In The News

Sixth Circuit Upholds Same-Sex Marriage Bans

In October, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear arguments regarding same-sex marriage, but now it seems they may not have a choice. Despite district court rulings to the contrary, the Sixth Circuit decided 2–1 to uphold same-sex marriage bans in each of the four affected states (Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee). The challenges levied in Michigan and Kentucky concerned state amendments barring same-sex marriage, while couples in Ohio and Tennessee concerned themselves with earning statewide recognition for legal marriages performed elsewhere. and Michigan challenged state amendments barring same-sex marriage. Couples from Ohio and Tennessee asked the lower courts to require their states to recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states.

In his majority opinion, Judge Jeffrey Sutton wrote:

“A dose of humility makes us hesitant to condemn as unconstitutionally irrational a view of marriage shared not long ago by every society in the world, shared by most, if not all, of our ancestors, and shared still today by a significant number of the States.  Hesitant, yes; but still a rational basis, some rational basis, must exist for the definition.”


“There are many ways, as [the] lower court decisions confirm, to look at this question: originalism; rational basis review; animus; fundamental rights; suspect classifications; evolving meaning.  The parties in one way or another have invoked them all.  Not one of the plaintiffs’ theories, however, makes the case for constitutionalizing the definition of marriage and for removing the issue from the place it has been since the founding: in the hands of state voters.”

Same-sex marriage is, and will continue to be a passion-inspiring topic for those on both sides of the political spectrum, but for the same-sex couples fighting for the right that so many heterosexual couples take for granted, this Sixth Circuit ruling is so much more than dinnertime debate fodder. To date, petitions have been filed by such couples in Ohio and in Tennessee, claiming that the federal appeals court’s ruling was “riddled with flaws” and questioning “whether the ban on recognition violates married couples’ right to travel between the states.”

“By disrespecting their marriages, Ohio has done more than deny petitioners basic legal rights to which they are entitled,” one petition reads. “It has treated Petitioners as second-class citizens whose most intimate relationships have been denied the dignity and respect they deserve.”

In October, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear arguments regarding same-sex marriage, but even Ruth Bader Ginsburg must now admit “some urgency in the court taking the case.”

In Elonis v. United States, SCOTUS Will Decide: Threats or Free Speech?

These are the facts.

Anthony Elonis was convicted — under 18 U. S. C. §875(c), which states: “Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to kidnap any person or any threat to injure the person of another, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.” — of posting on Facebook threats to injure his coworkers, his wife, and others.

Of his estranged wife, Elonis said, “There’s one way to love you but a thousand ways to kill you. I’m not going to rest until your body is a mess, soaked in blood and dying from all the little cuts.”

Later, he wrote of an FBI agent: “Little agent lady stood so close, took all the strength I had not to turn the [expletive] ghost. Pull my knife, flick my wrist and slit her throat.

The convicted and his lawyers have long contended that his posts, some of which contained song lyrics penned by the rapper Eminem, were not meant to threaten anyone, but just Elonis’ own way of dealing with personal, emotional pain. But the jury wasn’t convinced, and neither was the Third Circuit Court of Appeals.

This is the issue.

In June 2014, the Supreme Court of the Unites States agreed to hear the case, during which it will attempt to determine (from SCOTUSblog) “whether, consistent with the First Amendment and Virginia v. Black, conviction of threatening another person under 18 U.S.C. § 875(c) requires proof of the defendant’s subjective intent to threaten, as required by the Ninth Circuit and the supreme courts of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont; or whether it is enough to show that a ‘reasonable person’ would regard the statement as threatening, as held by other federal courts of appeals and state courts of last resort; and (2) whether, as a matter of statutory interpretation, conviction of threatening another person under 18 U.S.C. § 875(c) requires proof of the defendant’s subjective intent to threaten.”

Boil it down, and this case is about “true threats,” which the court will be forced to define as it hears this final appeal, and forced to apply to the relatively ungoverned realm of social media.

Director of the Pennsylvania Center for the First Amendment Robert Richards falls in favor of Elonis on this issue, arguing that people use social media “to say all kinds of things” without saying anything to any one person in particular. Others argue that threats made via social media are very real, with very real economic and psychological ramifications.

And that: That’s for the Supreme Court to decide.

Arguments will begin on Monday, December 1, 2014.

Defense Attorney Chris Kessel Represents Detroit Man Involved in “Neighborhood Watch Gone Wrong”

Detroit Attorney Chris Kessel on Fox 2 News

As reported by, one local elderly man with good intentions found out first-hand the consequences that can occur when one takes the role of “neighborhood watch” into their own hands. After living on Detroit’s northwest side for over four decades, 73 year-old William Heard has a reputation amongst the community for being a “hero” and “pillar” amongst his neighbors.

His an overwhelmingly positive reputation makes him an unlikely candidate to now be facing a five year felony for an incident that occurred in March 2014. On the evening in question, he heard banging noises coming from the vacant home next door and spotted men stealing parts of the property. Being a licensed gun owner, Heard grabbed his weapon and went next door to investigate.

When the men he saw turned out to be contractors and not scrappers, Heard landed in a mess of legal trouble. The contractors spotted the gun in his hand and called the police. According to FOX 2’s Amy Lange, he reported that he never pointed it at the contractors, but just held it in his hand. Unfortunately when the police arrived, Heard discovered that he had unknowingly allowed his concealed pistol license to expire during a recent period of hospitalization.

This was enough for Heard to be arrested on felony gun charges, in spite of his good intentions and positive reputation. Nessel and Kessel Law’s Chris Kessel represents Heard in court, believing that reduced charges are definitely in the cards for this case.

Michigan Attorney Dana Nessel Spotted on Fox 2 News

Attorney Dana Kessel in the News

Spotted: Nessel and Kessel’s Dana Nessel was featured in a news clip on Fox 2, where they discussed a case involving a Michigan mother’s desperate attempt to reunite with her daughter. View the video to find out more about her story, and how the legal team at Nessel and Kessel law is assisting families across Michigan in resolving custody and divorce disputes of any kind.

Federal Court Judge Strikes Down Marriage Ban.

Nessel and Kessel Law gets landmark verdict.

On Friday, March 21, 2014, Judge Bernard Friedman made history by ruling that Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage violated the United States constitution.  Judge Friedman based his opinion on the grounds that the ban violated the 14th Amendment Equal Protection rights of our clients.  Dana Nessel of Nessel and Kessel Law was with the clients as the ruling came down, late in the afternoon.   

Here are several links to stories about the judge’s opinion.

Nessel and Kessel Law will keep you updated as to the upcoming implications for this case.

After the ruling, several county clerks were open for special hours on the following Saturday, so that couples could get their valid marriage licenses.  At approximately 5pm that day, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a stay for the case.  A “stay” is ruling that temporarily pauses the effect of a lower court’s ruling.  In this case, the stay means that the ban will still remain in place until the 6th Circuit rules.