Law Enforcement Body-Worn Camera Privacy Act

Jeff ClarkOn July 13, 2017 Michigan Gov. Rick Synder signed into law Public Act 85 of 2017. The Act, which has been labeled as the “Law Enforcement Body-Worn Camera Privacy Act,” pertains to recordings created by law enforcement officers wearing a video recording device during their police activities. Although it is estimated that less than 10% of law enforcement agencies in the State of Michigan have officers equipped with “body cameras,” that percentage is likely to increase over the years as other agencies explore the benefits of such recordings.

The new law provides that any disclosure of an audio or video recording that is recorded by body-worn cameras will be subject to the protections provided to crime victims under the Crime Victim’s Rights Act.  Recordings that are made in a private place by a law enforcement officer with a body-worn camera would be exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) except under certain circumstances. The Act allows individuals to request a copy of the recording except for a recording that was exempt under FOIA or would disclose the personally identifiable information of a victim, recorded by a law enforcement officer with a body-worn camera in a private place.

The law specifies that a body-worn camera recording that a police officer retained in connection with an on-going criminal or internal investigation, would be exempt from disclosure under FOIA.

The Act also provides exemptions from disclosure if the disclosure would

  • interfere with law enforcement proceedings,
  • deprive anyone of the right to a fair trial,
  • constitute an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy,
  • disclose the identity of a confidential source,
  • disclose police investigative techniques or procedures, or
  • endanger the life or physical safety of law enforcement personnel.

The law requires that a law enforcement agency must retain an evidentiary audio and video recording recorded by a body-worn camera for not less than 30 days from the date the recording is made. Such recordings that are the subject of an ongoing criminal or internal investigation or an ongoing criminal prosecution or civil action, must be maintained until the completion of the investigation or legal proceeding. In addition, any agency must retain the audio and video recordings by body-worn camera for not less than three years after the date the recording is made “if the recording is relevant to a formal complaint against a law enforcement officer or agency.”

The new law stipulates that an agency may charge a fee for copying the recording but the fee must be calculated in compliance with the Freedom of Information Act. Finally, a law enforcement agency that uses body-worn cameras must develop a written policy regarding the use of the cameras and the maintenance and disclosure of the recordings that complies with the requirement of this new law.

Jeff Clark is a partner in our Livonia office and is the head of the Firm’s Municipal Law practice group. He concentrates his practice on municipal law, FOIA/OMA, general liability defense and prevention and personal injury defense litigation. He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or jclark@cmda-law.com.

Sixth Circuit Reinforces the Importance of Protecting the Identities of Confidential Informants

Matt CrossIn Nelson v. City of Madison Heights, et al., while conducting a narcotics investigation at a motel police walked by the room of Shelly Hilliard (“Hilliard”) and spotted a bag of marijuana through the window. After obtaining her consent to enter the room, police found the bag of marijuana. In order to avoid arrest, Hilliard offered to call her drug dealer and order drugs from him. Hilliard signed a confidential informant form in which the sheriff’s department promised to use all reasonable means to protect her identity.

Police intercepted the drug dealer on his way to the motel. While questioning the passenger in the drug dealer’s vehicle, police revealed Hilliard as the source of their information. The passenger conveyed this information to the drug dealer. The police warned Hilliard the drug dealer knew she had set them up and he appeared angry about it. Soon thereafter, the drug dealer and an accomplice abducted and murdered Hilliard.

Hilliard’s mother (“Nelson”) filed a section 1983 claim against the police departments for which Hilliard served as a confidential informant. The defendant officer that revealed Hilliard’s identity moved for summary judgment based on qualified immunity and the district court denied the motion.

On appeal, the Sixth Circuit noted that government officials performing discretionary functions are afforded qualified immunity as long as their conduct does not violate clearly established constitutional rights. Hilliard’s interest in preserving her life is one such right.

Although the state has no duty to protect citizens from private acts of violence, it cannot cause or increase the risk of harm to citizens through its own affirmative acts without due process. Nelson claimed defendants were responsible for her daughter’s death under the “state created danger” theory. In order to establish liability under this theory, Nelson had to show:

(1)    An affirmative act by defendants that created or increased the risk Hilliard would be exposed to an act of violence by a third party;
(2)    Defendants’ action placed Hilliard in a special danger, as distinguished from a risk that affects the public at large; and
(3)    Defendants knew or should have known its actions specifically endangered Hilliard.

The defendant officer argued that he did not create or increase Hilliard’s risk of violence because she volunteered to be a confidential informant, citing Summar v. Bennett, 157 F.3d 1054, 1056 (6th Cir. 1998). In Summar, the informant was made aware that he would eventually have to testify and reveal his identity. An officer provided the prosecutor with the confidential informant’s name so it could be included in a pleading. The defendant became aware of the pleading and had the informant murdered.

The Sixth Circuit found the facts in Nelson distinguishable from Summar because the officer in Nelson never told Hilliard she would have to testify and reveal her identity. Further, the officer directly disclosed Hilliard’s identity to the person from whom he was supposed to protect Hilliard.

The defendant officer also argued Nelson could not prove he was deliberately indifferent to the risk of disclosing Hilliard’s identity because his decision to do so was a “split second decision that did not involve reflection.” However, the Court held that this was a question of fact for the jury and viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Nelson a reasonable jury could find the officer acted with deliberate indifference and violated Hilliard’s constitutional rights under the state created danger theory.

TAKEAWAY:

Confidential informants are an invaluable investigative tool and it is important for law enforcement personnel to be aware of the risks involved in using confidential informants. Law enforcement personnel should do all in their power to ensure the safety of confidential informants. The Court in Nelson highlighted the importance of making sure informants are fully informed of the extent to which they are expected to cooperate. In Nelson, the Court made much of the fact that the officer did not tell Hilliard she would need to testify and reveal her identity. As a result, the officer’s decision to reveal her identity increased her risk of harm. Tell informants they may be required to testify and reveal their identity even if their testimony is not ultimately necessary. Failure to do so may result in civil liability for the injury or death of an informant.

Matt Cross is an attorney in our Traverse City office where he focuses his practice on business law, insurance defense, law enforcement defense and litigation, and municipal law. He may be reached at (231) 922-1888 or mcross@cmda-law.com.

Grant Obtains a No Cause of Action Verdict in Federal Court

Greg Grant 2013colorGreg Grant of the Traverse City office recently obtained a no cause of action verdict in an excessive force trial in federal court.  Mr. Grant represented four corrections officers whom the plaintiff alleged used excessive force against him while he was inmate in a Michigan county jail.  Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that he was maced twice and tasered twice while locked in his cell.

The evidence at trial demonstrated that the plaintiff failed to follow verbal commands and was assaultive toward one of the officers.  The key to winning at trial was proving that the officers acted in accordance with jail policies and practices to preserve internal order and discipline, and to maintain institutional security.

Greg Grant, an attorney in our Traverse City office, focuses his practice on municipal law, employment and labor law, maritime law, insurance defense, and litigation.  He may be reached at (231) 922-1888 or ggrant@cmda-law.com.

Sixth Circuit Holds that Police Must Protect Free Expression of Unpopular Views

Curlew, DougThe “freedom of speech” protected by the First Amendment encompasses both actual speech and expressive conduct.  R.A.V. v. City of St. Paul, Minn. (S.Ct. 1992).  Embodied within the concept of “free speech” is recognition that advocates of unpopular views must be protected, even though their speech may provoke anger in persons who hear it.  Terminiello v. City of Chicago (S.Ct. 1949).  When a speaker passes the bounds of mere argument the point of seeking to incite a riot, police may intervene against the speaker for the protection of public safety, Feiner v. New York (S.Ct. 1951), but this threshold is reached only where the speaker’s advocacy “is directed to inciting or producing eminent lawless action and is likely to incite or produce such action.”  Hess v. Indiana (S.Ct. 1973).  “Government officials may not exclude from public places persons engaged in peaceful expressive activities solely because the government actor fears, dislikes, or disagrees with the views those persons express.” Wood v. Moss (S.Ct. 2014).

In two recent opinions, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has addressed this balance between free speech and public safety.  In Occupy Nashville v. Haslam (2014), protestors seeking to bring “attention to disparities in wealth and power in the United States” established a 24-hour-a-day protest encampment on the plaza of a public war memorial in Nashville, Tennessee.  As the days passed and the number of protestors grew, problems arose dealing with human waste and trash, together with “an increase in the number of assault complaints and damage to public property.”  After three weeks, State officials decided to address these problems by imposing a curfew under which “the plaza would close to the public from 10:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. daily.”  Protestors arrested for attempting to continue their 24-hour-a-day protest in defiance of the curfew sued the officials for violating the protestors’ First Amendment rights.  The Sixth Circuit held that the officials could not be found liable to the protestors, because there is no clearly established constitutional right to occupy public space for an indefinite period and no “unfettered right to threaten the health and safety of the public or the security of public property.”

In Bible Believers v. Wayne County (2015), law enforcement officials also invoked public safety concerns to justify ouster of Christian “evangelists” from a public Arab cultural festival.  The evangelists targeted the many Muslim attendees with a provocative, anti-Islamic speech and signs (particularly insulting the Muslim prophet Mohammed), while carrying a severed pig’s head on a stick through the crowd.  Some festival attendees threw bottles and other objects at the evangelists.  The deputy chief of the sheriff’s department asked the evangelists to leave, with justification that he did not have enough officers at the event to protect the evangelists from the crowd.  He warned the evangelists they would be ticketed for disorderly conduct if they refused to leave.

After originally approving the sheriff’s actions, the Sixth Circuit re-heard the case and found the sheriff to have violated the evangelists’ First Amendment rights.  The Court held that law enforcement officials have an obligation to protect those who publicly express an unpopular viewpoint from the hostile reaction of those upset by the message.  In this instance the sheriff’s course of action allowed the hostile crowd to silence the evangelists.  Citing the previous Sixth Circuit case of Glasson v. City of Louisville (1975), the Court admonished that “a police officer has the duty not to ratify and effectuate a heckler’s veto.”

The lesson to be drawn from the Occupy Nashville and Bible Believers opinions is that concerns for public safety cannot justify the complete silencing of a speaker in a public forum.  The cases fail to provide any “bright line” to discern when public safety concerns become sufficiently compelling to justify restriction of speech, but a total exclusion such as effectively occurred in the Bible Believers case will almost certainly be rejected by the courts, even where a compelling public safety concern exists.

The Occupy Nashville decision confirms that health and safety concerns can justify limited restrictions that do not entirely prevent a speaker from continued speech or expressive conduct in a public forum the speaker has chosen.  The Supreme Court has long recognized that content-based regulation of speech in a public forum is permissible only “to serve a compelling state interest” and only when the regulation “is narrowly drawn to achieve that end.”  Perry Ed. Ass’n. v. Perry Local Educators Ass’n (1983).  Yet “reasonable time, place or manner restrictions on expression are constitutionally acceptable.”  Clark v. Community for Creative Non-Violence (S.Ct. 1984).  The over-night exclusion of speakers from the plaza in Occupy Nashville was sufficiently narrow in its time-frame and scope.

Conversely, the effectively total exclusion of the evangelists in the Bible Believers case was not.  The Bible Believers opinion admonishes that law enforcement officers must protect the right of speakers to express unpopular views in their chosen public forum, even though this might require affirmative intervention by law enforcement officers against those who oppose the speakers. Law enforcement officials must seek alternatives that maintain public safety, while still allowing provocative speakers to speak.

Douglas J. Curlew is an attorney in our Livonia office where he concentrates his practice on appellate law, premises liability, and insurance law. He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or dcurlew@cmda-law.com.

Attorneys give Presentation to Police Chiefs on Garrity Protection

Photo.RaeODonnell.BartosElizabeth Rae-O’Donnell and Sue Bartos, both attorneys in our Livonia office, recently gave a presentation to police chiefs on Garrity Protection.  The Garrity principle is an important tool to provide officers the necessary protection while still enabling departments to conduct thorough and complete internal investigations.

In Garrity v. New Jersey, the Supreme Court held that officers are not required to sacrifice their right against self-incrimination in order to retain their jobs.  The basic premise of the Garrity protection is straightforward.  First, an officer cannot be compelled, by the threat of serious discipline, to make statements that may be used in a subsequent criminal proceeding. Second, an officer cannot be terminated for refusing to waive his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.  Therefore, an officer who has been ordered to give a statement is given immunity from the use of the statement in a criminal proceeding.

Garrity Protection applies to all public employees, not just law enforcement.  If your governmental entity is interested in a similar presentation on Garrity Protection, please contact either Ms. Rae-O’Donnell or Ms. Bartos.

Elizabeth Rae-O’Donnell is an attorney in our Livonia office where she concentrates her practice on municipal law, employment and labor law, and education law.  She may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or erae@cmda-law.com.

Suzanne Bartos is an attorney in our Livonia office where she focuses her practice on employment and labor law, insurance defense, municipal law, education law, and litigation.  She may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or sbartos@cmda-law.com.

Attorneys Present on Bullard-Plawecki Employee Right to Know Act

CMDA MMRMA ERKAAttorneys Haider Kazim and Andy Brege were at Bay College in Escanaba earlier this week giving a training presentation to MMRMA members. The training addressed the maintenance and disclosure of personnel files under the Bullard-Plawecki Employee Right to Know Act and highlighted the United States Supreme Court decisions of Brady v Maryland and Giglio v United States. The presentation also covered the due process right to disclose evidence. If your governmental entity or company is interested in a similar presentation, please contact either attorney.

Haider A. Kazim is a partner in our Traverse City office where he concentrates his practice on municipal law, insurance defense, and law enforcement defense and litigation. He may be reached at (231) 922-1888 or hkazim@cmda-law.com.

Andrew J. Brege is a partner in our Grand Rapids office where he concentrates his practice on municipal law, law enforcement defense, and litigation. He may be reached at (616) 975-7470 or abrege@cmda-law.com.

In the Wake of Two Recent Rulings, Attorneys Offer Advice to Law Enforcement on Avoiding Liability

MACPlogoJim Acho, Doug Curlew and Jennifer Richards, all attorneys in our Livonia office, co-wrote an article highlighting two recent cases that impact law enforcement agencies. The article was published in the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police’s publication Michigan Police Chiefs.

The article, “Unfavorable Outcome Affects Law Enforcement” summarizes two recent cases from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit that resulted in rulings against law enforcement agencies. The first case deals with whether officers were justified in failing to obtain a warrant and whether the use of tear gas was excessive force during an all-night standoff. The second case deals with whether tight handcuffs constituted excessive force. The article includes advice on what law enforcement should do to avoid liability in similar situations.

Jim Acho focuses his practice on sports and entertainment law, labor and employment law, law enforcement defense and plaintiff’s personal injury. He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or jacho@cmda-law.com. Doug Curlew focuses his practice on law enforcement defense, litigation and appeals and insurance defense. He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or dcurlew@cmda-law.com. Jennifer Richards focuses her practice on appeals, law enforcement defense, municipal law and insurance defense. She may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or jrichards@cmda-law.com.

Attorneys Presenting on Drones at Upcoming MACP Conference

droneAttorneys Karen Daley and Ethan Vinson will be presenting “Drones: Can We Control the Invasion?” at the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police (MACP) 2016 Winter Professional Development Conference in Grand Rapids on February 4, 2016.

If you are attending the Conference, please consider attending their presentation and also stop by and visit several attorneys from our Firm at Booth #77.

 

Can State and Local Governments Regulate the Use of Drones?

daleyDrones – also referred to as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), and remotely piloted aircraft systems (RPAS) – are essentially aircraft without a human pilot aboard. Regardless of what they are called, one thing is clear: drones are here to stay and will increasingly be used for nonmilitary, domestic applications. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) estimates that there will be 30,000 drones in U.S. airspace within the next 20 years. Drones will get cheaper, faster and more reliable. There is already evidence of this: the retail giant Amazon.com has its own “Drone Store,” where the average person can purchase recreational and surveillance drones ranging from $30 to $3,200. Drones are also available at countless mainstream retailers, including Best Buy, Walmart, and even Barnes & Noble.

WHAT ARE DRONES USED FOR?
Drones are no longer just seen as a tool of the military or a toy that people use to fly around. Drones have a host of applications, including law enforcement, land surveillance, wildlife tracking, search and rescue operations, disaster response, border patrol, and photography. In fact, the Michigan State Police represents the first law enforcement agency in the United States that can use drones in every corner of the state. The drones are being used by the Michigan State Police to investigate accidents, search for missing persons, scout natural disasters, and conduct surveillance.

Drones are also becoming increasingly popular for commercial uses. Some examples include: use by realtors to provide an aerial view of the property; use by farmers to survey crops and monitor livestock; use by photographers for advertising and other commercial purposes; use by journalists to cover demonstrations, sporting events, or accidents; and used by retailers to deliver goods.

A LACK OF FEDERAL REGULATION
The FAA is the ultimate authority on regulating anything that flies in the sky. Unfortunately, the FAA has been slow in establishing any type of rules concerning drones. Congress directed the FAA to promulgate rules by September 2015 to integrate the use of commercial drones into U.S. airspace. The FAA failed to meet that deadline, and instead announced in October 2015 only that all drones will be subject to registration and regulation. Finally, in December 2015, after assembling a task force to draft drone regulation rules, the FAA rolled out a drone registry website. While drones heavier than 55 pounds still need special FAA approval, anything between half a pound and 55 pounds can be registered on the website. There is a $5 fee for each drone registered (or each fleet of model airplanes, if used exclusively for a hobby purpose). Additional regulations are not expected to become final until late 2016 or early 2017. As a result, state and local governments are filling in the regulations void by establishing their own rules concerning drone usage.

No federal law expressly prohibits municipalities from establishing laws and ordinances concerning drone usage within their own borders. Furthermore, within the legal community, there currently exists a debate as to whether the FAA has any jurisdiction over low flying recreational drones in residential areas. Therefore, there is a strong argument that state and local governments retain their broad police powers to control the use of drones within their borders, particularly at the low altitudes at which most drones operate.

STATE AND LOCAL REGULATIONS
To date it is unclear whether a state or local law or regulation governing drones would be preempted by the federal government. The FAA currently considers most forms of drones “Model Aircraft,” so long as the devices remain below 400 feet, and within sight of the operator. The FAA considers larger, longer-ranged drones “Unmanned Aerial Systems,” and restricts their use to public or private entities which obtain special authorization from the FAA.

Despite the uncertain landscape of drone regulation, 45 states have considered 153 bills related to drones. Nineteen states, including Michigan, have either passed legislation or adopted resolutions related to drones. At least two states have passed laws that directly address drone flight as opposed to privacy: Oregon allows property owners to sue anyone who flies a drone over private property at a height of less than 400 feet, if they have done it before and the property owners notify the operator they do not consent; and Tennessee has gone even further, criminalizing the operation of low-flying drones over private property. In April 2015, Michigan became the fourth state to outlaw drone-assisted hunting with a ban that also prohibits the use of unmanned aerial vehicles to harass hunters and anglers. In addition, a new policy enacted by the Michigan State Capitol Commission prohibits drones from flying over the Capitol grounds in Lansing.

Efforts to regulate drones are not limited to the state level; municipalities are also stepping in to regulate drones. The City Councils of New York City, Phoenix, and a handful of other cities are considering legislation to ban all commercial drone operations due to safety and privacy concerns. However, some local drone regulations have been met with resistance. When the City Council of Ferndale, Michigan proposed a law banning the use of drones on public property in response to privacy concerns of city residents, the proposal was withdrawn after a public outcry from hobbyists and business owners who use drones.

Municipalities may choose to explore other, more creative means of regulating drone operation, such as by clarifying existing property trespass laws to include aerial surveillance and operation, or by passing laws targeting the recording or videographic aspect of drone operation instead of the avionic operation itself. Local governments can also prosecute drone operators if the use of drones violates a law of general applicability, such as laws protecting privacy, nuisance laws, etc. In addition, there is strong evidence to suggest that local governments can use zoning ordinances to regulate the locations from which drones may be launched, landed or operated, just as they can regulate other activities that impact neighbors but are unlikely to affect those living outside of their community.

The use and regulation of drones is obviously a new area of municipal concern, but one which will become increasingly important in order to protect the health, safety, welfare, and privacy of all citizens. The thought that tiny unmanned aircraft could be invading private and public property is somewhat creepy and unnerving. On the other hand, drone technology has the potential to bring significant resources to communities. As the drone industry evolves, privacy concerns over the use of drones will persist. In the future, it will be up to the federal government, states, and local municipalities to ensure that there are adequate privacy protections against the malicious use of drones, while at the same time not creating so much regulation as to stifle drone innovation.

Ms. Daley and Ethan Vinson, a partner in our Livonia office, will be presenting “Drones: Can We Control the Invasion?” at the upcoming Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police 2016 Winter Professional Development Conference.  If you are attending the Conference, please consider attending our presentation and also stop by and visit several attorneys from our Firm at Booth #77.

Karen M. Daley is an attorney in our Livonia office and is the head of the Firm’s appellate practice group. She concentrates her practice on appellate law, municipal law, and probate law. She may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or kdaley@cmda-law.com.

2015 Year in Review: Monumental Milestone Recognized, Skilled Attorneys Hired, and Remarkable Anniversaries Celebrated

Chris SchultzAs a new year is upon us, we reflect back on 2015 and the successful year we had at CMDA. We recognized a monumental milestone, hired several attorneys, and celebrated some remarkable anniversaries.

CMDA was honored to have celebrated our 50th Anniversary in 2015. This monumental anniversary would not have been possible without Owen Cummings, the founder of the Firm.  Mr. Cummings had a vision of developing a Firm whose strength rests in the service we provide our clients.  We thank Mr. Cummings for the dedication and effort he has put into growing CMDA over the past 50 years.

As a way to give back to the community as we celebrated our 50th anniversary, every month throughout 2015 the Firm, employees, and clients donated 50 (or more) items to local charities, including the 17th District Veteran’s Court, Children’s Hospital of Michigan, Mittens for Detroit, Dearborn Animal Shelter, PBJ Outreach Center, Alternatives for Girls, St. Dominic Outreach Center, and The Guidance Center.

Attorneys Suzanne Bartos, Matthew Heron, David Katz, and Jennifer Richards joined our Firm in 2015.

Suzanne Bartos is an attorney in our Livonia office where she focuses her practice on labor and employment law, insurance defense, municipal law, education law, and litigation.  She successfully defends civil rights, wrongful discharge, and discrimination claims in state and federal courts, as well as the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Michigan Employment Security Commission.  She also achieves outstanding results for clients in premise liability, breach of contract, collections, warranty disputes, and consumer protection matters.  Further, she is a trusted legal advisor to school districts and community colleges on a variety of educational and governance issues.  Ms. Bartos was previously with our Firm from 1985 to 2000, and we are elated to have her back at CMDA.  Ms. Bartos may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or sbartos@cmda-law.com.

Matthew Heron is an attorney in our Livonia office where he focuses his practice on commercial litigation and real estate, including community association, condominium law, real estate litigation, zoning and land use.  He also has extensive experience in a variety of litigation matters, including insurance coverage, non-compete agreements, automotive supplier disputes, and breach of contract.  He routinely appears in both federal and state courts throughout Michigan and has argued before the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.  Mr. Heron may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or mheron@cmda-law.com.

David Katz is an attorney in our Kansas City office where he focuses his practice on insurance defense, municipal law, business litigation, and civil litigation.  He prepares and files motions with all levels of Missouri state and federal courts and performs research for unique areas of law handled by our Kansas City office.  While attending John Marshall Law School, he worked as a law clerk for an insurance subrogation firm in Chicago.  Upon graduation, he moved back to Missouri, and we are delighted to have him at CMDA.  Mr. Katz may be reached at (816) 842-1880 or dkatz@cmda-law.com.

Jennifer Richards is an attorney in our Livonia office where she focuses her practice on appellate law, law enforcement defense and litigation, municipal law, and insurance defense.  She writes briefs for submission to all levels of state and federal courts, argues cases in all levels of state and federal courts of appeals, and performs research for all areas of law handled by the Firm.  She was previously a law clerk at the Firm and when she recently passed the bar exam to become an attorney, we were pleased she accepted the Firm’s offer to continue her legal career at CMDA.  Ms. Richards may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or jrichards@cmda-law.com.

These attorneys are all wonderful assets to the Firm, and I am sure you will hear much more about them in future newsletters.

We are pleased to announce the expansion of the Firm’s Estate Planning and Elder Law practice group. Jim Schuster, a top Certified Elder Law attorney in Michigan, has joined our Firm as an Of Counsel attorney. He has been licensed to practice law since 1978 and practices entirely in the area of Elder Law. Mr. Schuster helps elders stay independent and in control and helps children of aging parents with the advice and legal documents they need to carry out their parents’ wishes and take care of their needs. Additionally, he assists clients with the complex Nursing Home Medicaid planning process.  Mr. Schuster is a welcomed addition to our Firm’s Estate Planning and Elder Law practice group. He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or jschuster@cmda-law.com.

Several employees celebrated impressive anniversaries with the Firm in 2015. Owen Cummings, Founder of the Firm, celebrated his 50th anniversary; Tim Young, an equity partner of the Firm, Tom Laginess, an attorney in our Livonia office, and Janet Raffaelli, the Firm’s IT Specialist, all celebrated their 30th anniversary; Tim Ferrand, a partner in our Clinton Township office, Marie Jones, a legal assistant in our Livonia office, Kathy Ueberroth, a paralegal in our Livonia office, and Jim Glover, the Firm’s Courier, all celebrated their 25th anniversary; Patrick Sturdy and Jim Acho, both partners in our Livonia office, and Robin Thomas, the Firm’s Accounting Administrator, all celebrated their 15th anniversary; and Anita Zischerk and Eileen Stoner, both legal assistants in our Livonia office, celebrated their 10th anniversary.  We are fortunate to have such an excellent group of people working at the Firm and thank them all for their dedication.

We are grateful and appreciative for the trust our clients have placed in our Firm since 1965.  Thank you for your support in helping CMDA continue to be a premier law firm with office locations throughout Michigan, Kansas and California.  Have a great 2016.

Christopher G. Schultz is the managing partner of the Firm and works out of our Livonia office.  He concentrates his practice on business law, real estate law, and estate planning.  He may be reached at (734) 261-2400 or cschultz@cmda-law.com.