Monday, January 27, 2014


Story first appeared on

FLINT, MI -- Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley said a lawsuit filed by retirees could force the city into bankruptcy and put pensions and health benefits at risk of cuts.

The claim is part of an op-ed Earley sent The Flint Journal following a Jan. 3 decision by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reinstating an injunction that prohibits the city from modifying health care for city retirees until a federal lawsuit is decided.

Six retirees and the Flint-based United Retired Governmental Employees association filed a lawsuit against the city following a decision in April 2012 by then-emergency manager Michael Brown that would make retirees pay more out of pocket for health coverage.

"If the federal district court's decision is not reversed, it is almost certain that Flint will soon be unable to provide even the most basic level of city services," Earley wrote in the op-ed.

An attorney for the retirees could not be reached for comment.

Earley said reinstating historic health care levels for retirees would cost the city an additional $5 million annually and force the city's unfunded liability for retiree health care to increase to as much as $900,000,000.

"We have done everything possible to avoid becoming insolvent," Earley wrote. "Resolving insolvency could include a potential filing for bankruptcy ..."

A bankruptcy proceeding could severely reduce or eliminate health care coverage for retirees and lead to possible pension cuts, Earley said.

Earley said Friday the op-ed should not be interpreted that a bankruptcy filing is inevitable or that he is pressuring retirees to drop their lawsuit against the city.

"We want the public to understand the severity of this issue," Earley said.

Flint City Council President Scott Kincaid said it's too early for the city to consider filing for bankruptcy.

Kincaid said bankruptcy has always been an option, but it's something the city has been trying to avoid.

"I think that the amount that it's going to cost the city is something we have to look at and figure out how we are going to fix in the long run," Kincaid said.

Kincaid said the city should begin to look at how bankruptcy can be avoided, before the trial on the lawsuit begins.

"Once the trial is done, I think that (bankruptcy) would be the option that is considered." Kincaid said. "I think right now it's premature to file for Chapter 9 Federal Bankruptcy."

Earley said the city has taken multiple steps to fix its financial situation, including raising property taxes and utility rates as well as reducing employee compensation.

"All options have to be considered," Earley said.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Va. Attorney General Mark Herring files brief opposing same-sex marriage ban

Story first appeared on the

RICHMOND — Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring announced Thursday that he believes the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional, and he joined two same-sex couples in asking a federal court to strike it down.  Contact a New York Gay Marriage Lawyer for more information.

The action, which Herring (D) made with the support of Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), marks a stunning reversal in the state’s legal position on same-sex marriage and is a result of November’s elections, in which Democrats swept the state’s top offices.
Democrats cheered the move as a victory for civil rights while Republicans blasted it as dereliction of the attorney general’s duty to defend the state constitution. With the support of 57 percent of voters, Virginia amended its constitution in 2006 to ban gay marriage.

Herring said his chief duty is to defend the U.S. Constitution.  Contact a Lansing Divorce Lawyer for help with your separation.

“The Supreme Court is clear: The United States Constitution is the law of the land, the supreme law of the land,” Herring said at a press conference. “I believe the freedom to marry is a fundamental right and I intend to ensure that Virginia is on the right side of history and the right side of the law.”

State Sen. Adam P. Ebbin (D-Alexandria), the first openly gay member of the General Assembly, was among those who applauded Herring’s move.

“Today is a proud day to be a Virginian,” he said. “We are the birthplace of civil liberties, and it’s exciting to see Virginia getting this right.”

But some Republicans said Herring made an outrageous attempt to thwart the will of the people. After winning an election largely based on criticizing conservative Republican Ken Cuccinelli II’s activist tenure as attorney general, critics said, Herring seems to be taking the law into his own hands for liberal ends.

“I don’t know what the difference between a dictatorship and this is,” said state Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun).

Some GOP legislators said they would look for a way to thwart Herring’s action. Anticipating Herring’s move, the General Assembly is already considering legislation to fund a legal defense for any laws that the attorney general chooses not to defend. They note that Cuccinelli appointed outside counsel to represent the state in a lawsuit over a school-takeover law that the Republican believed was unconstitutional.

“I’m unclear on the mechanism to get [legal opposition to Herring’s move] started, but it will be something that I’m sure will be researched over the next week or so,” said Sen. Stephen D. Newman (R-Lynchburg).

Reaction did not fall strictly along party lines.

“I don’t think he should do it, but I think he can do it, and I think it’s probably within his job description to do it” if he thinks the ban conflicts with the U.S. Constitution, said state Sen. Thomas A. Garrett Jr. (R-Goochland), a former prosecutor.  A Novi Law Firm is watching the story closely.

Cuccinelli, who lost a bid for governor to McAuliffe, adamantly opposed same-sex marriage and vowed to defend Virginia’s constitutional amendment banning such unions.

Herring, too, voted against same-sex marriage eight years ago, when he was a state senator. But he has said that his views have changed since then, and he filed a brief Thursday stating Virginia’s reversal in a lawsuit in Norfolk that challenges the state’s ban.

“The Attorney General has concluded that Virginia’s laws denying the right to marry to same-sex couples violate the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” the brief states.

At a news conference in Richmond, Herring said that the state has been on the wrong side of landmark legal battles involving school desegregation, interracial marriage and single-sex education. He made the case that Virginia should be on the right side of the law and history in the battle over same-sex marriage.

“As attorney general, I cannot and will not defend a law that violates Virginians’ fundamental constitutional rights,” he said.

Herring said he has been briefing McAuliffe, and the governor backs the move. McAuliffe did not immediately comment, but spokesman Brian Coy confirmed Herring’s account that the governor supports it.

Republicans reacted to the news swiftly Thursday by accusing Herring of failing to fulfill a central duty of his office — defending the state constitution.

“Not two weeks ago I watched the attorney general swear an oath before God and the people of Virginia to preserve, protect and defend our constitution,” Del. C. Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) said. “It didn’t take him long to find a way out of that.”

In a statement, House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) said: “I am very concerned about his announcement today and the dangerous precedent it sets with regard to the rule of law. The Attorney General has a constitutional and statutory obligation to enforce and defend the duly adopted laws and Constitution of Virginia. This is not an obligation that can be taken lightly. The Attorney General’s decision today demonstrates a great deal of disregard for that obligation, as well as the legislative and democratic processes by which those laws are adopted.”

Herring used much of the brief to defend his position.

“When the Attorney General, exercising his independent constitutional judgment, concludes that a provision of the Virginia Constitution (or Act of the General Assembly) violates the federal Constitution, he is not duty bound to defend it,” the brief states. “Although the practice is rare for Virginia Attorneys General, it is not unprecedented.”

Herring said the Republican proposal to allow them to defend the law in court is unnecessary. Norfolk clerk George E. Schaefer is represented by a private lawyer paid by the state’s risk management department. Prince William clerk Michele B. McQuigg, who asked to intervene in the case, is represented by the conservative legal group Alliance Defending Freedom.
anet Rainey, the state registrar of vital records, is also a defendant. Although Herring urged the court to strike down the ban, she will continue to enforce it until the courts act.

Democrats are sensitive to charges that it is Herring’s duty to defend Virginia’s law regardless of whether he agrees with it. They point out that Cuccinelli refused to defend one of then-Gov. Robert F. McDonnell’s education reforms in court, saying he believed that the legislation (for state takeovers of failing schools) was unconstitutional.

But generally, supporters were quick to cheer Herring’s move. U.S. Sen. Timothy M. Kaine (D-Va.) tweeted this message to his followers: “Thank you @MarkHerringVA for fighting VA’s same-sex marriage ban! I agree — time to bring VA on to the right side of history.”

The move in Virginia is part of a quickly changing legal landscape reshaped by the Supreme Court’s rulings in two cases on same-sex marriage in June.

In one, United States v. Windsor, the court voted 5 to 4 to find unconstitutional a key part of the Defense of Marriage Act, which withheld federal recognition of same-sex marriages performed where they are legal and denied federal benefits to those in such unions.

In the other, it allowed to stand a federal judge’s opinion that California’s Proposition 8, which bans same-sex marriage, was unconstitutional. The court ruled that the case was not before it in a way that allowed a ruling on the merits.

The justices sidestepped a critical question: whether state bans on same-sex marriage violate the Constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and due process.

But federal judges in Utah and Oklahoma have said that the reasoning used by the court majority meant that constitutional amendments in those states banning same-sex unions cannot stand. Gay marriages took place in Utah, but both decisions are now stayed pending appeal.

The highest courts in New Jersey and New Mexico have held that gay couples have the right to be married there. The District of Columbia and 17 states — including Maryland, but not Utah or Oklahoma — now allow such unions.
The Obama administration took a position similar to Herring’s when it announced it would not defend DOMA, which Congress had passed in 1996 and was then signed into law by then-President Bill Clinton. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. joined the legal challenge against the key part of the law, and House Republicans hired a lawyer in an unsuccessful bid to save it.

Similarly, Democratic attorneys general in other states have said they think their bans are unconstitutional. Democrats in California refused to defend Proposition 8. And last summer, Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane bowed out of challenges to her state’s law.

Herring, whose race against Republican Mark D. Obenshain was so close it was not decided until Dec. 18, has been in office just two weeks. But he faced a tight deadline in deciding whether to change the state’s legal position.

U.S. District Judge Arenda L. Wright Allen has scheduled oral arguments for Jan. 30 in the Norfolk case. It received a jolt of attention last fall when lawyers Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, who brought the federal challenge of Proposition 8, announced that they were joining the plaintiffs’ side.

In addition, the American Civil Liberties Union is challenging the Virginia ban in a federal suit in Harrisonburg. That case is not as far along.

Virginia has been a particularly appealing place for a challenge by supporters of gay rights because of the Supreme Court’s 1967 decision in Loving v. Virginia, which struck down laws against interracial marriage. Those who support same-sex unions often draw a parallel.

Herring made the same point. “Loving teaches that the Fourteenth Amendment protects the fundamental right to marry even if the way in which it is practiced would have surprised the framers or made them uncomfortable,” he wrote.

Friday, January 17, 2014


This story first appeared in The Detroit News

San Diego -- A California woman believed to be the first person cited for wearing Google Glass while driving won her case, but legal experts say it marks only the beginning of what they predict will be numerous court battles fought in the gap between today's laws and fast-arriving technology.

Cecilia Abadie's was found not guilty Thursday after being cited for wearing the computer-in-eyeglass device while driving because San Diego County Traffic Court Commissioner John Blair said there was no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the device was operating while she was driving.

But Blair stopped short of ruling that it is legal to drive while Google Glass is activated.

Abadie was cited under a code banning operation of a video or TV screen at the front of a vehicle that is moving. Blair said the code's language is broad enough that it could also apply to Google Glass if there were evidence the device was activated while the motorist was driving.

But Abadie, who wore the device around her neck during her trial, insisted afterward that the screen is above her line of vision, its functions can be activated with her voice or a wink, and it is not a distraction even when activated.

"I'm recording a video of all this," she told reporters outside the courthouse as she answered questions without skipping a beat. "Do you feel like I'm not paying attention to you?"

Vivek Wadhwa, a fellow at Stanford Law School, said the lower court ruling does not set a legal precedent but marks the start of what he expects will be a number of similar challenges.

"The fun is just starting," he said.

From driverless cars to wearable devices that can enhance human functions, Wadhwa said, there are a host of legal questions to be answered. For example, when a Google-operated car is on the road and hits someone, who is responsible -- the passenger, car manufacturer or software developer?

Abadie, a software developer, is among thousands of "explorers" who have been selected to try out Google Glass before the technology becomes widely available to the public later this year.

The device in a kind of glass-wear frame features a thumbnail-size transparent display above the right eye.

Her attorney, William Concidine, said anything can be a distraction, such as when drivers turn the radio dials to change stations. He wants lawmakers to rule that Google Glass can be used safely while someone drives, so codes like the one used to cite his client are not left up to the interpretation of individual judges.

"I believe there is an information gap," he said.

The lightweight frames are equipped with a hidden camera and tiny display that responds to voice commands. The technology can be used to do things such as check email, learn background about something the wearer is looking at, or to get driving directions.

Legislators in at least three states -- Delaware, New Jersey and West Virginia -- have introduced bills that would ban driving with Google Glass.

After the ruling, Google said it has warned early Glass adopters to exercise caution.

"Glass is built to connect you more with the world around you, not distract you from it," Google said in a statement. "Explorers should always use Glass responsibly and put their safety and the safety of others first."

Friday, January 10, 2014


Story first appeared on

Troopers with the Norwalk post of the state Highway Patrol stopped three suspected drunken drivers over several days.  According to a Berrien County Car Accident Lawyer the holiday's often have more drunk drivers on the roads.

Oberlin resident Jimmie D. Stephens, 45, was stopped by Trooper Kori Robinson at 11:17 p.m. Dec. 20 on Ohio 18 in Wakeman. Stephens was charged with driving under the influence, left of center, a DUI-related driving with a suspended license and a seatbelt violation.  A Kalamazoo Car Accident Lawyer says that drunk driving often is the cause of serious injuries in accidents.

He has six prior DUIs. Patrol records indicate those convictions were from 1991, 2001, 2004, two in 2006 and most recently in June.  Mr. Stephens may be in the need of a Michigan Alcohol Treatment Center.

Trooper Sarah Frey stopped Christopher A. Knox, 32, of 5138 Ohio 18, Wakeman, at 6 a.m. Dec. 21 on Ohio 60 in Clarksfield Township. Knox was charged with DUI and failure to control.

Knox was southbound on Ohio 60. He told the trooper he swerved to miss a deer, went off the right side and hit a ditch. Knox wasn't injured.  A Benton Harbor Car Accident Lawyer said deer are often the cause of car accidents.

The driver, who has a prior DUI conviction from 2002, had a breath test with a blood-alcohol content level of .117 percent, according to the patrol. The legal limit for drivers in Ohio is .08 percent.

Most recently, Trooper Eddie Lopez stopped Paul E. Tackett, 45, of Bucyrus, at 4:56 p.m. Christmas on Ohio 99 in Peru Township. Tackett was charged with DUI, left of center and failure to reinstate his driver's license.  Some drunk drivers end up attending a Michigan Drug Detox Center.

Tackett and Stephens refused to submit to any sobriety tests during their respective traffic stops, troopers said.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Story first appeared in the Detroit News.

New York— The calls, reporting suspicions of child abuse and neglect, come in at a rate of nearly 10,000 a day, to hotlines and law-enforcement offices nationwide. A Lansing Child Abuse Lawyer agrees that Michigan gets a lot or reports as well.

They add up to 3.4 million reports per year — a daunting challenge for state child protection agencies, which must sort out the flimsy or trivial claims from the credible and potentially dire ones, and make decisions that balance the rights of parents with the welfare of children. Many states, after initial screening, deem more than half the reports they receive to be unworthy of further investigation.

“In child protection, you are always walking a difficult line,” said Cindy Walcott, deputy commissioner of Vermont’s Department for Children and Families. A Pontiac Child Abuse Lawyer stated that he defends several false cases.

“Obviously you want to protect children from harm, but you don’t want to intervene in the private life of a family when it’s not indicated,” she said. “Those decisions need to be made carefully, so you’re getting it right as often as possible.”

The issue of child-abuse reporting burst into the spotlight last week with news that Arizona’s Child Protective Services failed to look into about 6,000 reports of suspected child maltreatment that had been phoned in to its abuse hotline in recent years. At least 125 cases have been identified in which children were later alleged to have been abused. A Saginaw Child Abuse Lawyer says that parents are often wrongly accused.

Other states have had problems with their processing of abuse reports.

Florida’s Department of Children and Families, for example, overhauled its abuse hotline last year after flaws were discovered with how information was collected and relayed to investigators.

In general, however, advocacy groups and academic experts credit child-protection agencies and their workers with trying their best, under often-challenging circumstances.

“Child protection workers are very valuable to our country,” said Jim Hmurovich, president of the Chicago-based advocacy group Prevent Child Abuse America and former director of Indiana’s Division of Family and Children. “They often have to make determinations with limited information, and they care a lot.”  A Kalamazoo Child Abuse Lawyer claims that these cases end up inadvertently accusing child abuse when there is not any.

Nationally, the standard practice is to vet all the calls coming in to the hotlines. Yet as that is done, federal data show that about 40 percent are soon “screened out” — judged not to warrant further intervention or investigation. Among the reasons: The alleged maltreatment might be deemed innocuous, or the caller may fail to provide enough details for the agency to pursue.

Of the 3.4 million reports received for the 2011 fiscal year, about 2 million — or 60 percent — were “screened in” to trigger some degree of state intervention, according to the latest federal figures. Of those cases, 680,000 ended up being substantiated as incidents of neglect and abuse.

Even at that stage, there are options. The child-protection agency may open a formal child-abuse investigation or, in a less drastic step, it may assign social workers to assess a given family’s circumstances and offer counseling, support services or other intervention.  A Benton Harbor Child Abuse Lawyer thinks this will help with the high rate of wrongly accused people.

Minnesota is at the forefront of a group of states pursuing this strategy, known as “differential response.”