ACLU lawsuit doubles down on legislative bail reform efforts

By ZARIA PHILLIPS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Advocates are launching a two-prong effort to reform Michigan’s system of bail that they say is too high for low-income people and forces them into jail while awaiting trial. The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union recently sued the 36th District Court in Detroit over excessive bail. The action came just after state lawmakers in March proposed a package of bail reforms.

Bail is money pledged to release an individual charged with a crime but ensure that they will appear in court. The money is forfeited if they don’t appear. Supporters of reform say that too often people cannot afford to bail their family members out of jail, even if the evidence against them is scant.

Judge rejects hunter’s claim of unconstitutional search

By ERIC FREEDMAN
Capital News Service

LANSING – A federal judge has tossed out a suit accusing Department of Natural Resources (DNR) conservation officers of illegally arresting and prosecuting a hunter who admitted “shining” – using artificial light – for deer at a private Alpena County hunting camp. U.S. District Judge Thomas Ludington found no grounds for Trent Sherman’s claims against the DNR, the officers and department officials. Sherman’s lawyer, Racine Miller of Southfield, said her client will take the case to the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. According to Ludington’s decision, a DNR pilot saw a vehicle shining along a two-track road at the Fleco Camp in Green Township late one night in October 2015. Two DNR officers on “shining patrol” responded and found Sherman and a second man there.

MSU professor takes bugs to national television

For those who are fans of the Oxygen Network, an MSU professor is the channel’s newest star. Dr. Eric Benbow, a forensic entomologist at Michigan State University, was called upon to work on the Oxygen series “Smiley Face Killers: The Hunt for Justice.” The episode centers around Todd Geib, a 22-year-old who was found in a lake north of Grand Rapids. The autopsy concluded it was death by drowning, but bugs found on the body said otherwise. That’s where Dr. Benbow comes in.

Mobile homeowners say their landlords unfairly sell their homes

By ZARIA PHILLIPS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Mobile home parks are selling the homes on the lot after the owners of those units have moved out, according to a lawsuit. But although those owners may have been evicted for not paying rent on the land owned by the park, they should still keep ownership of their home, according to a class-action suit filed by the Center for Civil Justice on behalf of families that have lost their homes to park owners. Those families claim they should be compensated for the sale of property they still own. Here’s what happens:

People in some parks own their mobile homes but rent the land on which they sit from the park owners. When they are evicted or can’t pay their rent, they have to leave their mobile home while they wait to sell it, said Mario Azzi, an attorney for the Center for Civil Justice.

Bill would extend legal protection to libraries that help opioid abusers

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Libraries must be protected from lawsuits if their employees administer opioid overdose-reversing drugs, say proponents of legislation that would do so. Naloxone — commonly known in nasal spray form as Narcan — is non-addictive and can completely reverse the effects of an overdose, said Larry Wagenknecht, the chief executive officer of the Michigan Pharmacists Association. The drug displaces the opioid from receptor sites on cells, meaning the opioid is still in the body but will no longer have an effect. The bill package, sponsored by Rep. Jason Sheppard, R-Temperance, would extend “Good Samaritan” legal protection to libraries when a staff member administers naloxone to someone they believe to be overdosing. Individual staff members are protected under the Good Samaritan laws, but not libraries as an institution.

Big or little, governments must manage public records requests

By ANDREW BLOK, KALEA HALL AND KURT WILLIAMS
Capital News Service

LANSING — Ramona Smith was a trustee for Greenbush Township in rural Clinton County when she became concerned by a lack of transparency. So she decided to run for clerk. In 2016, Smith and four other township candidates won office on a shared platform of transparency. “Our residents would know when we were spending their money and how we were spending their money,” she said. “Anything they wanted to know, we were open to that.”

That’s the guiding principle behind the 1976 Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act that provides public access to records.

CM Life Newspaper takes on sexual assault case

This story started in December 2016 when Central Michigan University student Ian Elliott abruptly resigned his post as student president. “Emily Davis was our summer editor and chief, she walked into my office one afternoon after receiving an email from a sexual assault survivor,” said CM Life Advisor Dave Clark. In 2016, Central Michigan student, Rachel Wilson, claimed she was sexually assaulted by Central Michigan student body president, Ian Elliott. In 2018, she hoped to receive justice. “In April, a few weeks before the case was set to go to trial, the case was dismissed by the prosecuting attorney due to a lack of evidence,” said Editor-In-Chief Emma Dale.

Court consolidation slows

By MAXWELL EVANS
Capital News Service

LANSING — An ongoing state push to save money and increase efficiency by closing or reorganizing district courts has some legal experts questioning if now is the time to cut services for underserved populations. Michigan has seen a net reduction of 34 judgeships for a savings of $29.3 million to the state since the State Court Administrative Office recommended “right-sizing” the judiciary eight years ago. Next up for closure: The 95A District Court in Menominee County, if Judge Jeffrey Barstow retires as planned on March 31. A 2012 law required the closure whenever the court’s judgeship became vacant. Whether the Menominee court, facing a caseload unforeseen in 2012, will close is uncertain.

Watch Focal Point: An update with Judge Aquilina, new MSU interim president, extreme temperatures reach Michigan and more

On this edition of Focal Point, get an overview of the polar vortex that shutdown the state of Michigan, and resulted in Michigan State University’s seventh cancellation in history. Satish Udpa takes over as MSU’s new interim president after the resignation of John Engler. In sports, ESPN’s College GameDay came to MSU for the fifth time in anticipation for MSU’s game against Indiana. Those stories and more on this week of Focal Point.

One year after the Nassar case, she’s become a hero

It’s been a year since Judge Rosemarie Aquilina put Larry Nassar behind bars for life. Today, she calls herself an “accidental hero.” From being on the Today show to standing the survivors at the ESPYs, Judge Aquilina has become an advocate, which has made her a lot busier. “I get asked to do motivational speaking,” she said. Not only has she broadened her possibilities to make change, but, emotionally, she’s a bigger person.