Thursday, January 26, 2017

US Attorney McQuade to Stay at Helm Until Removed

U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade
When you accept an appointment as a United States Attorney -the federal prosecutor for a geographic district- you serve at the pleasure of your boss, the President of the United States. Michigan has two United States Attorneys: the Eastern District in Detroit and the Western District in Grand Rapids.

Barbara McQuade has vowed to remain in her post in the Eastern District until she is asked to step aside by the President. Her counter-part in Grand Rapids, Patrick Miles, Jr., stepped down when Trump took office last week.

McQuade says that she loves her job and it sounds like she would stay on for as long as the POTUS will have her. President Obama appointed both U.S. Attorneys here in Michigan; after receiving Senate approval, McQuade has been on the job for seven years.

There has been no indication yet from the White House regarding whether or when McQuade will be replaced. If she was replaced, we here at the Motor City Law Blog believe Matthew Schneider, currently the General Counsel for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, would make a fine replacement.

Post #18

Friday, May 27, 2016

Bedrock Detroit and the Spirit of Detroit

Here in Detroit, many people will tell you finally, there seems to be a Renaissance happening; at least in the downtown area. The fringe of the City, in the neighborhoods, it is still very dangerous; children are shot dead nearly every week.

But we've got to start somewhere. This video presents quite a nice face on some of the positive things that are happening right now across our City.

Take a look...

This is the Spirit of Detroit on which we here at Motor City Law Blog prefer to focus. We cannot ignore the murder of children -because that problem must be addressed- but we can focus on the positive.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Murder in Detroit: Two

Miracle Murray was only six-months old when she was murdered by drive-by bullets on a beautiful spring day in Detroit last weekend. Today, there will be a prayer service and peace rally in her honor.

Miracle was just the latest in a long string of senseless murders; violent murders that now claim the lives of toddlers and infants.

Apparently, revenge was a motive in baby Miracle's death; her older brother is a suspect in the Easter Sunday shooting death of 3-year old A'Nayia Montgomery. No arrests have been made and the DPD believes this heinous murder is gang-related.

While violent shooting deaths are nothing new here in the Motor City, this case did get our attention. Over the years, we have known many assistant prosecutors in the murder unit of the Wayne County Prosecutor's office; an overworked and undermanned unit. This is the kind of case that affects your professional outlook for the rest of your career and for the rest of your life.

Yes, Detroit has emerged from bankruptcy and yes, the downtown area and the riverfront have nice facelifts.

But the neighborhoods remain deadly. The schools are kaput. The social fabric continues to unravel.

Until these problems are addressed, the children will continue to die.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Motor City Marvin Suspended From Practice of Law

Attorney Marvin Barnett
Jeeze, say it ain't so. Just as we put the touches on our inaugural Motor City Original series a few months ago by highlighting a victory for attorney Marvin Barnett, the Attorney Discipline Board suspended his law license for three years for multiple ethics violations.

Barnett, a colorful iconic Detroit criminal defense lawyer, has made a career out of taking on the Detroit Police Department and its investigators. Perhaps his crowning achievement was causing the probe into the DPD's crime lab; an investigation that ultimately shut the lab down.

When we bumped into Marvin earlier in the month in the Oakland County Circuit Court, he was talking retirement. With hindsight, he may have seen this opinion coming.

After a hearing at which three sitting Wayne County Circuit Court judges testifed on Barnett's behalf, the ADB concluded that the Motor City defense counsel intimidated a witness in a federal criminal trial and neglected two client matters while mishandling client funds.

The ADB alleged Barnett intimidated the witness in the federal criminal proceeding by telling the witness he risked assassination if he testified in the case against Barnett's client, describing to the witness how his testimony would be transcribed and distributed throughout the local community.

That's all bad for this Motor City original. He cannot represent clients and earn money as a lawyer for three years. At least he did not lose his law license with a bisbarment which was considered. Avoiding disbarment is important because, to earn a law license back, the disbarred attorney must pass the bar exam.

We wish Mr. Barnett well in the upcoming years and wonder weather he will just retire, or whether we will see him in a court room down the road.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Motor City Original: White Boy Rick

While in law school in Detroit in the mid-1980s, I remember following the "White Boy Rick" saga.  The case involved kilos of cocaine and a young white kid, Richard Wershe, Jr., once a flashy Detroit upstart drug dealer and man about town, turned big-league informant for the Detroit Police Department, FBI and DEA.

Wershe is believed to be the lone convict still incarcerated from the 1980s-era draconian drug laws. Back in those days, former Governor John Engler spearheaded a legislative initiative called the "drug lifer law".

If you were convicted of manufacturing and delivery of more than 650 grams of cocaine in the mid-80s, you faced a life sentence without parole. All persons convicted under that now-overturned sentencing statute have either died or have been released.

Yet here is Wershe, 28-years later, plodding through his various long-shot appeals. His case is unique to the extent that he was sentenced to life, with the possibility of parole. Earlier this week, the Michigan Court of Appeals snuffed out the ray of hope cast upon Wershe by the Wayne County Circuit Court when it granted his motion for re-sentencing.

The Court of Appeals reversed that ruling on Monday via procedural grounds. Unlikely that the Michigan Supreme Court will even take his case, Wershe must now await another round with the parole board in 2017.

A long-serving convict like Wershe usually grinds through the state court appellate process during the first five-years of incarceration. Once all state remedies have been exhausted, the defendant can then turn to federal court via a petition for habeas corpus.

In the past six months, Wershe has been in the news again for the attempts being made by his appellate lawyers to spring him from the Michigan Department of Corrections. For what he did wrong, it does certainly seem like Wershe paid his debt long long ago.

His cause is amplified by the fact that he is a "one-of-a-kind" inmate. As the longest serving Michigan inmate, White Boy Rick is our Motor City Original this month.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel in the Wake of Bashara's Murder Conviction

Defense lawyer Michael McCarthy
When you are catching cases from Wayne County as a roster attorney for the Michigan Appellate Assigned Counsel System, you wind-up reviewing trial transcripts to spot issues to raise on appeal on behalf of your recently-convicted client. One of the issues raised in nearly every case is that your client did not receive effective assistance of trial counsel in violation of the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

So it was appellate "business-as-usual" when Bob Bashara, jury-convicted last year of the sensational first degree murder of his wife, raised the issue effective assistance post-verdict.  His MAACS attorney, Ron Ambrose, had to raise this standard issue in order to perfect Bashara's appeal.

Whether a convicted defendant has received the effective assistance of counsel is developed through a hearing known as a Ginther hearing. The object of a Ginther hearing is to determine whether his legal representation fell below what court's have deemed constitutionally effective legal representation.

The hearing, conducted in the Frank Murphy Hall of Justice, provided a rare insight into what goes no behind the scenes with the lawyers in the accused's camp.

Our good friend, Michael McCarthy, along with Detroit lawyer Lillian Diallo, constituted Bashara's high-powered, albeit court-appointed, defense team.  In order to determine whether a defendant received the effective assistance of counsel during a felony trial, testimony is taken by defendant's trial lawyer(s). Both the defendant's appellate counsel and the prosecutor get to question the defense lawyers.

Bashara alleged the assistance he received during his trial was ineffective because his lawyers refused to call certain witnesses and did not run the case the way he wanted it run. He wanted the lawyers to call witnesses who could discuss the seedy alternative lifestyle in which Bashara was involved: bondage, discipline, sadomasochism or BDSM.

For their part, the lawyers were not having it; they refused to put on such a case in Bashara's defense. Diallo testified at the hearing she was not about to become Bashara's legal slave and that he always acted like he was the smartest person in the room. McCarthy refused to develop a develop a defense around the Bashara's sexual limitations because he did not want to drag Jane Bashara's name through the proverbial mud.

In this case, given its high-profile nature, we have been treated to the frank testimony of the defense duo; a rare behind-the-curtain look at defense trial strategy in a high-profile media case. It has been our experience that an accused often wants things to go a certain way. Without an understanding of the law, evidence and procedure, that client is often sorely disappointed by the manner in which the case is presented to the jury.

The trail judge will not likely be ordering a new trail for Bashara; this exercise is simply to develop a record for the Court of Appeals to consider.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Motor City Original: Attorney Dana Nessel

Attorney Dana Nessel
In the past half-decade, the marriage equality civil rights movement has swept across the nation with many state legislatures removing laws that prohibited same-sex marriage and with the SCOTUS deciding two landmark cases that hold the right to select whom to marry is a fundamental constitutional right.

One of those cases involved a lesbian couple from Metro Detroit. The April DeBoer case presented a unique twist to the marriage equality movement to the extent that the case involved adoption rather than marriage.

April DeBoer was represented in the federal civil rights suit by Detroit lawyer Dana Nessel. Navigating the case successfully through the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Ms. Nessel then participated in the very interesting appeal to the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

This week, the Detroit lawyer received some much earned recognition when she accepted the "Woman of the Year" award from the Michigan Lawyers Weekly. In accepting the award before a large group of lawyers, Ms. Nessel recognized, as this blog does, that attaining SCOTUS recognition of marriage equality is only the beginning of eliminating discrimination against the LGBT community.

We here at the Motor City Law Blog applaud Ms Nessel's successful efforts in this civil rights struggle.