In The News

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.

Dana Nessel and Fair Michigan

This week in The Detroit Jewish News, their cover story was about Dana Nessel and her Fair Michigan Project.  The article is a profile of civil rights attorney Dana Nessel and the story behind her creation of the Fair Michigan Project, an organization dedicated to protecting the rights of women and the LGBTQ community.

Here is a link to the story.

‘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.

Online Scam Targets LGBT Community

Members of the LGBT community have often found themselves the targets of crime.  Unfortunately, with the advent of technology, the range of these crimes has significantly broadened.  Recently, a number of gay men have become the focus of a blackmail scam.

These men would meet other gay men online and then engaged in consensual sexual acts.  However, almost immediately afterwards, these men would be contacted by a third party who would tell them that the person with whom they just engaged in consensual sexual acts with was a minor.  In Michigan, statutory rape is a felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.  The third party would then tell these men that he would report them unless they paid him off.  Sometimes the payment was a few hundred dollars, but in other instances the payment would be upwards of $70,000.00. 

Many of these men contacted Dana Nessel, of Nessel and Kessel Law and founder of Fair Michigan, a nationally known civil rights attorney.  Ms. Nessel advised these men to contact the police because it was clear that they had been targeted by a scam artist.  Thankfully some of the men did and one man has been taken into custody. 

 

Here is a link to a story done by Channel 7 WXYZ, in which Michigan LGBT attorney Dana Nessel spoke about the matter. 

 

Chris Kessel discusses Ferndale murder and PPO’s.

Tragedy struck Ferndale, Michigan recently where a man allegedly killed his ex-girlfriend and then himself.  The woman, who at the time of the story had not been named, had expressed concern regarding the man’s behavior.  In fact, she had recently filed for a PPO against the suspect.  Channel 7, WXYZ Detroit reached out to Chris Kessel, an expert in the area of PPO law, to discuss the case.

Here is a link to the story. 

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?

Chris Kessel on Fox 2 Let It Rip

The case of former City Counsel president, Charles Pugh, has gained national attention in the past weeks and months.  Knowing that, defense attorney Chris Kessel appeared on Fox 2 Detroit’s Sunday morning Let It Rip, in an episode dedicated to the case of Charles Pugh. 

Mr. Kessel was asked to be on the program because of his extensive knowledge and experience defending those charged with criminal sexual conduct, especially those charged in cases involving child complainants.  Chris Kessel was asked about potential defenses, what type of juror would be ideal for a case such as this, and what potential sentence Mr. Pugh may be looking at. 

Here is a link to Chris Kessel’s appearance. 

Fair Michigan to Help LGBT Community

This week, civil rights attorney and activist Dana Nessel and her organization, Fair Michigan, has helped take another step forward in the battle for protection of members of the LGBT community.  In conjunction with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office and the Detroit Police Department, a new unit has been created that is specially designed to handle crimes against members of the LGBT community.  The unit will be assigned one special prosecutor and one special investigator, each with special training to handle cases in which members of the LGBT community have been specifically targeted. 

Because of Dana Nessel’s continued work as a defense attorney all across Michigan, she will take no part in any of the investigations or prosecutions handled by the new unit.  However, Ms. Nessel is the President of Fair Michigan, the organization behind the push to create the unit. 

Here is a link to a story by the Detroit News.