Legal Blog

Changes to Second Parent Adoptions in Michigan Could Be Coming

The last year has brought great changes to marriage law both in Michigan and across the United States. As the LGBT community inches closer to equal marriage rights, plenty of related questions are also raised; what do same-sex couples do when it comes to adopting children? Can both persons in a homosexual relationship adopt children so that they are both listed as parents? Not yet in the Great Lakes State, but changes could be coming according to the leading Detroit adoption attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law.

Although Michigan’s Adoption Code does not currently allow same-sex couples to jointly adopt, this law could soon become a thing of the past. Judge Bernard Friedman is set to hear arguments on the future of second-parent adoptions in Michigan, as well as same-sex marriage in federal court later this month in Detroit. The legal team representing the highly publicized DeBoer-Rowse family, Nessel and Kessel Law, have assembled a nationally recognized team of expert witnesses who will testify about issues related to same-sex marriage and LGBT parenting. Should the attorneys prove successful, Judge Friedman could strike down Michigan’s ban on same-sex parent adoptions for homosexual couples. If the ruling is not stayed, these couples could begin adopting children very shortly afterward.

As experienced Michigan adoption lawyers, Nessel and Kessel knows first-hand  that same-sex parents thrive in these households to the same extent they would if in a home headed by married heterosexual partners. The only differences exist thank to Michigan’s Adoption Code and their ban on second-parent adoption. Our legal team looks forward to receiving the rulings in the DeBoer v. Snyder case and to living in a state where every child has the same protections afforded to families with heterosexual couples.

If you or a loved one has been considering second-parent adoption in Michigan, it is essential to be well-informed of all your rights and protections. Contacting an experienced and knowledgeable Detroit adoption lawyer will help clarify the legal process and ensure that every one of the client’s rights are protected. Reach out to the Nessel and Kessel law offices for more information on how we can help you by phoning us at 313-556-2300 today!

Marijuana Defense No More – Colorado Legalizes Pot

Non-medical Marijuana Sold in Colorado

Marijuana defense attorneys in Colorado lose sleep, and revenue, as Colorado becomes the first state to legalize the recreational purchase and use of marijuana.  The law was passed earlier in 2013, but was put into effect on New Year’s Day.  Literally thousands of people from across the country travelled to Denver, Colorado Springs, and other major Colorado cities for the opportunity to purchase marijuana legally.   

The law, Amendment 64, looks to save Colorado approximately $12 million per year.  In the first decade of the 2000’s, Colorado averaged near 10,000 arrests and tickets for minors possession and using marijuana.  In 2013 the number dropped to approximately 4,500.  But many attribute that drop to the knowledge of the upcoming legalization.  The law does not allow for public use of marijuana, but at this point citizens are simply happy to be able to use the substance in the privacy of their own homes.   

Unfortunately while there are many states that are looking at a push to legalize marijuana, Michigan is nowhere close to passing such a law.  For more information on the current state of marijuana laws in Michigan and marijuana defense, as well as the possible charges that one could face if caught with marijuana, click here

Drug cases tend to be the most complicated cases because of all the different issues that may come up.  That means you need a marijuana defense attorney who knows the law and how to use it to your advantage.  When a client retains Nessel and Kessel Law we immediately begin to develop a comprehensive strategy for success.  Sometimes success means convincing the prosecutor to dismiss the charges completely, or have them greatly reduced.  Other times it means a motion to suppress evidence to have the case dismissed by a judge, or fully preparing for trial and securing a not guilty verdict. 

There are almost always 4th Amendment issues when dealing with narcotics charges because the arrest usually stems from a stop on the street or while driving, from the execution of a search warrant, or because of the use of a confidential informent to secure information used to perform a stop or obtain a warrant.  Many times your case will hinge on whether or not your 4th Amendment rights have been violated. 

Narcotics charges also hinge heavily on police officer testimony.  Generally there will be multiple officers who take part in a “raid.”  At Nessel and Kessel Law, we have the necessary skill and experience to cross examine these officers and find the holes and cracks in their story, thereby allowing us to expose the lies and fabrications in their story.  At Nessel and Kessel Law, not only do we know the law and how to use it to your advantage, but we know how to expose witnesses who are being less than honest. 

Contact Nessel and Kessel Law today if you or a friend or family member has been charged with a drug offense.  



Detroit Gay Rights Attorney to Speak on Panel in Honor of Constitution Day

In honor of Constitution Day, the Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Ann Arbor campus is looking to get people talking. On Friday, September 20th, the school will host an interactive panel discussion entitled, “Finding Michigan’s Invisible People.”

The featured topic will be the pending DeBoer v. Snyder case, represented by the Michigan gay rights attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law. This particular case was chosen because of the very serious constitutional issues it raises: the 2004 Michigan Marriage Amendment prohibiting the state from recognizing same-sex relationships, and the Michigan Adoption Code barring non-married couples from jointly adopting children.

Plaintiffs April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse have been in a committed relationship for many years and would get married if Michigan state law allowed it. Originally, the couple filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan in order to challenge the Michigan adoption code—the ultimate obstacle in jointly adopting the three children they have adopted separately.  As the state refuses to allow same-sex couples from marrying and prohibits non-married couples from adopting, Judge Bernard Friedman allowed DeBoer and Rowse to amend their lawsuit to include an additional challenge to the state’s gay marriage ban.

“The United States Supreme Court has ruled several times, most recently this past June, that discrimination against gays and lesbians just because of their sexual orientation is unconstitutional,” explained professor of constitutional law at Cooley, Dan Ray. “The Constitution Day panel will discuss issues that are important to couples and families not just here in Michigan, but all across the country.”

The Detroit gay rights lawyers at Nessel and Kessel Law invite you to join the discussion and hear what our featured attorney, Dana Nessel, has to say about this potentially groundbreaking case!

Cooley Law School Ann Arbor Campus
3475 Plymouth Road
Held from 12 p.m. – 1:30 p.m.
For more information, contact Julie Mullens at (734) 372-4900 ext. 8798 or by email

Upcoming Fundraiser to Support Couple’s Challenge to Michigan Same Sex Marriage Ban

Deboer Rowse CaseThe Michigan Marriage Challenge is pleased to host a fundraiser in support of the Legal Defense Fund for Jayne Rowse and April DeBoer.

April and Jayne are fighting to protect their family by overturning Michigan’s Constitutional Marriage Amendment, approved by voters in 2004, which prohibits gays and lesbians from a legal marriage as well as alter Michigan’s adoption code that denies rights and benefits to the children of gay/lesbian couples.

Please join April, Jayne, and their Michigan gay rights attorneys Dana Nessel and Carole Stanyar for an evening reception featuring keynote speaker, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

Thursday, September 26th, 2013
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

290 W. Nine Mile
Ferndale, MI 48220

$1000 – VIP Host*
$500 – Diamond
$250 – Platinum
$100 – Gold
$50 – Silver

*VIP Host guests will attend a 6:00 p.m. special briefing with Prosecutor Kym Worthy, April DeBoer, Jayne Rowse, and lawyers Dana Nessel and Carole Stanyar.

Please makes checks payable to:

c/o Mary Bartek
49036 Quail Run Drive S.
Plymouth, MI 48170

Or you can donate to the DeBoer Rowse Legal Fund online by clicking here.

Juvenile Lifers in Michigan: Proposed Changes to Unconstitutional State Law to be Discussed at Scheduled Joint Hearing

Update: The joint meeting of the House Criminal Justice and Senate Judiciary committees was rescheduled for August 27 at 9 a.m.

Of all the clients that our Detroit criminal defense attorneys work with, juveniles accused of serious offenses were always the most heartbreaking—that is, until the U.S. Supreme Court deemed Michigan’s “juvenile lifer” law unconstitutional just over a year ago.

Lawmakers in Michigan are expected to hear testimony regarding the proposed changes to the unconstitutional state law as early as this month. Currently, A joint session with the Chairs of the House Criminal Justice and Senate Judiciary committees was been scheduled for August 27th, 2013 at 9 a.m. While they do not intend to vote on anything on that date, the testimony is intended to be on bipartisan legislation to modernizing the state law in accordance with the Supreme Court ruling.

Before deemed unconstitutional, the Michigan juvenile lifer law gave prosecutors a wide authority to pursue adult charges against minors convicted of particularly serious crimes, including first-degree murder. Juveniles could be sentenced to serve mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole, if found guilty.

However, a June 2012 U.S. Supreme Court ruling of 5-4 stated that mandatory sentences such as these are form of cruel and unusual punishment and are therefore unconstitutional. The majority decision noted that such legislation fails to acknowledge the potential for cognitive and character development in minors. Hoe Home to over 350 juvenile lifers, Michigan has the second highest number of incarcerated minors in the United States. This alarming statistic has remained stationary as state and federal courts debate the possibility of retroactivity for minors with life sentences—particularly, whether the decision will apply to all underage lifers or just those on direct appeal and future offenders.

House Bill 4806, introduced last month by Republican Representatives Joe Haveman, Al Pscholka and Margaret O’Brien is expected to offer a few solutions.

According to the proposed legislation, the bill would allow minors with life sentences or prosecuting attorneys to request a resentencing hearing. During that time, the judge would have the opportunity to consider all of the circumstances of the case (including the juvenile’s age at the time of their offense) before either confirming the original sentence or open to an alternative.

The Detroit defense attorneys at Nessel and Kessel Law are excited about both the Supreme Court ruling and proposed legislation to eliminate mandatory life sentences without parole for minors. Stunting minor’s during particularly moldable periods in their lives, it is important that Michigan lawmakers remember the entire point behind incarceration: rehabilitation.



Colorado Legalizes the First Gay Divorce

The recent Supreme Court decision that ruled DOMA unconstitutional is paving the way for same sex couples across the country to be able to legally marry and adopt children. Along with it however, is a brand new laundry list of legal questions–namely, how do gay couples who were married in states that allow same sex marriages get divorced without life-changing consequences?

Those who support gay marriage in say that Colorado’s first statewide ruling permitting finalized same sex divorces creates a new precedent for those looking to terminate their relationships as seamlessly as possible.

Legally wed in Massachusetts in 2009, Juli Yim and Lorelei Jones relationship eventually went started to break apart and Yim found a new partner in Colorado. Despite being one of the several states that treat straight and gay couples the same in most respects through domestic partnerships and civil unions, same sex marriages are currently prohibited in Colorado. Yet, gay couples can still be divorced according to the state statute.

While several states’ gay marriage laws force the couple to have in-state residency in order to legally terminate a relationship, many advocates say that the rule is incredibly inconvenient as it ultimately puts life on hold for those who’ve moved to other states. This has caused nationwide confusion on how same sex couples can get a divorce, and each issue varies by state. “A lot of people kind of think if they went on vacation to Iowa or Massachusetts or New York and got married and came back to their state, that when they break up they can just go their separate ways,” gay divorce attorney Kyle Martelon explained. “It’s not like that.”

Having taken effect on May 1st, the civil union law in Colorado offers legal protections for same sex couples getting divorced including: division of property, financial responsibility between former spouses, parental supervision, and child support to the dissipating parties… given that at least one of the people involved has been a Colorado resident for 90 days or more. The new legislation also prevents anyone who entered a marriage or a civil union in another state from doing so in Colorado with anyone aside from their spouse as recognized by the law.

As Yim’s divorce became final on July 29th, she and current partner Suzie Calvin plan to marry on May 1st of next year. Unfortunately, unless Colorado’s constitutional ban on same sex marriages is overturned, the couple will have to wed in a different state–a legal change that is not expected to come any time soon. During the first two months that the law took effect, a total of seven marriage dissolution cases were filed in Colorado. Yim’s was the first, while the other six are currently pending.

The same sex divorce lawyers at Nessel and Kessel Law offer services to draft separation agreements for gay and lesbian couples residing in Michigan who are legally married and looking to get a lawful divorce. Until marriage between same sex couples is legalized in the state of Michigan, allow the gay divorce attorneys at Nessel and Kessel assist you in helping to dissolve your out-of-state marriage.


[This photo, taken May 17th, 2005, is of Julie (front left) and Hillary Goodridge as they pose with other same sex couples and advocates in celebration of their first wedding anniversary in Boston. The duo that led the legal crusade for Massachusetts to become the first state in America to recognize gay marriages is now the trendsetters for another type of same sex law: divorce. Thursday, Jan. 29, 2009. / Elise Amendola AP]

Anti-Meth Law Hopes to Curb Criminal Activity in Southwest Michigan

t106228cIn this tight economy, making $50 from just buying a box of Sudafed can be an extremely attractive offer.  That is what a growing number of people in the State of Michigan are realizing, according to law enforcement officials.   These types of “quick bucks” are directly fueling an overwhelming drug epidemic in Southwest Michigan, causing families to fall apart, property values to fall, and prison cells to overflow.

Even though a state law passed in 2012 limits the amount of cold medicine products containing pseudoephedrine one can buy at a time, methamphetamine production in the Mitten state has shown little signs of stopping and has created a new type of criminal in Michigan.

State law requires those who buy cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine to show identification and have their names inserted into NPLEx, a police database, to monitor how much is being purchased at one time. Michigan limits a person to 3.6 grams per day and nine each month.

As one of the key components in manufacturing methamphetamine is found in cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, addicts pay others large sums of money to purchase these meds for them. Referred to as “smurfing,” this new type of drug deal is particularly profitable for the purchaser—a box of Sudafed has a street value of nearly $50, meaning significant gains for the buyer.

Despite the tougher monitoring laws, the creation of the “smurf” dealer is just one example of how law enforcement officials in Michigan have seriously struggled to damper meth production and use in the state.  In fact, many argue that the result of the new law has been the creation of a black market for pseudoephedrine products, ultimately creating an entirely new type criminal. Many argue that in that sense, the law has made the increasingly desperate situation much worse.

Although there is no specific law in Michigan that makes smurfing illegal, if the purchaser knows that the product they’re buying is going to be used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, they can still be charged with aiding and abetting. Because of this, accusations of “smurfing” are incredibly serious, and could have potentially life-changing consequences. If you or someone you know has been accused of “smurfing” to manufacture meth, contacting an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney should be the very first step. Only with a skilled legal defense team can one overcome these very harsh charges, which could result in enormous fines and/or incarceration. The knowledgeable Detroit criminal defense lawyers at Nessel and Kessel Law can provide the legal advice and legal representation needed to prevent smurfing accusations from becoming permanent blemishes on one’s record.


Michigan Prison Sentencing Reforms Being Considered

rosannabehindbarsmarch2013One doesn’t need to be an experienced Detroit criminal attorney to know that the state’s Department of Corrections needs some correcting of its own. Mandatory sentences statewide are notoriously tough, placing Michigan as the state with the largest average time served for all crimes in 2009 alone.

These shocking statistics have prompted leading Michigan legislators and Governor Rick Snyder to consider the first set of prison sentencing reforms since the laws became noticeably stricter almost 15 years ago.

Of course, the state’s place at the top of the national time served list isn’t lawmakers only reason for discussing change—there is also a strong desire to reduce the Corrections Department’s budget, which currently surpasses $2 billion. The tougher stance on prison sentencing taken by Michigan legislators in 1998 caused a significant increase in cost as well. According to a study performed by the Pew Center on the States, the increased prison time added $472 million to the state’s yearly bill.

There is also evidence that public attitudes towards crime and punishment may be changing as well. Republican Resentative Joe Haverman explained, “Society has changed its views on a number of criminal justice issues. Being ‘tough on crime’ above all other concerns simply haven’t created a safer society.” Despite being a typically conservative legislator, Haverman’s commentary signals that the state’s government may be ready to reform some of Michigan’s toughest incarceration policies—especially as the state Legislature is Republican controlled and tends to govern conservatively as well.

Still, Michigan is in better control of prison costs than in previous years. The total number of offenders coming to prison has decreased, as well as the recidivism rate. This is largely because Michigan has consequently increased the use of probation, paroles, and electronic tethers to keep an eye on lower-level offenders without putting them in prison. Legislators have also cut costs by contracting privately for incarceration services, like food preparation. But as Michigan prison costs continue to exceed $2 billion, state lawmakers have made it clear that it isn’t enough.

As skilled and compassionate Detroit criminal defense attorneys, the legal team at Nessel and Kessel Law applauds the consideration of prison reformation. All too often, the punishments don’t fit the crime. Our knowledgeable criminal defense law firm in Detroit is dedicated to providing the best legal advice and legal representation to all those accused of crimes in Michigan. Regardless of whether it is a misdemeanor offense or felonious crime, do not hesitate to retain legal assistance immediately. Contact the legal team at Nessel and Kessel Law today.


DOMA Ruling and What it Means for Same Sex Couples in Michigan

Last week’s Supreme Court ruling hit the news waves like a tsunami–many were talking about the unconstitutionality of DOMA, despite rarely knowing what the decision actually means for same-sex couples in the United States. Ultimately, the high court determined that DOMA violated the 5th Amendment rights of married gay couples by denying them equal protection under the law. The majority wrote that although some states recognize a gay marriage, because the federal government does not, same-sex couples would be denied a myriad of federal Deboer Rowse Fundbenefits (such as the tax benefits in the actual case heard in front of the Supreme Court) that heterosexual couples had access to. Therefore, in the eyes of the court, gay couples were treated differently.


While there are technically some instances in which government can discriminate against certain groups of people, to do so legally it must past a test. The Supreme Court said that discriminating against same-sex couples needed to pass the rational basis test to be lawful–meaning, there must be a “legitimate government interest” that would justify the need to discriminate. In the case most recently heard by the Supreme Court, no such legitimate interest could be found.


Even though Michigan’s ban on same-sex marriage and adoption is still written in the state constitution, the DOMA ruling does make the light at the end of the tunnel shine that much brighter in the Mitten State. Because the constitutional ban in Michigan clearly discriminates against same-sex marriage exactly like DOMA, attorneys for gay couples are now able to argue that prohibiting their marriage or adoption serves no legitimate government interest and therefore should be recognized as a denial of their 5th Amendment rights. While the majority wrote that it is the state’s job to define things like marriage, it is required to do so within the rubric of constitutional protections.Deboer Rowse Case


The dedicated and experienced Detroit lawyers at Nessel and Kessel Law couldn’t be more pleased about the Supreme Court ruling, as it not only proclaims this legal injustice as unconstitutional but also paves the way for many other same-sex couples (in Michigan and around the country) to enjoy the same benefits that heterosexual couples do. We are hopeful that as the waves of change continue to catch on, gay couples (like our clients April DeBoer and Jayne Rowse), will have the opportunity to marry and adopt lawfully and without prejudice.


Should you have any questions on same-sex marriage or adoption in Michigan or any other state, please don’t hesitate to contact the skilled legal team at Nessel and Kessel Law. Nationally recognized for their devotion to the crusade for marriage equality, Dana Nessel and Chris Kessel are ready to fight for you. Do not hesitate to reach out to Nessel and Kessel Law at any time!


April and Jayne need your help! To contribute to their ongoing legal battle for adoption rights, please click here.

Gay Marriage and Second Parent Adoption Interview

Dana Nessel sits down with to discuss gay marriage and second parent adoption.

While the country waits for the United States Supreme Court to address the cases before it that deal with gay marriage, Dana Nessel spoke with Jonathan Oosting of for an interview on the state of the law in Michigan and around the county.

The interview can be found here.

Nessel and Kessel Law is dedicated for fighting for the rights of all people, no matter their race, religion, or sexual preference.  At this moment we have a case in Federal Court challenging Michigan’s ban on same sex marriage and second parent adoption.  More information can be found on the case hereWe are particularly looking forward to the Supreme Court’s decision and the ways in which it will further our fight for gay marriage and second parent adoption in Michigan.  If you or someone you know has been charged with a crime or been discriminated against, contact the Dana Nessel and Chris Kessel of Nessel and Kessel Law.