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.
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Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Government Positions on Marijuana Evolve

While the federal government turns its back on recreational marijuana, Michigan is prepared to blow the lid off medical marijuana production and dispensation. Government's relationship to the plant continues to evolve.

This blogger recalls when medical and recreational marijuana laws began to sweep the country nearly ten years ago. Back then, a key USDOJ memorandum indicated that President Obama's Attorney General directed the corps of United States Attorneys not to devote resources to marijuana prosecutions in states that legalized the controlled substance for either medical or recreational use.

The Trump Administration, especially through Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has signaled an end to the hands-off approach of its predecessor relative to recreational use of marijuana. This poses a huge roadblock to continued industry growth.

In Detroit, only two of over two hundred applications to operate medical marijuana "centers" were recently approved. The City has taken rigorous actions to shut down the unlicensed -and heretofore thriving- dispensaries. One of our clients reported that a cease and desist letter was tacked onto the door of his shop last month.

Meanwhile, just across the Detroit River, Canada is considering nation-wide legalization in all 9 of its provinces. This is the equivalent of removing marijuana from Schedule 1 of the Controlled Substance Act.

As an industry, marijuana is poised to explode as state laws across the nation are relaxed and as decriminalization takes place. In most medical and recreational use states, industrial warehouse space is suddenly in high demand as skilled growers seek adequate space to produce marijuana.

Some prospective licensees are willing to spend over a million dollars to re-purpose a warehouse for high-output marijuana production. Investors are tripping over each other to prepare for the rare state licensing opportunities that will unfold in December.

Just 8-months before taking applications for 500 and 1000-plant grow licenses and dispensaries, the State of Michigan is poised to earn millions in tax revenues from this relatively new industry. The state's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs [LARA] is gearing up for the new license applicants this December, creating the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation.

The problem for legitimate industry growth continues to be inclusion of marijuana on Schedule 1. As long as marijuana is illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, the banks and insurance companies, so vital to industry growth, will remain on the sidelines and marijuana will continue to be a predominantly cash-based industry.

This problem will not stop the artisans that have been growing high-quality marijuana over the past decade. Like craft beers, they will continue to produce a product for which demand seems high and insatiable.

If you need to explore your options regarding the acquisition of one of the several state licenses soon to be available from the State of Michigan, give our law firm a call to schedule a free consultation.

Post #588

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Friday, April 14, 2017

Insane Clown Posse Sued for Trademark Infringement

ICP front man Violent J
A few years ago, we posted about an ACLU lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, seeking to have followers of the Insane Clown Posse, known as Juggalos, removed from the FBI's roster of dangerous gangs. The Juggalos appealed the dismissal of their case and won in the Sixth Circuit.

This week, the ICP was sued in the same court on a trademark infringement suit. The plaintiff, a poet, alleges that ICP frontman, "Violent J", co-opted his poem, "But You Didn't" without permission.

In his complaint the plaintiff alleges that he wrote the poem, and that his work, including this poem, is featured in the popular "Chicken Soup Series" and that it is copyrighted. Plaintiff further alleged that the ICP published a derivative of the poem without permission, causing damages to the poet plaintiff.

 The case is so fresh, the Farmington Hills-based ICP has yet to answer the complaint. If the allegations are true regarding the trademark registration of the poem, it will be a difficult case for the ICP to defend.

Are there any Juggalo attorneys out there?

Post #587

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Thursday, April 13, 2017

Where Have All the Law Students Gone?

Not long ago, everyone wanted to be the lawyer. College grads flocked to law schools in droves.

Innovative curricula, featuring evening and weekend classes, attracted professionals looking to up their game. Affordable student loans also made law school accessible to the masses; not just the elite.

A perfect storm for a bubble burst. The burst came in the form of the 2008 recession. Newly enrolled law students eventually declined by 25%.

One Michigan law school that embodies these national trends is Western Michigan's Cooley Law School. According to the Lansing State Journal, using American Bar Association data, Cooley self-reported a peak enrollment of nearly four thousand students in 2007, but saw only 1300 enroll last year; a 60% drop.

For law school grads facing repayment on quarter-million-dollar student loans, the prospect of earning "only" five figures has made the repayment process daunting to say the least. As a result, far fewer college graduates have been drawn to the field.

Veteran readers of this blog may recall some of our earlier posts on the Cooley Law School effect on the industry; here, here, and here. We caught a lot of heat for those posts from many a Cooley grad and that is understandable as there are many successful Cooley grads spread throughout the legal industry in Michigan. More than once, readers compared this blogger's law school alma mater, University of Detroit Mercy School of Law, to Cooley - the truth sometimes hurts.

With its attendant reduction in revenues, the LSJ refers to Cooley's present situation as a "free fall" decline, even pinning a downturn in the local economy on Cooley. Far fewer students looking for temporary housing; far fewer students around patronizing bars and restaurants in the evenings and on weekends.

More bad news came in the form of tighter ABA reporting requirements for a key metric: what percentage of the school's graduates are employed full-time as a lawyer in a position that requires passage of the bar examination? The answer for Cooley is 38%. With nearly 2/3rds of the graduates not practicing law, there really is no mystery why enrollment is so far down.

All of this begs the question, do we really need any more lawyers? Although we observe a fully stocked bar throughout the counties in which we service our clients, there is always room for, and a need for, the next generation.

The legal service profession is no different.

Post #586

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Monday, April 10, 2017

Justice Neil Gorsuch Sworn-In

Justice Neil Gorsuch was administered his Article VI constitutional oath by Chief Justice John Roberts at 9:00 am sharp in the judicial conference room of the SCOTUS Courthouse. This was followed by the more public "judicial oath" in the Rose Garden of the White House.

The first of what may be several Trump appointees to the SCOTUS, Justice Gorsuch fills a vacancy on the bench created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016. Opposition to Justice Gorsuch in the Senate was based on pure politics rather than on the merits of the nomination.

Among legal scholars, the consensus about Justice Gorsuch is that he is perhaps the best-suited, both in temperment and intellect, to fill the shoes of Justice Scalia. Like Scalia, Justice Gorsuch has a flair for authoring an opinion.

"Nothing personal, just business", is most likely how Justice Gorsuch views his relatively quick run through the Senate confirmation gauntlet. A veteran of high-stakes political appointments, Justice Gorsuch came of age in the mid-1980s when his Mother, Anne Burford, resigned under controversy during the Regan Administration; as a then 15-year old, Justice Gorsuch felt deeply that she should not have resigned.

Most Presidents have the advantage of being in office a while before having to make such an important nomination; for Trump, it was a chance to fulfill a campaign promise.

In the end, the Democratic caucus stood firm as a united block only to see the Republican majority take the unprecedented step of subjecting President Trump's nominee to a straight up and down vote, replacing the centuries-old tradition of requiring 60 votes for confirmation. Rather than squandering the so-called "nuclear option", the Senate Democrats perhaps should have embraced the symmetry involved in replacing a conservative justice with another like-minded conservative justice.

Justice Gorsuch is too high-qualified a jurist to deny him a seat on the bench simply because the Senate Judiciary Committee refused to meet with President Obama's timely nomination of Judge Merrick Garland. The real political battle will be Trump's next appointment, especially if the High Court seat is vacated by a liberal justice.

Not taking any chances this time around, the conservatives sent Federalist Society executive vice chairman Leonard Leo, to work with Justice Gorsuch during the nomination process. With two successful conservative appointments under his belt, Leo was the slam-dunk ingredient that put the nomination through and into Trump's "W" column.

Something tells us that Trump's second appointment will not be too far off.

Post #585

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Saturday, April 8, 2017

Revenge Porn Defendants Ordered to Pay

Over the past few years, the concept of revenge porn -posting nude pics on the Internet of an ex-lover- has progressed into the modern lexicon. First a social media phenomena, it has come to the attention of law makers and law enforcement officers over the past year.

Several civil cases in Oakland and Macomb Counties have resulted in significant civil judgments against the revenge pornographers. Just last week, for example, a woman in a Macomb County case was awarded $600,000 by a judge following a hearing; in a colossal mistake, the defendant elected to represent himself.

The Macomb County case follows a case from last year in Oakland County where Judge Martha Anderson awarded a plaintiff half a million dollars. Also, one year ago, the Michigan Legislature joined 26 other states in outlawing revenge porn, making it a 93-day misdemeanor; a second conviction is punishable by up to a year in the county jail.

Passage of the new law makes it a crime, under certain circumstances, to disseminate sexually explicit material of an adult on a computer without the subject's consent. If a person becomes a victim of revenge porn, securing a criminal misdemeanor conviction will provide momentum for a civil cause of action.

The successful litigants in Macomb and Oakland Counties presented evidence of their damages such as employment difficulties.

If you have been a victim of revenge porn, contact our law firm to discuss your options.

Post #584

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