Providing summaries of opinions as they are released from the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals (published & unpublished), and selected U.S. Sixth Circuit. Over 50,000 cases summarized to date.
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Cases appear under the following practice areas:
Issues: Ineffective assistance of counsel; People v. LeBlanc; Strickland v. Washington; People v. Solmonson; Whether counsel should have moved for suppression of defendant's statement to police; The Deaf Persons' Interpreters Act (DPIA) (MCL 393.501 et seq.); MCL 393.505; People v. Brannon; Cross-examination of the victim (G); People v. Horn; Failure to investigate and present witnesses; People v. Chapo; People v. Dixon; People v. Armstrong; "Forgotten" defense theory; Allocution at sentencing; "Cumulative error"; People v. Unger; Sentencing; Whether defendant received a copy of the PSIR prior to the sentencing hearing; MCR 6.425(B); People v. Petit; Attorney-client discussion of the PSIR; MCR 6.425(E)(1)(a); Lewis v. LeGrow; PSIR errors; People v. Francisco; Whether the prosecutor conceded to the third habitual offense enhancement; Phinney v. Perlmutter; MCL 769.12(1); People v. Slocum; People v. Davis; Alleged Ex Post Facto violation; People v. Gardner; People v. Callon; People v. Doyle; People v. Palm; Reference to habitual offender enhancement in PSIR and judgment of sentence; People v. Zinn; Whether the habitual status was based on convictions secured without an interpreter; People v. Sadows; People v. Moore; People v. Carpentier; Applicability of New York v. Rivera (NY); Assault with intent to commit great bodily harm less than murder (AWIGBH)
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: People v. Crump
e-Journal Number: 55024
Judge(s): Per Curiam - Owens, Gleicher, and Stephens
The court held that although the defendant's trial and sentencing were "less than perfect," there were no reversible errors. Thus, the court remanded to the trial court to allow the ministerial correction of the PSIR and affirmed. Defendant was prosecuted for attacking his estranged girlfriend (G) inside the home where she worked as a caregiver for an elderly man. Defendant appeared at the front door, banged on the front door, and yelled at G. She called 911 and hung up just as he broke through the back door. G fled to the basement to hide but he found her and beat her severely using his fists and the door handle from the back door. Police arrived while he was still there. They discovered G, whose face was swollen and bloody, on the basement stairs. Defendant was still in the basement and was holding a bloody rag. He spontaneously told the officers that he beat G because she owed him money. G told them that the defendant was hard of hearing. The officers spoke loudly when instructing him and showed him a written copy of his Miranda rights. After trial in which he was assisted by an "oral transliteration" interpreter, a jury convicted him of first-degree home invasion, AWIGBH, and aggravated domestic violence. After the trial and sentencing, the trial court held a series of hearings over 11 months, dedicated to determining the nature and extent of defendant's hearing impairment, his ability to understand the proceedings, and the competency of representation he received. The trial court learned that defendant had learned to read lips and communicated through gestures. His education was limited but he could communicate by writing. He was not trained in American Sign Language, but was not completely deaf. With hearing aids he could understand verbal communication, if spoken loudly enough. On appeal, he challenged trial counsel's performance at trial. As to the suppression of his statement to police in the back seat of the patrol car, defendant argued that his counsel should have sought suppression based on the DPIA. Despite knowing that he was hearing impaired, an officer questioned him. Defendant told the officer that he could read lips and indicated that he understood "everything" the officer was saying. Defendant's statements via the officer's testimony were presented at trial with no objection from defense counsel. The court concluded defense counsel's performance fell below objective standards of reasonableness. Counsel admitted that he had not read the DPIA and had no idea that defendant's statements to the police without the presence of an interpreter could be inadmissible. "The statements were prejudicial because defendant directly inculpated himself in the offense." However, the trial court did not err in finding after the post-trial hearing that this error did not require a new trial. The rest of the evidence was sufficient for the jury to assess defendant's guilt of the charged offenses. There was no reasonable probability that if his statement was suppressed, he would have been acquitted.
Issues: Whether defendants-Nicholas's and Julie's permissive use of the boat rendered them "legally responsible" for the watercraft, qualifying them as "insureds" under the policy and rendering Nicholas ineligible for bodily injury coverage; Insurance contract interpretation; McDonald v. Farm Bureau Ins. Co.; Royal Prop. Group, LLC v. Prime Ins. Syndicate, Inc.; Citizens Ins. Co. v. Pro-Seal Serv. Group, Inc.; Henderson v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co.; "Commonly used meaning"; Frankenmuth Mut. Ins. Co. v. Masters; Auto-Owners Ins. Co. v. Harrington; Nationwide Mut. Ins. Co. v. Nolan (KY); Bailey v. Oakwood Hosp. & Med. Ctr.; MCL 324.80145; Binno v. Binno; Bailment; Goldman v. Phantom Freight, Inc.; "Delivery" of the property; Orton v. Markward & Karafilis Inc.
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Co. of MI v. Bowers
e-Journal Number: 55014
Judge(s): Per Curiam – Owens, Gleicher, and Stephens
The court held that the trial court did not err by refusing to grant summary disposition to defendant-Farm Bureau on the ground that a bailment relationship existed as a matter of law. However, the court concluded that whether defendant-Nicholas was "legally responsible" under the policy presented a question of fact. Thus, the court affirmed the trial court's denial of summary disposition to Farm Bureau, and reversed the grant of summary disposition to the defendants. Nicholas sustained personal injury in a boating accident. Farm Bureau, which insured the boat, sought a declaratory judgment that it bore no duty to defend or indemnify in Nicholas's lawsuit seeking damages for his personal injuries. His parents, defendants-Laurie and Carl, own the boat involved in the accident. Nicholas's wife, defendant-Julie, was piloting the boat at the time of the accident. The Farm Bureau policy includes in the definition of "insured" any person "legally responsible" for watercraft owned by an insured. Under the policy's personal liability form, an "insured" is excluded from coverage for bodily injury. The issue was whether Nicholas's and Julie's permissive use of the boat rendered them "legally responsible" for the watercraft, qualifying them as "insureds" under the policy and simultaneously rendering Nicholas ineligible for bodily injury coverage. Farm Bureau contended that as a matter of law, Nicholas qualified as "legally responsible" for the watercraft. The term "legally responsible" was not defined in the policy. The court concluded that the "commonly used meaning of the term 'legally responsible' embraces liability imposed or arising according to law." As the operator of the boat at the time of the accident, "Julie bore a legal responsibility to operate the watercraft in a reasonable manner. MCL 324.80145 provides in relevant part: 'A person operating or propelling a vessel upon the waters of this state shall operate it in a careful and prudent manner and at such a rate of speed so as not to endanger unreasonably the life or property of any person.'" As a matter of law, Julie qualified as an "insured" under the policy and was excluded from bodily injury coverage. Since Nicholas was not operating the boat at the time of the accident, "he bore no statutory or common law duty of care to operate the boat in a reasonable or prudent manner." However, Farm Bureau posited, as a bailee, Nicholas bore "legal responsibility" for the boat when the accident occurred. Thus, Farm Bureau contended the policy also precluded him from receipt of bodily injury coverage. The court was unable to conclude that, as a matter of law, the arrangement between Julie, Nicholas, and his parents constituted a bailment. Nicholas and Julie borrowed the boat from his parents pursuant to an informal, unwritten agreement. The record lacked evidence as to "whether the parties intended a 'full transfer' of possession and control over the boat such that the Bowers were divested of any right to co-possess the boat or to exert control over how and when it was used." Whether Nicholas had custody or use of the watercraft at the time of the occurrence must be determined by the finder of fact.
Issues: Assessment for unpaid motor fuel taxes under the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA); 49 USC § 31701(3); May Trucking Co. v. Oregon Dep't of Transp. (9th Cir.); § 31705; Michigan's Motor Carrier Fuel Tax Act (MCL 207.211 et seq.); MCL 207.212a(1); MCL 207.212(1) & (2); The IFTA Articles of Agreement; The IFTA Audit Manual; The IFTA Procedures Manual; Whether the respondent used the "best evidence available"; Whether the MTT properly affirmed respondent's audit method
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: KC Transp., Inc. v. Department of Treasury
e-Journal Number: 55012
Judge(s): Per Curiam – Boonstra, Saad, and Hoekstra
The court held that the MTT did not err in affirming the respondent's (DOT) assessment to the petitioner (KC) for unpaid motor fuel taxes under the IFTA because the DOT had the authority to estimate fuel use once it determined that there were inadequate records. Further, the DOT "is entitled to use any pertinent information when estimating a licensee's fuel use." Thus, the court affirmed the MTT's final judgment denying KC's appeal of the assessment. KC runs a fleet of approximately 150 trucks that travel throughout 49 jurisdictions in North America. From the beginning of the DOT's audit of KC, it was clear that there were problems with KC's record keeping, including its failure to keep daily trip sheets with odometer readings, which the auditor testified were required by the IFTA. Because KC was unable to provide the odometer readings, the DOT used a random sample of trucks that had maintenance records containing the readings. It concluded that KC's mileage was understated and the parties adjusted KC's mileage by 3.4%. The DOT also found problems with KC's accounting system for fuel purchases because, inter alia, there were some trucks with mileage but no gallons of fuel purchased. The auditor testified that the IFTA allowed him to recalculate the fuel usage to determine tax liability once he concluded that KC had inadequate records. The DOT "eventually calculated a 6.21 MPG rate after removing certain outliers from the audit." Using this rate, it determined that KC owed taxes on an additional 1,515,647 gallons of fuel and issued an assessment in the amount of $335,552.29, plus $33,614.95 in penalties and $148,867.09 in interest. KC argued on appeal, inter alia, that the DOT failed to use the best evidence available when it demanded trip sheets instead of using KC's information from the electronic control modules in the trucks. The court concluded that the relevant provisions of the IFTA Procedures Manual made it clear that odometer readings are required by the IFTA, unless the base jurisdiction waives the requirements. The auditor testified that Michigan has not waived the odometer readings and requires them, and KC provided no evidence to the contrary. The DOT sought daily trip sheets, as required by the IFTA. When KC did not have those, it sought any other information containing odometer readings in order to comply with the IFTA. "The IFTA provides broad latitude for auditors who have determined that there are inadequate records." The auditor testified that he used 32 or 33 vehicles as a sample and used the available odometer readings. "Asked about the reliability of this approach, he stated that he used the best information available, and this methodology was within his discretion."
Termination of Parental Rights
Issues: Termination under §§ 19b(3)(g), (h), (j), and (n)(i); In re Rood; Children's best interests; In re Moss; In re Olive/Metts
Court: Michigan Court of Appeals (Unpublished)
Case Name: In re Dunlap
e-Journal Number: 55016
Judge(s): Memorandum – Beckering, Saad, and O’Connell
Holding that the trial court correctly ruled that continuing the parent-child relationship with the respondent-father would be harmful to the children because by the time he was released from prison, they would be around the same age as the child he sexually assaulted, the court affirmed the trial court's order terminating his parental rights. At trial, respondent admitted that he was convicted of CSC II (MCL 750.520c). The court noted that this conviction may serve as a basis for terminating parental rights if the trial court "'determines that termination is in the child's best interests because continuing the parent-child relationship with the parent would be harmful to the child.'" Respondent did not present any evidence or legal authority to rebut the trial court's finding, "and his argument that termination was not in the children's best interests because he 'wanted to do right by the children, and get his life together'" was not persuasive. He also argued that the trial court based its best interests decision "on the mere fact that he had never met the children and had absolutely no bond with them." However, the record showed the trial court considered several factors when making its best interests findings. The trial court determined that terminating his parental rights was in the children's best interests because - (1) by the time respondent is released from prison, they will be around the same age as the child he sexually abused, so establishing any kind of parent/child relationship at that time would not be in their best interests, (2) depriving the children of a "normal home" during the years remaining in his prison term would not be reasonable considering their ages as they deserved permanency, (3) returning them to respondent's care would pose a substantial risk of harm to the children, (4) they had already begun to form bonds with their current caregivers, and (5) respondent had no bond with his children to preserve. "These factors clearly established that termination was in the best interests of the children."
Arbitration & Mediation
Federal False Claims