Blogs > The Law Blogger

The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
For more information email: tflynn@clarkstonlegal.com

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Juice on the Loose

First, it was White Boy Rick; now the Juice. Jeeze, everybody who's anybody is getting out of prison this month.

I happened to be traveling to Flint for a court date in Genesee County Circuit Court right when OJ's parole hearing was broadcast live, so I was able to listen to the entire proceeding.

The story of OJ's conviction is well known. Although he dodged a double murder conviction in Los Angeles in the mid-1990s, OJ was convicted of armed robbery in Las Vegas, Nevada in 2007, when he bum-rushed a hotel room with several accomplices in a misguided attempt to recover some of his infamous property and memorabilia.

As a criminal defense lawyer listening to the parole hearing, I was well aware of the number one rule when standing in front of a judge at sentencing, or when pleading for release before the parole board: be contrite, be humble, be remorseful.

A parole hearing is not the time to re-argue the facts of your case. But that is exactly what OJ did today during his parole hearing.

After listening to his eldest daughter Arnelle, now 48-years old, extend the traditional message of remorseful contrition toward the three-member parole board panel in Nevada today, I winced as OJ allocuted on his own behalf.

He dove right into his defense, asserting that he had no idea anyone in the room possessed a weapon, much less brandished one. It is now common knowledge that OJ had directed one of his accomplices to "bring the heat".

Although he was visibly intoxicated during the robbery, when asked whether he availed himself of alcohol treatment in the prison -as he promised to do at his last parole hearing in 2013- he confidently stated that he had no problem with alcohol; and further asserted that he was not a violent person.

These misstatements alone can be sufficient to scuttle an inmate's opportunity for parole. In the end, however, OJ's advanced age -70- his lack of any prior felony convictions, and the fact that he completed his judgment of sentence, was sufficient to obtain an order for his release on October 1, 2017.

www.clarkstonlegal.com
Post #599


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SCOTUS to Rule on Same-Sex Wedding Cake Case

With rumors flying about Justice Anthony Kennedy's imminent retirement, and with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg determined to hang-on through the Trump Administration, an interesting same-sex case involving a wedding cake has made its way to the SCOTUS.

The case, Masterpiece Cakeshop -v- Colorado Civil Rights Commission, pits gay rights against religious freedom. An otherwise amiable cake shop owner was sued under Colorado's public accommodation law when it refused to accommodate a same-sex couple's request for a gay-themed wedding cake. The shop owner's refusal was based on his sincerely held religious beliefs against gay marriage.

We've seen these cake cases percolating through the legal systems of various states for the past half decade. This one from Colorado was just recently granted certiorari by the SCOTUS after a lengthily delay.

Asserting his First Amendment right to freedom of religion, the shop owner and petitioner, who characterizes himself as a "cake artist", claims that the Colorado law is unconstitutional to the extent that it forces him to accommodate customers in the violation of his religious beliefs. The lower court decision of the Colorado Court of Appeals held that the baker illegally discriminated against a gay couple under the Colorado law.

SCOTUS denied a similar petition for cert three years ago and watchers of the High Court, seeing the extended delay in acting on the petition, anticipated another rejection from the SCOTUS. Surprisingly, the Court granted certiorari and the case will be argued this fall, with a decision on the merits expected next spring.

The case received the four votes required to grant certiorari. This fall, it will be interesting to see how the newly-configured Court will handle this civil rights dispute. Depending on the judicial fates of Justices Kennedy and Ginsburg, President Trump may have the opportunity to bolster the conservative wing of the High Court.

Meanwhile, these gay-themed cake cases are gaining traction within our culture. Currently, a play in Los Angeles, "The Cake", has adopted the theme of these cases: pitting a shop owner against gay customers who ask the owner to do something which the owner disagrees with on moral and religious grounds.

With all that we have swirling around Washington at the moment, some of our friends have already commented on this post that SCOTUS has way more on its plate than to decide this case. On the other hand, religious beliefs run deep and affect our souls.

So, we will do what we always do: keep you posted...

www.clarkstonlegal.com
Post #598


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Friday, June 30, 2017

Transgender Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Dismissed

sexual harassment lawsuit
Wow, Planet Fitness really is the "no judgment zone".

In the early winter of 2015, in Midland, MI, two Planet Fitness customers wandered into the women's locker room. One was a woman; the other, a transgender individual -in this case, a man who identified as a woman.

The woman caught on to the fact that a man, albeit one that identified as a woman, was in her presence in the locker room. Neither party was in a state of undress, and no specific sexual or lewd conduct occurred.

She reported the individual to the store manager, claiming violation of her privacy. When Planet Fitness advised the woman of their policy to accommodate transgender customers, she became vocal about the situation, warning other female customers on several occasions.

Her membership was terminated by the corporation.

Eventually, she contacted a lawyer and filed a civil rights lawsuit under Michigan's Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. The complaint alleged that the woman was subjected to sexual harassment by operation of the corporate policy allowing customers access to the locker room of their self-identified gender. She also claimed an invasion of privacy and a retaliatory membership termination.

The Midland County Circuit Court granted the company's motion for summary disposition, dismissing the case. The customer appealed and last week, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court decision to dismiss the case.

Holding that mere "opportunity" to be subjected to conduct of a sexual nature does not trigger the civil rights act, the Michigan Court of Appeals required a showing that the plaintiff actually experienced any conduct of a sexual nature. The Court held that the civil rights act requires that the sexual conduct substantially interferes with utilization of a public accommodation, such as the female locker room at your local Planet Fitness.

For his part, the lawyer for Plaintiff commented to Michigan Lawyers Weekly that the Court of Appeals got it wrong. According to Plaintiff, the mere presence of a man in the women's locker room creates a hostile environment under the civil rights act. When that situation is expressly endorsed by the establishment -the public accommodation- through its policy, then counsel believed his case should have survived summary disposition.

Over here at the Law Blogger, this case has given us something to think about. Perhaps the offended female customer will take the matter to the next level: the Michigan Supreme Court.

Post#597
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Thursday, June 29, 2017

Stealth Cyberattacks Hit Law Firms

ransomeware
Recently, more than a few law firms -along with other small businesses- have been hit with ransomware and other forms of cyberattacks. Over the past few months, the WannaCrypt, WannaCry and other encryption-based ransomware have plagued businesses across Oakland County.

Ransomware is a form of malware that worms its way into a set of networked computers, corrupts or encrypts a set of files with a virus, then notifies the user of the attack, often demanding a payment. Lately, payment is demanded in Bitcoin, the anonymous block-chain cryptocurrency.

Even big law firms touting cybersecurity compliance and cyberattack damage control have been hacked. The lawyers at DLA Piper, for example, arrived to the firm on Monday of this week to discover they had been hit with the Petya or Petwrap virus. They were treated to the following message:

petwrap ransomeware

Nice. Great way to start the work week. At least payment is "guaranteed".

An even more ominous aspect to recent attacks involves evidence that hackers known as the Shadow Brokers have infiltrated the NSA, co-opted some of their most effective cyberweapons, and have unleashed them world-wide. Any cybersecurity expert will tell you that the best hackers in the world are employed at the NSA.

In New York City, the Shadow Brokers are now believed to be behind a recent ransomeware attack that was merely a smokescreen. The ransomeware feint was designed to distract the IT cybersecurity crew of the targeted business, while the virus secretly obtained employee credentials.

Once the hackers obtain mission-critical data from the business, it can disrupt and control the enterprise. Until that time, the virus operates undetected, even by the most advanced cybersecurity products.

One of the best defenses to this form of corruption is to diligently back-up your data: both off-site in the cloud, and on-site with a disk drive.

Hopefully, good will prevail over evil in this cyberbattle.

Post #596
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Friday, June 9, 2017

New Gun Law Permits Unlicensed Concealed Weapon

Yesterday, the Michigan House passed, by a 59/49 vote, a new gun law that demotes the once-required concealed pistol license to an optional certificate; a training and safety measure only.

The new law allows citizens to carry a concealed pistol without a license. No more worries for the "open carry" crowd, when a coat or a sweatshirt inadvertently covers the weapon, thereby creating felony exposure.

Lee Chatfield [R-Levering], who sponsored the legislation, asserted the basis of the legislation was that criminals were never bothered with following the gun permit laws anyway. According to its mostly Republican sponsors, the legislation is designed to provide law abiding citizens with the same rights and opportunities to bear concealed weapons.

Similarly, Jim Runestad [R-White Lake] said the new law repeals unnecessary criminal sanctions for when an overcoat covers the weapon of an arms-bearing individual. This was known as the "coat tax" among gun rights advocates.

Gun laws come and go. Even considering the Second Amendment, the manner in which one bears arms will always be regulated to a certain extent, with high criminal penalties for transgressions.

Just as the new law was passed in the state legislature, the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld a law that allows the University of Michigan to ban guns on all of its campuses. Ann Arbor has always been a league leader in blazing its own legal trail. Decriminalization of pot in the 1980s -at the height of the drug war- and the UM admission policies reviewed by the SCOTUS both come to mind.

The training involved in handling and storing a weapon safely is crucial to the process, especially when the overwhelming majority of gun owners are law-abiding citizens.

Post #595

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