By John Agar –

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Fruitport Township police seized Kurtis Ray Minch’s 87 firearms after he was accused of holding a handgun – it was actually a starting pistol – to his girlfriend’s head and pulled the trigger.

All but one of his firearms, a short-barrel shotgun, was legal.

After he pleaded guilty to illegal possession of the shotgun and felonious use of a firearm, he asked that his legal firearms be given to his mother. But Muskegon County prosecutors argued that doing so would violate state law that prohibits felons from possessing, selling or distributing a firearm.

The state Court of Appeals agreed with a Muskegon County Circuit Court judge, who ordered the guns turned over to Minch’s mother.

On Thursday, Oct. 25, the state Supreme Court heard oral arguments as 200 area high school students, taking part in a “We the People” curriculum, and local judges and attorneys, watched at Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

The traveling jurists – based in the Hall of Justice in Lansing – visit others cities periodically as part of “Court Community Connections.”

The idea is to give students and others an “inside look” at the appellate process, Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. said.

“A Supreme Court decision in one case can have an impact on people’s lives for years to come,” he said.

The students came from Comstock Park, East Grand Rapids, East Kentwood, and Potter’s House schools.

Sally Marsh, 16, and Tyler Larabel, 17, both East Grand Rapids students, have been studying the U.S. Constitution and working with attorneys as part of their class work.

“It was cool to see what we read about in text books in class,” Marsh said.

Larabel said he was interested in arguments over Constitutional issues. In particular, due process was argued throughout the case. He said students had been briefed on the case, which helped students as they heard the legal arguments.

They also knew that hearings in appellate courts differ from trial courts.

Appellate judges pepper attorneys with questions.

Young asked Charles Justian, the chief appellate attorney in Muskegon County, why Minch’s mother shouldn’t get the guns.

Young said: “The court order says the guns should be delivered to the mother. That’s how she gets them.”

Justian argued that Minch couldn’t legally deliver the guns to his mother because the law prohibits Minch from doing anything with the guns.

Minch’s attorney, Kevin Wistrom, said the Muskegon County judge’s earlier order should be enough for the guns to be turned over to Minch’s mother.

He added that his client’s due-process rights would be violated if police kept his guns without forfeiture hearings.

After the judges left, the attorneys answered students’ questions.

Justian said: “This is a situation where the Legislature should probably be called on to address it.”

The Supreme Court will issue a written opinion as it does in other cases. It will likely take several months, a court spokeswoman said.

Kent County Circuit judges Donald Johnston and Paul Sullivan invited the Supreme Court to Grand Rapids. They said local bar association members prepared students for the oral arguments, and provided background materials.

Published by on October 25, 2012

A photo gallery of the events appears here: Students witness Michigan Supreme Court at Ford Museum 10/25/12