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.
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.
A new kind of custody battle.
Battles involving child custody are often hotly contested between the parties. These can also become very complicated, when the couples used donor genetic material (eggs or sperm) to conceive their child. Now, thanks to the ruling in Obergefell (the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling), a new wrinkle has been added to these cases.
A same sex couple in southeast Michigan finds themselves at the center of a new, and potentially ground breaking, area of law. The parties are a lesbian couple who entered into a domestic partnership in New York and a civil union in Vermont. They did these things before same-sex marriage became legal. They then used a donor egg and sperm to have their children. The parties have been co-parenting the children since birth. Now the couple is splitting up and the birth mother is trying to deny our client parenting time with the children.
There are two things particularly interesting about this case. First, according to the Michigan Custody Act, the birth mother is not technically a parent. This is so because she is not genetically related to the children, nor is she an adoptive parent. Second, our client is the legal guardian of the children, meaning she may in fact have more legal rights to the children than the birth mother.
The central issue is whether or not the court will recognize that because these women did all they could to be a family and co-parent each should be entitled to parenting time as though they had been married.
Here is a link to a story done by Local 4.
On Friday, January 29, 2016, in a new episode of Off The Record, civil rights and criminal defense attorney Dana Nessel discussed the Fair Michigan ballot initiative. Ms. Nessel, along with other panelists, discuss that while denying the right to same-sex marriage has been deemed unconstitutional, Michigan has a long way to go before reaching equality.
Here is a link to the episode.
In what should come as a shock to no one in the State of Michigan, Dana Nessel was named one of 2015’s Newsmakers of the Year, by Gongwer news service. Dana’s work made worldwide news when the United States Supreme Court voted to recognized the Constitutional right to marry for all same-sex couples.
Here is a link to the full text of the article.
Don’t be surprised if you see Dana Nessel as one of 2016’s Newsmakers of the Year…work has already begun on passing an anti-discrimination amendment to Michigan’s constitution, which would be the first of its kind in the United States.
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.
Dana Nessel, a household name in the LGBT community, has dedicated herself to fighting against injustice in the courtroom. Now she has taken the fight out of the courts and is taking it to the ballot box. Unfortunately, not all in the LGBT community are supporting Dana’s efforts. Dana and several other dedicated citizens, Democrat and Republican, have begun an initiative to have an equal rights amendment added to the State Constitution of Michigan. The amendment would ban discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity. The organization behind the effort, Fair Michigan, is working to gather enough signatures to have the measure placed on the ballot in time for the 2016 election.
Here is a link to an excellent story by Jack Lessenberry, who writes about the seemingly curious divisiveness that Dana’s fight has created in the LGBT community.
On a day that was overflowing with emotion from all parties, April and Jayne Deboer-Rowse were finally able to officially become legal parents to all 5 of their beautiful children. The battle that started on January 23, 2012, in a federal court house in Detroit, finally came to a conclusion on Thursday, November 5, 2015, in the Oakland County Circuit Court. Judge Karen D. McDonald, who presided over the hearing, was clearly feeling the excitement that filled the room as she questioned both April and Jayne about the legal obligations they were about to undertake. After the obligatory questions were asked, and the hearing concluded, Judge McDonald gave big hugs to April and Jayne as she congratulated them.
After weeks of time spent assembling the packets for the Family Court, attorneys of record, Dana Nessel and Chris Kessel were happy to have only a minor role as the hearing proceeded. With the adoption hearing over, everyone (including some of the local reporters) enjoyed some cake. Rarely do long court battles have completely happy endings…thankfully this one did.
Below are links from various local news outlets that covered the hearing.
Here is a link to a story by Fox 2 Detroit.
Here is a link to a story by the Detroit Free Press.
Here is a link to a story by the Detroit News.
Here is a link to a story by the Pontiac Morning Sun.
Criminal defense attorney Chris Kessel found himself in a rather unique position yesterday. The fact that he was holding a preliminary examination in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice was not unique, or even rare for that matter. The fact that Chris Kessel’s client was charged with First Degree Murder was also unremarkable. What made the situation so odd is that the prosecutor’s office claimed to have a confession by Chris Kessel’s client…and that the confession was made in the form of a rap verse that was alleged to have been recorded by the client.
At the preliminary exam, it was clear that much of the case against Michigan criminal defense attorney Chris Kessel’s client is circumstantial. Further, in a lengthy argument with the judge, Mr. Kessel argued that even if the court were to accept that the voice on the recording was his client’s, much of what is sung about in rap music is an exaggeration of facts. Because of the low threshold of evidence required to take the case beyond the preliminary exam stage, the case was bound over. However, defense attorney Chris Kessel is looking forward to fighting this case as it works its way through the justice system.
Because of the unique nature of the case – or rather the confession – it garnered media attention. Here is a link to the story done by Fox 2 and Charlie Langton. Here is a link to a story by the Metro Times.
As reported in Michigan Lawyers Weekly, we’re so proud to share the news…
“Nessel received the award at MiLW’s annual Women in the Law event Sept. 10 at the Detroit Marriott Troy. She was selected by a vote of the 30 members of the Women in the Law Class of 2015, all of whom are featured in this special section.
Nessel, a criminal defense and family lawyer at Nessel & Kessel Law, represented the plaintiffs in DeBoer v. Snyder, which challenged the Michigan Marriage Amendment and the Michigan Adoption Code. DeBoer was consolidated with three similar cases, and in June, a 5-4 Supreme Court ruled that all states’ same-sex marriage bans were unconstitutional.”
Read the full article here.