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On Friday, January 22, 2021, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new Gatherings and Face Mask Order . The previous order , which went into effect on January 16, 2021, remains in effect through January 31, 2021. Find a summary of its provisions here . The January 22 order, effective February 1 through February 21, outlines requirements for restaurants opening at limited capacity and subject to distancing restrictions. It also provides guidelines for entertainment and recreational facilities generally, doing away with prior orders’ distinctions between low risk, moderate risk, and high risk facilities. Along with the January ...
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The Michigan Legislature acted quickly to vote in new legislation putting temporary pandemic measures in place for Michigan’s unemployment system following the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling invalidating a number of Governor Whitmer’s executive orders. On October 14, 2020, the Michigan Legislature approved more than a dozen bills related to COVID-19, including SB 886, which received unanimous support from both the house and senate. The bill provides much needed relief for both employees and employers affected by COVID-19-related employment issues by temporarily amending the Michigan Employment Security Act in the following important ways: Unemployment Arising ...
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On Wednesday, January 13, 2021, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new Gatherings and Face Mask Order replacing the previous one , which went into effect on December 18, 2020. Effective from January 16, 2021, through January 31, 2021, the new order includes most of the same provisions as the previous order but allows the reopening of some additional activities in which individuals can remain masked and socially distanced, including indoor group exercise and noncontact sports. Along with the new order, the MDHHS issued the following supplemental materials: Epidemic Order Infographic , Epidemic Order Capacity Limits Fact ...
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Michigan Supreme Court Orders The   Michigan Supreme Court   has issued 20 administrative orders in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which are summarized below by topic. Many of the administrative orders listed here reference executive orders issued by Governor Whitmer. However, in   Midwest Inst of Health, PLLC v Governor of Michigan  (In re Certified Questions from the United States Dist Court) ,   No 161492 , ___ Mich ___, ___ NW2d ___ (Oct 2, 2020), the court unanimously held that Governor Whitmer did not have the authority under the Emergency Management Act of 1976 (EMA),   MCL 30.401 et seq. , to declare a “state of emergency” or “state of disaster” ...
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When I was in college, I spent most of my summers working 6-7 days a week for landscaping companies. It was a job that was by its very nature almost wholly dependent on the weather. We worked long hours in the summer, much like a squirrel, trying to sock away as much money as possible for the winter. Many professions are seasonal like this, but I was surprised to find that practicing law is really no different. Of course, certain areas of practice are much more date driven than others, such as tax law. Family law traditionally has an increase in divorce filings after the holidays. Even real estate practice had certain ebbs and flows through the year for things ...
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The U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed a $900 billion   COVID-19 relief bill   (the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021) on Monday, December 21, 2020, and signed by the president on December 27, 2020. One component of this act “ ensures   tax deductibility for business expenses paid with forgiven Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, provides fresh PPP funding, makes Sect. 501(C)(6) not-for-profit organizations eligible for loans for the first time, and offers businesses facing severe revenue reductions the opportunity to apply for a second loan.” The provisions specifically related to tax deductibility will supersede the guidance previously ...
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The Season of Change

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With 2020 in the rearview mirror and 2021 on the horizon, it is time to do the yearly assessment. The year 2020 brought about challenges none of us could have predicted. We were forced to be flexible and innovative. My personal world changed substantially as I welcomed my first child in the middle of a pandemic. The legal practice also went through a rapid transformation. It is easy to focus on all the hardships and negatives. But there are also some positive developments from the pandemic: The 9 to 5 workday: Law firms had to quickly adjust to having many, if not all, their employees working remotely. With kids at home, some attorneys have to juggle their ...
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On Friday, December 18, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new Gatherings and Face Mask Order replacing the previous one , which went into effect on December 7, 2020. Effective from December 21 through January 15, 2021, the new order includes most of the same provisions as the previous order but loosens some restrictions at certain lower risk entertainment and recreational facilities. Along with the new order, the MDHHS issued the following supplemental materials: Epidemic Order Key Metrics , Epidemic Order Infographic , Epidemic Capacity Limits Fact Sheet , and Epidemic Outdoor Seating Enclosures . The Centers ...
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Ray Cassar has specialized in criminal defense for 35 years and has h andled a variety of criminal cases all over Michigan in both state and f ederal courts.   Earlier in the year, he spoke with John Swift and me about what it has been like defending criminal cases during the pandemic and has some practical tips for other criminal defense attorneys.  Transcript John Swift: Hello, my name is John Swift from ICLE. Max Matthies: Hello, my name is Max Matthies from ICLE. Ray Cassar: And my name is Ray Cassar. I'm a criminal defense attorney for the last 35 years. I practice out of Farmington Hills, but I'm all over the tricounty area. And ...
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The following is from our July 2020 interview of Judge Denenfeld.   What are the main procedural changes in your courtroom due to COVID-19? We are only doing remote hearings now, but no trials. We use Zoom for most of our hearings and still do weekly block scheduling for our criminal cases. That means we have blocks of time for status conferences, which often result in plea agreements. We are a busy court, so we have many cases that are docketed for the same time. In criminal hearings, we use Zoom breakout rooms to enable defense attorneys to have privileged discussions with clients regarding plea offers. On the civil side, we are still hearing and deciding ...
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On Monday, December 7, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new Gathering Prohibition and Face Covering Order replacing the previous one , which went into effect on November 18. Effective through December 20, 2020, the new order includes most of the same provisions as the previous order. Along with the new order, MDHHS issued the following supplemental materials: Epidemic Order Key Metrics , Epidemic Order Infographic , Epidemic Order Social Gathering Guidance , and FAQs . Notably, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently revised its close-contact quarantine guidance based on scientific findings ...
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Like many lawyers who were once English majors, I’m an avid reader. And for all its faults, one thing 2020 has definitely given me is plenty of time to curl up with a good book. In anticipation of a largely homebound winter, I’ve already compiled a nice long to-read list based on New York Times and New Yorker favorites and my friends’ Goodreads recommendations. I’ve always been partial to fiction, but lately I’ve been trying to branch out and read more historical nonfiction (especially U.S. history) and memoirs. If, like me, you’re always on the hunt for your next great read (or if you’re just looking for a gift for a reader in your life) here are a few ...
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All the Data

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Like many students around the world, my daughter began her school year looking at a computer screen at home. This was her first day of school, ever. With this new era of online learning we have also entered a new era of data collection . This includes recordings of students’ images, names, voices, and conversations with their teachers and other students. While video conference providers like Zoom have made strides in security, data is still being created, collected, and, perhaps most importantly, stored in some fashion every hour of every school day. The disclosure of that data, whether lawful or not, presents some very real risks to our children’s, and even ...
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Three years ago, Dennis Tomasik was completely exonerated after being wrongfully convicted of criminal sexual conduct in 2007. Please have a listen at the link below as my colleagues Max Matthies, Noah Hagan, and I talk to several of the attorneys involved in his 10+ year case including Mary Chartier and Kris Tieber . We also talk to Professor David Moran from U of M Law School and the Michigan Innocence Clinic and even get to hear from Dennis and his wife Kim about their incredible story of perseverance. The Exoneration of Dennis Tomasik Thanks for listening.  John
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In a unanimous decision, the Michigan Supreme Court recently held that the longstanding practice of counties keeping the surplus proceeds following a tax foreclosure sale of real property was an unconstitutional taking. Rafaeli, LLC v Oakland Cty , No 156849, __ Mich __ (July 17, 2020). The two plaintiffs in Rafaeli both owed much less in property taxes than their homes were sold for. One plaintiff’s tax debt was around $285, and the property sold for $24,500; the other plaintiff’s property sold for $82,000 compared to a tax debt of $6,000. The General Property Tax Act outlines the tax foreclosure process, but it does not provide for any disbursement of ...
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On Sunday, November 15, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new Gatherings and Face Mask Order replacing the previous one issued on October 29, 2020. The new order goes into effect on Wednesday, November 18, 2020, and remains in effect for three weeks until December 8, 2020. As before, the authority for the order is MCL 333.2253 of the Public Health Code. The new order, described as a “pause to save lives,” includes a number of tightened restrictions on social gatherings, businesses, and schools. MDHHS also issued a Pause to Save Lives infographic ,  Social Gathering Guidance , and  Safe Social "Pods" guidance . ...
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​ 2020 PA 246 ,  247 ,  248 , and  249 , authorize remote witnessing, notarization, visitation, and electronic signatures in Michigan. This legislation allows electronic signatures and remote witnessing, notarization, and visitation on the terms laid out in Governor Whitmer’s now-invalidated executive orders. See  In re Certified Questions from the United States Dist Court, Western District of Michigan, Southern Division ,  No 161492 , ___ Mich ___, ___ NW2d ___ (Oct 2, 2020). This legislation has been extended and applies to any document executed on or after April 30, 2020, and before July 1, 2021, by 2020 PAs 335 , 336 , 337 , and 338 . Here are ...
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Karen Quinlan Valvo was appointed to the 15th Judicial District Court bench by Governor Rick Snyder on January 5, 2016, and elected on November 8, 2016, to complete the term. She presides over criminal, traffic, and landlord-tenant cases and the specialized Mental Health and Veterans Treatment Court dockets. We spoke to Judge Valvo in August of this year about changes in her courtroom in the wake of COVID-19.   What are the main procedural changes in your courtroom due to COVID-19? The court is slowly reopening to the public, in accordance with a phased process established by the State Court Administrative Office (SCAO). Different courts are in different ...
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​ In the wake of the Michigan Supreme Court’s opinion  in  Midwest Inst of Health, PLLC v Governor of Michigan  (In re Certified Questions from the United States Dist Court) ,  No 161492 , ___ Mich ___, ___ NW2d ___ (Oct 2, 2020), Governor Whitmer’s COVID-19 executive orders promulgated under the Emergency Powers of the Governor Act of 1945, including orders governing visitation in residential care facilities, are no longer effective. On October 21, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued an  order , effective October 26, 2020, under the Public Health Code setting out protocols for visitation to address the threat to public ...
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On Thursday, October 29, 2020, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) issued a new   Gatherings and Face Mask Order   replacing the   previous one   issued on October 9. The order is effective until rescinded. The new order includes some of the same provisions as well as a number of new ones placing limits on gatherings, imposing contact tracing requirements for restaurants, and more. Highlights include the following: Definitions of a number of terms, including childcare organizations, gathering, and symptoms of COVID-19 Indoor gathering restrictions as follows: 50 or fewer persons in a nonresidential indoor venue without fixed ...
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