Just in time for the holidays, kids are getting the chance of a lifetime: to be adopted. Four Michigan foster children were adopted throughout the state Tuesday.
The chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court is joining other judges in approving adoptions as part the state’s annual adoption day.
33 counties have scheduled adoption day events, many of them on Tuesday. Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. is finalizing some adoptions at the Supreme Court in Lansing, along with judges from Marquette and Saginaw.
Young hopes the public will be inspired to consider adoption or at least understand the needs of children who remain in foster care. More than 2,500 kids in foster care were adopted in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Another 3,000 are hoping to be adopted.
Maura Corrigan, the head of the Department of Human Services, says all children deserve a stable home.
Some kicked off ‘Adoption Day’ early down in Jackson last week. 10 children were adopted last Friday.
November 20, 2012
Photo gallery and video available at: http://www.wlns.com/story/20147563/michigan-holds-10th-annual-adoption-day
The Michigan Supreme Court took a time away from cases Tuesday to focus on finding loving homes for deserving children. About 3,000 children are in foster care right now, waiting for permanent homes.
The court says that’s too many and it’s hoping the state’s Adoption Day will change that.
Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. said it was a morning in court, unlike any other.
“We don’t see a lot of smiles, we certainly don’t hear a lot of applause and cheers and hugs,” Young said.
A morning, where the parties came to unify not debate. There wer no briefs, no oral arguments, only open arms and open hearts.
“It really changes your perspective on life, it’s not about you it’s about what you can do and provide for him,” Marie Carter, said of her adopted 4-year-old, Zen.
Carter and her husband Tom joined a number of families making it official before the Supreme Court. Zen is now family.
Carter says that means the world. “It’s Thanksgiving this week, so we have a lot to be thankful for,” she said.
The court ceremonies are usually private, but the court wanted to call attention to the gift of family and the great need for loving homes.
“It’s essential to a sense of well being to feel that you belong somewhere, that you are permanently associated with a family,” Young explained.
“It’s a gigantic commitment and it’s difficult sometimes, but it’s one of the most important things you can do,” Marquette County Judge Michael Anderegg said.
Lansing wasn’t the only city in the state to host Adoption Day events, 33 counties celebrated finalized adoptions and offered information on the process.
Carter hopes more will consider it.
“My husband and I have been trying to conceive for many years and haven’t been able to,” she explained. “I never thought it would be possible to be as connected as I am to another child outside of myself… it is. So my advice is, absolutely.”
The Department of Human Services says the need for homes is significant, but the state is making progress. More than 2,500 adoptions were completed in fiscal year 2012.
WILX – 10
November 20, 2012
Reporter: Lindsay Veremis
By John Agar – mlive.com
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.
A photo gallery of the events appears here: Students witness Michigan Supreme Court at Ford Museum 10/25/12
National Center for State Courts praises Michigan Supreme Court, pilot project judges for “sustained and comprehensive commitment to enhancing jury service”
LANSING, MI, September 12, 2012 – Michigan’s comprehensive jury reforms, and the Michigan trial court judges who tested them, are being honored along with the Michigan Supreme Court by the National Center for State Courts, the NCSC announced today.
The Supreme Court and 12 trial judges are the recipients of the 2012 G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovation, given annually by the NCSC to recognize significant improvements or innovations for juries, NCSC President Mary C. McQueen said.
“Michigan’s jury reform pilot project demonstrated a sustained and comprehensive commitment to enhancing jury service through thorough testing of in-court reforms and revisions of procedural rules,” said McQueen.
NCSC Vice President and General Counsel Robert Baldwin will present the award to the Court and pilot project judges following the Court’s first oral argument on October 9. The ceremony will take place at 10:45 a.m. in the old Supreme Court courtroom in the state Capitol building.
Effective September 1, 2011, the Michigan Supreme Court adopted a comprehensive package of jury reform court rule amendments, despite initial and intense opposition from some Michigan attorneys and judges who feared the changes, Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr., explained. Before adopting the rules, the Court conducted a two-year pilot project in which 12 judges tested proposed reforms in actual trials and reported on their experiences. The Court also surveyed jurors, who strongly favored the reforms, such as permitting jurors to take notes, submit questions for witnesses in both civil and criminal cases, and discuss the evidence among themselves before final deliberations.
“These wide-ranging reforms allow jurors to be more truly involved in the fact-finding process – and, as a result, to make better-informed decisions,” Young said.
The Court’s jury reform effort began in 2005 when then-Chief Justice Clifford W. Taylor asked Justice Stephen J. Markman to review jury reform practices in other states and to propose rules for Michigan courts. After intensive study, the Court published a series of proposed rule changes for public comment in July 2005.
Reaction from Michigan’s legal community was swift – and largely negative, Young noted. “While non-lawyers favored the reforms, lawyers and judges generally did not,” he said. Despite this opposition, the Court did not abandon the reforms, but instead authorized the 2009-2010 pilot project that led to the rules’ adoption, he explained.
“Initially, some of the pilot project judges were very skeptical about these rule changes,” Young said. “By the end of the project, they had become converts and the most enthusiastic voices in favor of changing the rules. The pilot project judges displayed great courage, not only in testing these unfamiliar procedures, but also in becoming advocates for reform.”
The pilot project judges include
• Judge Thomas P. Boyd, 55th District Court, Mason, Ingham County
• Judge William J. Caprathe (retired) and Judge Kenneth W. Schmidt, 18th Circuit Court, Bay County
• Judge Richard J. Celello, 41st Circuit Court, Dickinson/Iron/Menominee counties
• Judge Beth Gibson, 92nd District Court, Newberry, Luce/Mackinac counties
• Judge Timothy G. Hicks, 14th Circuit Court, Muskegon County
• Judge Richard W. May, 90th District Court, Charlevoix/Emmet counties
• Judge Wendy L. Potts, 6th Circuit Court, Oakland County
• Judge Donald L. Sanderson, 2B District Court, Hillsdale County
• Judge Paul E. Stutesman, 45th Circuit Court, St. Joseph County
• Judge David Viviano, 16th Circuit Court, Macomb County
• Judge Peter J. Wadel, Lake County Trial Court/79th District Court, Ludington
The National Center for State Courts, headquartered in Williamsburg, Virginia, is a nonprofit court reform organization dedicated to improving the administration of justice. Founded in 1971 by the Conference of Chief Justices and U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, NCSC provides education, training, technology, management, and research services to the nation’s state courts.
Michigan jury reform overview
• In civil cases, the judge “may instruct the jurors that they are permitted to discuss the evidence among themselves in the jury room during trial recesses.”
• Jurors can, with the judge’s permission, submit questions to witnesses through the judge. Criminal procedure court rules already contained such a provision, but the new rule includes jurors in civil cases as well.
• Jurors can, if permitted by the judge, take notes during trial; if the judge allows note taking, jurors must be allowed to use those notes during the jury’s deliberations.
• The jury can request to view “property or … a place where a material event [such as a crime scene] occurred.”
• After the jury is sworn, the judge “shall provide the jury with pretrial instructions reasonably likely to assist in its consideration of the case,” covering “the duties of the jury, trial, procedure, and the law applicable to the case ….” The rule also requires the court to give jurors copies of the instructions.
• The judge may “authorize or require” attorneys to provide jurors with “a reference document or notebook,” which would include a list of witnesses, relevant provisions in statutes, and copies of any documents at issue, such as a contract. Other items, such as preliminary jury instructions, trial exhibits, “and other admissible information,” can also be added to the notebook.
• Where it is appears likely that a deposition will be read to the jury, the judge “should encourage the parties to prepare concise, written summaries of depositions” for the jury instead of having the full deposition read aloud.
• In addition to making opening and closing statements, attorneys may, “in the court’s discretion, present interim commentary at appropriate junctures of the trial.”
• Judges may “fairly and impartially sum up the evidence” after closing arguments, while also reminding jurors that they must decide fact issues for themselves. The rule bars judges from commenting on a witness’s credibility or stating a conclusion “on the ultimate issue of fact before the jury.”
• Judges are required to give the jury a copy of the final jury instructions to take into the jury room for final deliberations. In addition, judges must invite jurors to ask any questions they may have to clarify the instructions.
• In addition to jurors’ notes and final jury instructions, the judge “may permit the jurors to take into the jury room the reference document … as well as any exhibits and writings admitted into evidence.”
• The judge “may not refuse a reasonable request” from jurors to review evidence or testimony as they deliberate.
• If the jury appears to reach an impasse during deliberations, the judge “may invite the jurors to list the issues that divide or confuse them in the event that the judge can be of assistance in clarifying or amplifying the final instructions.”
• The court can schedule expert testimony to assist jurors’ understanding of the issues – for example, by having expert witnesses testify sequentially. Another option is to allow each expert to be present for the opposing expert’s testimony, so that the expert can “aid counsel in formulating questions to be asked of the testifying expert on cross-examination.”
For the complete text of these rules, see http://www.courts.michigan.gov/supremecourt/Resources/Administrative/2005-19_06-29-11_order.pdf.
–Michigan Supreme Court Public Information Office
September 12, 2012
By: Lauren Misjak
Lyn Chase balances 3-year-old Ruby on her hip with the easy grace of a loving mother.
Since the Dansville woman and her husband first met their newly adopted daughters – Ruby and 22-month-old Mara – nearly a year ago, they knew they were meant to be the girls’ parents.
Tuesday’s court hearings just made it official.
“They are just a joy to be around,” said father Kevin Chase. “They bring light into our lives every day.”
The Chases and two other Ingham County families were part of the 145 adoptions finalized across Michigan during the ninth annual Michigan Adoption Day.
Another pair of sisters, 13-year-old Angie and 11-year-old Elizabeth, also legally joined their “forever family” Tuesday – the Pheils of Stockbridge.
“I’m pretty psyched- big time,” said Elizabeth, who now has five additional older siblings. “When I first started (visiting Dan and Chris Pheils), I thought ‘This is kind of weird.’ But after a couple visits, once I started getting used to it I kept wanting to visit.”
About 30 counties recognized Michigan Adoption Day, which was designed to bring awareness and celebrate those who’ve permanently extended their hearts and homes to children in the foster care system.
“We hold it just before Thanksgiving so we all remember what we have to be thankful for,” said Department of Human Services Director Maura Corrigan, who spearheaded the annual day nine years ago.
Five floors below the Michigan Supreme Court chambers where the Pheils and Chases officially opened their arms to their newest kin, Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation that would help the 279 foster kids who have yet to meet adoptive families.
The Young Adult Voluntary Foster Care Act extends adoption, guardianship and foster care assistance until age 21, rather than 18, to better help in the transition to adulthood.
“I’m proud to say Michigan is becoming a leader of stepping up to the plate, saying we can’t leave these children just because they turn adults,” Snyder said.
“Let’s be relentless in making sure we’re taking care of the most important thing in our state: our children.”
Anthony Ashman, 20, of Macomb County, who spent seven years in foster care, receives help from a DHS program that pairs social workers at Western Michigan University with former foster children to further aid with growing responsibilities.
As part of the program, he received financial literacy training and has someone to lean on for help with finding housing and other issues. He applauded the new legislation, which is expected to be implemented next year after federal review.
“Everybody needs a person they can call on just to tell them about their day,” Ashman said.
“This extension of foster care will prevent young adults in the system from becoming another negative statistic.”
Lansing State Journal, November 23, 2011
Posted on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, August 17, 2011
In this age of fiscal austerity, we’ve read many accounts of judicial officials raising concerns that proposed budget cuts to state courts could thwart litigants from exercising their legal rights.
In Michigan, though, state judges are on board with a proposal to trim their budgets.
In this statement, the Michigan Supreme Court today announced that trial and appellate judges in the state agree with a state report that recommends eliminating 45 trial judgeships and four appellate judicial positions.
Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. said in the statement that it is unprecedented to have a state court system recognize “that it needs to shrink.” He added: “That has never happened before. This is an aggressive, but achievable, set of recommendations. We are unaware of any reduction of this magnitude attempted anywhere in our country.”
At a news conference, Young said the cuts would save about $7.8 million in salaries and benefits, according to this report from Detroit News.
“Increasing the size of government is easy,” Young said. “It turns out it takes political courage to reduce it.”
Here’s a link to the report by the Michigan State Court Administrative Office, which recommended the judicial cuts but also concluded that new trial judgeships were needed in certain underserved parts of the state.
The Administrative Office, however, recommended against creating new judgeships at the current time “because of the state’s economic climate,” according to the statement by the Michigan Supreme Court.
LANSING, MI, May 3, 2011 – Educators seeking to spark Law Day discussions with their students will get an assist from the Michigan Supreme Court and Michigan Government Television this week, when MGTV airs an interview between MGTV Executive Director Bill Trevarthen and Chief Justice Robert P. Young, Jr.
“A Conversation with … Chief Justice Robert Young” will air on MGTV on Friday, May 6 at 1:17 p.m. EDT. The interview will focus on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1896 Plessy v Ferguson decision, which established the “separate but equal” doctrine, providing legal support for decades of racial segregation.
Young said that Plessy, which was overruled by the U. S. Supreme Court’s 1954 decision in Brown v Board of Education, “is sometimes taught as though it was some kind of legal aberration, one that couldn’t happen today because we know better now. That view is wrong, in my opinion. First, Plessy is an example of how a court decision can affect people’s lives – and in that case, literally millions of lives – in profound and sometimes deeply harmful ways. Moreover, Plessy is a textbook example of bad judicial decision-making, as a decision that really was not guided by the Constitution but by the trends of the moment.”
The catalyst for Plessy was an attempt by Homer Adolph Plessy, a 30-year-old shoemaker who was seven-eighths white and one-eighth black, to sit in a whites-only train car after buying a first-class ticket on a Louisiana railroad. He was prosecuted under Louisiana’s Separate Car Act, which provided that “all railway companies carrying passengers in their coaches in this state, shall provide equal but separate accommodations for the white, and colored races …” The penalty for sitting in the wrong compartment was a $25 fine or 20 days in jail. Plessy challenged the Separate Car Act under the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, but a majority of the Supreme Court upheld the law. Justice Henry Billings Brown, writing for the majority, said that “[I]n the nature of things, [the Fourteenth Amendment] could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color, or to enforce social, as distinguished from political, equality, or a commingling of the two races upon terms unsatisfactory to either.”
Trevarthen said, “One of MGTV’s goals is to provide students and educators with a working knowledge of government, so this partnership with the Supreme Court fits very well with our mission. We hope that teachers will use this program to explore the Plessy decision, and the issues it raises, with their students.”
- Michigan Supreme Court press release
To watch MGTV’s Conversation with Chief Justice Young, click on the following link: MGTV Conversation with Chief Justice Young
By Katie Hetrick
Press & Guide Newspapers
DEARBORN — Efficient, thorough and aggressive were among the words high school students used to describe justices and attorneys involved in a Michigan Supreme Court hearing held in Dearborn on Tuesday.
Hundreds of students from Dearborn, Edsel Ford, Fordson, Divine Child and Henry Ford Academy attended the hearing at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center.
Attorneys and justices sparred for less than an hour during a hearing to determine if a Detroit case should get a full appeals hearing.
The seven justices were quick to interrupt attorneys to ask questions and argued a number of finer points about the case. The appeal hinged on whether a jury should have ever been told that in some self-defense cases a person first has a duty to retreat. The retreat provision does not apply if a person is in their home and feels threatened with death or severe bodily injury.
Learning about complexities of judicial role
“That makes me realize how difficult their job is,” said Amanda Bazzi, a Fordson High senior.
“There’s so much middle ground,” said Eric Reilly, Dearborn High senior.
Such a narrow point about how the jury was instructed grew to great significance.
Reilly said of the justices, “Their boss is the law. They need to ask these questions.” Husain Bazzi, also from Fordson, was impressed by the details the justices knew about the case such as questions the jurors asked the judge during deliberations.
Amanda Bazzi referred to the disagreements about how well jurors understood that the man be-ing on his porch was the same as being in his house in regards to whether he had a duty to retreat.
“When you say some-thing in court, you have to be very precise in what you mean,” Amanda Bazzi said.
Students discuss case
For Husain Bazzi it was more important that the defendant allegedly stood and said, “I’m tired of this” before shooting his two neighbors as they stood on his property. Violence should not be used to solve problems, he said.
“I don’t think the shooting was justified,” he said.
Meara Thierry, from Edsel Ford, found it just as interesting to have talked to justices, the mayor and others during a special reception for a few select students before the hear-ing.
“They are regular people, just like us,” she said. The hearing was also eye opening.
“I learned a lot about the whole legal process,” Thierry said. “I’d never even thought about the appeal process.” Ali Chamoun, a Dearborn High senior, said the hearing was a great opportunity for students who might be considering a legal career.
After the hearing ended and justices had left, he was among numerous stu-dents who asked questions of attorneys from each side.
He asked Prosecutor Toni Ann Odette if she was nervous since it was her first time arguing before the Supreme Court. He noted that she seemed so young to be such a great attorney.
Fordson sophomore Fa-tima Hammoud said teachers had discussed the case in class.
Spending the day out of class was fun “because we get to learn how the Su-preme Court works,” Hammoud said.
Students ask attorneys questions
Dearborn School Board President James School-master, also a local attorney, moderated the student questions after the hearing.
He fielded a question about why only one judge tries a case, three sit on the appeals board and seven are on the Supreme Court.
He noted that the judge trying the case is deciding the facts about whether a person is guilty. That is more straightforward than higher courts, where judges have to decide more intricate questions of law.
Before the hearing began, Chief Justice Robert Young said he hoped the hearings might encourage some students in attendance to become lawyers.
He also noted that while trial courts get lots of attention on television dramas, the higher courts, while less dramatic, have a broader reach.
“Our decisions can have an impact on people’s lives for years to come,” he said.
Published: Wednesday, May 11, 2011
The Associated Press
LANSING, Mich. — Crime victims are getting the spotlight at the Michigan Supreme Court.
An exhibit has opened at the Michigan Hall of Justice in Lansing to help visitors under the criminal justice process. Visitors can test their knowledge by completing a victim-impact statement and playing a board game that emphasizes the importance of people who work with crime victims.
Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. says it’s important to remember crime victims and respond to their needs.
Under a 1988 amendment to the state Constitution, crime victims have a right to restitution, to confer with prosecutors, to speak to a judge at sentencing and to be notified about all court proceedings.
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
LANSING, Mich. — A Jackson County judge has been hired to oversee the Michigan court system.
Chad Schmucker is the new state court administrator after 20 years as a judge. Robert Young Jr., chief justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, says he’s highly respected and an innovator in technology and how courts operate.
The state court administrator oversees the operations of Michigan’s trial court system. Schmucker was made a judge in 1991 by Gov. John Engler and was Jackson County’s chief judge for 10 of his 20 years on the bench.
Schmucker is succeeding Carl Gromek, who is retired as state court administrator.