so says Arab American Civil Rights League Director Rula Aoun.

“In America, we don’t target and prohibit people because of how they pray — and we don’t impose religious litmus tests on immigrants,” Aoun said. An attorney for the ACLU, Lee Gelernt, agrees with Aoun: The new order “discriminates on the basis of religion” and “will bring significant hardship to many people inside and outside the country.”

Where the original order banned citizens of Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days, all refugees for 120 days and Syrian citizens indefinitely, the new version removes Iraq and lifts the indefinite ban on Syrians. Opponents including the Arab-American Civil Rights League, the ACLU, and Nessel & Kessel Law hold that the ban will render harm not just to people but to tourism, morale, and the economy as well.

A federal judge could strike down the ban tonight.

The largest legal assault is a lawsuit filed by Washington state and joined by California, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York and Oregon. They argue that the ban will hurt their economies by limiting students and professors who can work and study at state universities, reducing tourism from the Middle East and curbing employment from those countries.

U.S. District Judge James Robart in Seattle, who halted Trump’s first ban, is hearing this lawsuit, too. He gave government lawyers until Tuesday night to file a response. Robart could issue an order immediately after that, or schedule a hearing later this week.

Source: USA Today

Dana Nessel Leads the Charge Against LGBTQIA Hate in Michigan

In these times of tumult and political unrest, Nessel & Kessel remains steadfast in its commitment to defending the rights of all citizens but particularly those who identify as part of the often marginalized LGBTQIA (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersexual, asexual) community. There was no greater honor for our Detroit family law firm than to have represented April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse in a suit to protect the sanctity of their family; we went all the way to the Supreme Court of the United States!

But DeBoer and Rowse were not the first, and haven’t been the last Michiganders to seek legal counsel and advice from Chris Kessel and Dana Nessel regarding issues concerning life, love, family, and civil rights.

LGBTQIA advocate Dana Nessel & Fair Michigan selected to help combat hate crimes in Detroit.

Fair Michigan — a nonprofit led by Dana Nessel that proclaims to “create a Michigan where the presence and contributions of everyone are welcomed and celebrated regardless of their gender, gender identity, sex, or sexual orientation” — was approached by Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy to address a growing problem in the region. “I noticed a national trend, ticking upward, of people being killed because of their sexual orientation,” said Worthy in a statement.

The group led by Nessel has taken up an initiative, appointing an investigator and a special prosecutor to work in conjunction with the Wayne County judicial system, to solve and prosecute especially heinous crimes committed against the LGBTQIA community.

Nessel was recently featured in the Detroit Jewish News for these very same efforts, highlighting the successes on behalf of civil justice in Michigan.

The following content was originally published on January 18, 2017.

So far, there have been five convictions, with five more pending, plus two criminal sexual conduct cases that include a serial rapist who had been targeting victims inside and outside the LGBTQ community.

“You stem the violence by successfully prosecuting [the perpetrators],” Nessel said. “It sends a message. I know this is a way to stem the violence, make the community safer.”

FMJP’s special prosecutor Jaimie Powell Horowitz, a former assistant prosecutor, and special investigator Vicki Yost, a former Inkster police chief and deputy chief for the Detroit Police Department, work in conjunction with Worthy and her staff to bring about justice by charging and convicting the perpetrators of these violent crimes, especially those cases where victims or witnesses were previously afraid to come forward.

“People who would never have called the police are coming to us,” said Nessel, who serves as president of the organization in addition to being a partner in the Downtown Detroit firm of Nessel & Kessel Law. “I give great credit to Kym Worthy. I don’t know anywhere else in the country with a task force for this.”

New Laws Affecting Michigan Residents in 2017

As a new year dawns, the state and federal government is changing. New laws are taking effect in Michigan, and it’s important for residents to be aware of how and in what ways they will be affected.

The minimum wage has gone up.

As of January 1, 2017 the state minimum wage is higher than it once was: newly $8.90 an hour, from $8.50. The minimum wage will again rise on January 1, 2017 to $9.25 an hour.

But so too has the cost of getting around.

The average price to fuel up in Michigan increased nearly 30 cents due to a gas tax increase of 7.3 cents, to 19 cents per gallon. The diesel tax, once 15 cents per gallon, also saw an increase, 11.3 cents per gallon. And that’s not all. Earlier this month, the state of Michigan increased annual vehicle registration fees by roughly 20 percent; the $1.3 billion in expected revenue is earmarked for road projects.

Telemedicine comes to Michigan.

Under a new law enacted by the Governor, Michigan residents can see the doctor without ever leaving their homes. Telemedicine has the power to ensure thousands of rural Michiganders have access to convenient and reliable healthcare without ever leaving their homes. Approved physicians will soon be able to consult with and prescribe patients medication via virtual environment.

There’s a new ban on banning plastic bags.

Michigan Lieutenant Governor Brian Calley signed legislation prohibiting the regulation of plastic shopping bags. Expected to become effective sometime in April, the new law bars individual municipalities from prohibiting, taxing, or otherwise governing the use of “auxiliary containers”, reusable or single-use bags, cups, bottles or other packaging from stores and restaurants. One county, Washtenaw, had passed a small fee to be levied on disposable grocery bags it expected to begin enforcing this spring, but new state law will override this decision.

Medical marijuana laws legalize resin and oil, impose a tax.

“In addition to dried leaves and flowers being legal to possess for patients,” explained Matt Abel, executive director of Michigan NORML, “the legislature has added the words resin and extract, so now concentrated forms of cannabis will be legal in Michigan … and topical oils and ointments, tinctures, which are a liquid that someone might put under their tongue, beverages and edibles.”

The new laws, which are seen largely as a victory for the marijuana lobby in the state, introduce a new tax on dispensary shops and set guidelines for state licensing and monitoring systems for the product from “seed to sale.”

What do you think of the new laws in Michigan in 2017?

Let us know.

‘Tis the Season for Christmas Caroling, Cocoa… and Lawsuits?

For most, the Christmas season is a time to be jolly, but for some others, it’s time to go to court.

They’re dreaming of anything but a white Christmas.

One North Carolina jeweler made a wager with its customers in 2010, promising free baubles for all if Asheville saw a white Christmas. It was a gimme they figured. No way. Much to the owners’ chagrin, six inches of snow fell that day. Sure enough, they made good on their offer of free jewelry. This wasn’t enough for one customer, however, who received a $7000 refund minus tax and sued the store for the remaining $600. A judge found in favor of the defendant.

Include Hannukah, or else.

Poor Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday so often forgotten in favor of its more mainstream, Christian counterpart, Christmas. Ornamented trees and poinsettia dominate the landscape, and often there’s nary a menorah to be found. Over this, a retired lawyer and resident of Leesburg, Florida sued the Lake County Retirement Community. And he won, too. His prize: an ornate menorah erected on the grounds of the neighborhood.

In the pacific northwest, executives at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport outright refused to include a menorah in their holiday display, and disgruntled travelers threatened to sue. Instead of complying with the request, SeaTac dismantled the display entirely — only to reinstate it some time later. They never added a menorah.

Gone caroling with instruments of torture…

Phoenix Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been sued no fewer than six times over what some have considered cruel and unusual treatment; Arpaio would stream holiday music through prison speakers for as many as 12 hours per day. To date, the courts have found in the sheriff’s favor each time.

Have yourself a happy holiday season.

In 2013, an elementary school in South Carolina was forced to cancel its Operation Christmas Child toy drive after receiving correspondence from the American Humanist Association on behalf of a parent apprehensive about the program’s association with a Christian-based organization. This isn’t the first time concerns over religious undertones led to the end or banning of certain holiday tidings. One Texas principal denied a student from handing out candy canes with evangelical notes attached, while another school administrator in Texas confiscated pencils that read, “Jesus is the reason for the season.”

They’re basically Clark Griswold.

Except the name is Osborne. Mitzi and Jennings Osborne were sued in the 90s over an excessive light display that comprised more than 3 million lights. The Griswolds have nothing on these people. Six neighbors came together to demand the Osbornes’ light show be limited to certain hours of the day for a limited number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. From local and district courts to Washington, and despite the defendants’ appeal, the plaintiffs’ request was granted.

Hiring a Lawyer in Michigan Requires Planning & Research

A lawyer isn’t someone whose name you pick from a simple Google search result and ask, “Where do I sign?” No. Just as you would plan and research any major investment, so too should you carefully vet any Michigan lawyer for hire to serve your case. When faced with family litigation or criminal charges, consider the following steps to hiring an attorney.

Conduct a thorough interview to determine if the attorney’s skillsets match your needs.

Most reputable attorneys in Michigan host an initial consultation appointment free of charge; use this opportunity to get to know the lawyer you are considering to hire, and to assess his/her ability to serve your case. Ask of his experience in the particular legal matter; how long he has been in practice; her track record of success; the weight of her overall caseload; any special skills and certifications; fees and billing; and for references too.

When hiring a lawyer in Michigan, it is important to know how he will keep you apprised of the goings on in your case, but also just as important is how she makes you feel: Was she prompt and courteous in response to your questions? Is she someone with whom you’ll feel comfortable sharing private details of your life?

Trust your instincts, but also:

Run a background check.

Before hiring any lawyer for any reason at all, you might be wise to contact the Attorney Discipline Board to confirm he is in good standing as a member of the bar.

Ask other attorneys.

No one understands the legal system and how to navigate it like lawyers, and so the best resource available to you is another lawyer. Just as, perhaps more important to consider when hiring a lawyer in Michigan than education and fees is ethics, competence, reputation. Other attorneys will be best able to share this information with you.

Tour the law office.

They say first impressions are everything. So drop by for a visit.

We strive to make the law offices of Nessel & Kessel an accessible, welcoming place for potential and current clients. Here you’ll be met with friendly, smiling faces working efficiently for you.

When you need a lawyer in Michigan, call Nessel & Kessel.

Nessel & Kessel Law is one of Michigan’s top criminal defense firms and general litigation experts. We have a record for fighting for our clients and gaining excellent outcomes. Let us help you get the results you deserve.

Proposed Earned Sick Time Act May Appear on Ballot in November

Raise Michigan, a coalition of civil rights, faith, labor and community groups, works to raise Michigan’s wage, yes, but the organization has recently taken up another endeavor:

To fight for the Earned Sick Time Act in Michigan

Earlier this month, the Board of State Canvassers approved ballot wording submitted by the group, meant for the creation of new legislation, the Earned Sick Time Act, which would grant full- and part-time employees of Michigan businesses one hour of sick time per every 30 hours worked. Employees of larger businesses would have the opportunity to use as many as 72 hours of paid sick time each year, while small business employees could take up to 40 hours.

“More than 1.5 million Michigan workers are not able to take earned sick time when they are ill or when they need to take care of loved ones,” Mothering Justice says on its website. “Even more appalling, many workers are afraid to mention to their employer that they are injured or sick due to fear of being fired — it does not have to be this way.”

The group hopes to collect the more than 250,000 signatures required to send the proposed legislation direct to the state Legislature, but in the event that lawmakers reject the initiative or fail to act, Michiganders will be asked to vote YES / NO in November. (Lawmakers recently passed legislation that prohibits local governments from enacting their own laws to this effect, so paid sick time can only be mandated in Michigan through statewide legislation.)

Not everyone in the state is excited about the possibility of the Earned Sick Time Act, however. When asked, Michigan director of the National Federation of Independent Business Charlie Owens said, “It’s death by 1000 cuts.” Small businesses just don’t have the flexibility to accommodate requirements like these, he claims, and that any such law would benefit large chain stores to the detriment of small business owners.

What do you think about the proposed Earned Sick Time Act?

How to File for a No-Fault Divorce in Michigan

Filing for divorce can be a very difficult and traumatic process. Not only are you putting an end to a relationship and life, but there can also be assets to separate and custody arrangements to settle. Nessel & Kessel, premier Michigan divorce attorneys, can help you navigate these complicated and, and often emotionally charged, waters.

Michigan operates as a No Fault Divorce state. This means the spouse filing for divorce does not have to prove fault of their soon-to-be former spouse in order to file. All that is needed to file is to give a reason that the state honors for divorce. The most common reasons given are “irreconcilable differences” or “irreparable breakdown of the marriage”.

A spouse cannot object to a petition for a no fault divorce. The petition itself will be viewed by the court as an irreconcilable difference. Fault does become an issue in regards to child custody, property rights, and spousal support. In terms of actually filing, however, both spouses do not need to be in agreement for the divorce to proceed.

It is important to note Michigan does have residency requirements in order to file for divorce. At least one spouse must have lived in Michigan for at least six months. The spouse seeking divorce—also known as the plaintiff in the process—must file in the county in which they have lived with their spouse—the defendant—for the last 10 days.

The plaintiff pays a filing fee and files a complaint within the family division of the circuit court, asking to be granted a divorce. This complaint identifies the parties involved, describes the grievances, and how they are seeking remedy.

The court then issues a summons, along with a copy of the complaint, to be served to the defendant. They have 21 days to respond by filing an answer in the same circuit court. If the defendant fails to file an answer or responsive plea, the court may enter a default judgment and rule in favor of the plaintiff.

If both parties reach an agreement for divorce, and do not want to go to trial, they move into the settlement process, where the division of property, assets, debts and liabilities, and settling matters of child support, custody, and visitation.

In the event of a trial, the plaintiff and defendant move into the discovery and pre-trial procedures phase of the divorce. The discovery phase is used to gather as much information about things like debts, assets, and net worth though interrogations, depositions, and subpoenas. Lawyers use the pre-trial procedures to attempt to settle the divorce before going to trial, using various meetings, evaluations, and conferences.

If the pre-trial procedures are unsuccessful at settling the divorce, the final step is a divorce trial. Michigan allows trials before a judge or a jury. Both options function very much the same. Each party explains the nature of their case, calls witnesses, and proves their evidence. After the trial has ended, the judge or jury will arrive at a verdict.

Will They or Won’t They? The Nomination and Appointment of Would-Be Supreme Court Justice Merrick Garland

It’s been seven weeks since the news broke of Justice Antonin Scalia’s sudden passing, two weeks since President Obama announced his nomination of would-be replacement Judge Merrick Garland, and the jury is still out on whether or not he’ll nominated — or even considered — by the Senate Judiciary Committee at some point during this election year. It’s a complicated argument, with valid points to be made on all sides of the issue; all that, we’ll leave up to the politicians to sort out.

But as they do, as one Republican senator (Mark Kirk, of Illinois) relented and met with Judge Garland this week, we thought it apt to take the opportunity and share a little about who exactly Merrick Garland is, and how nominations and appointments to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) work.

Who is Judge Merrick Garland?

Considered for a previous Supreme Court vacancy (for the seats that now belong to Justices Kagan and Sotomayor), Merrick B. Garland holds degrees from Harvard College and Harvard Law School. His early professional accomplishments include a position as law clerk to Judge Henry Friendly of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit and to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William J. Brennan, and also a partnership at the law firm Arnold & Porter.

Garland’s vast judicial resume goes on to detail his role as Assistant U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from 1989 to 1992; Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice; Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General from 1994 to 1997, during which time he supervised the prosecution of Oklahoma City bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols and Unabomber Ted Kaczynski.

He was appointed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit in April 1997, and became chief judge in February 2013.

And how exactly does a Judge become a Supreme Court justice?

First he (or she, as the case may be) must be nominated by the President… And from there ensues a game of political tennis, including committee scrutiny, background checks, testimony, Senate debate, and eventually a vote. The process can happen quickly, or it can happen quite slowly: Justice Harriet Miers, appointed by President George W. Bush, was confirmed in just 21 days, while it took the Senate more than five times that long (114 days, to be exact) to confirm Reagan appointee Robert H. Bork.

It’s been 15 days since Garland’s appointment, and many Senate Republicans are holding fast to their assertions that his nomination, well, won’t even be considered let alone confirmed.

And the truth is, only time will tell.

In the News: New MI Law Allows Arenas to Stock Epinephrine

From UpNorthLive.com:

A new Michigan law lets arenas, camps and other venues stock epinephrine injectors to treat allergic reactions.

The measure signed this week by Gov. Rick Snyder permits doctors to prescribe and pharmacists to dispense EpiPens to youth sports leagues, amusement parks, religious institutions and other places. The proposed law also establishes storage and training requirements, and limits liability from lawsuits.

The law follows a 2013 law requiring every public school to have EpiPens.

Snyder says with the new law, parents can be more confident sending their kids to camp or on field trips with constant worry about them having an allergic reaction.