McCall Hamilton Advocacy and Public Affairs

Updates About Supreme Court Rulings

Board of Canvassers Certify Voting and Abortion Ballot Measures

Update: Sep 5-16, 2022

As previously reported in Updates from the Capitol, the Board of State Canvassers failed to approve the Promote the Vote 2022 and Reproductive Freedom for All ballot initiatives during an uncharacteristically contentious meeting on Wednesday, August 31. The move temporarily blocked the measures from being placed on the November general election ballot.

Both proposals met the requisite signature requirements to qualify for the ballot, however, two Republican members of the board cited concerns regarding the formatting and clarity of the proposals’ language. The Board ultimately deadlocked in a 2 to 2 vote, prompting appeals from the ballot proposals supporters to the Michigan Supreme Court to intervene.

On Thursday, September 8, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in a 5 to 2 opinion that the actions of the Board of State Canvassers were not within its purview, among other things, and it was the duty of the Board to certify the two constitutional ballot initiatives for the November ballot.

In response to the Supreme Court decision, the Board unanimously approved the measures on Friday, September 9 for inclusion on the November general election ballot.

Elliot Larsen Civil Rights Act Prohibits Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation

Update: Jul 25-Aug 5, 2022

On Thursday, July 29, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in a 5 to 2 decision that denial of goods, services, etc. on the basis of sexual orientation violates Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act (ELCRA). The majority opinion was written by Republican-nominated Justice Elizabeth Clement. The ruling significantly expands protections for the LGBTQ community as ELCRA has jurisdiction over employers of all sizes and prohibits discrimination beyond employment, in places of public accommodation, such as housing. A lower court ruling separately found the ELCRA to apply to gender identity as well.

While the ruling on Thursday and the lower court ruling were celebrated by those in the LGBTQ community and allies, the protections are not yet enshrined in law – something Democrat lawmakers, such as State Senator Jeremy Moss (D-Southfield), hope to change.

It is important to note that the Michigan Supreme Court opinion was silent on whether enforcement of the protections violated constitutional religious liberties. Groups, like the Michigan Catholic Conference, expressed concern that the ruling could pose a threat to religious liberties under the state Constitution. Republican Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey also expressed concern regarding possible infringement on “those with firmly held religious beliefs”.

Michigan Supreme Court Rules on Juvenile Life Sentences

Update: Jul 25-Aug 5, 2022

On July 28, in a 4 to 3 decision, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in People v. Parks that 18-year-old defendants convicted of first-degree murder to a life sentence without the possibility of parole is unconstitutional. The same 4 to 3 majority also ruled in People v. Stovall that it is unconstitutional for juveniles, those 17 and under, to be sentenced to life with the possibility of parole for second-degree murder.

The decision in Parks, written by Justice Elizabeth Welch and joined by Chief Justice Bridget McCormack, and Justices Bernstein and Cavanagh found that the sentence imposed did not take into account characteristics of youth, including adolescent brain development.

In Stovall, Justice McCormack wrote that a life sentence with the possibility of parole for a juvenile committing second-degree murder is often more severe than the minimum sentence for a juvenile committing first-degree murder.

The same four justices also ruled in People v. Taylor, which found rebuttable presumption against sentencing a juvenile to life in prison without the possibility of parole. This presumption will be the prosecutor’s burden to overcome by presenting clear and convincing evidence in a hearing

Justice Viviano dissented, writing that the majority “used this brutal kidnapping and murder case as an opportunity to drastically limit the discretion sentencing courts have traditionally held to impose a sentence on a defendant convicted of one of our state’s most serious crimes.”