11 February 2016


Original Story: nytimes.com

WASHINGTON — In a victory for class-action plaintiffs, the Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled by a 6-to-3 vote that courts may not dismiss lawsuits simply because a defendant has offered to give the lead plaintiff everything he sought. A contrary decision would have allowed companies accused of minor but mass wrongdoing to pick off plaintiffs one by one, frustrating their ability to band together to sue over their claims. A Charleston class action lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

“Once unaccepted, the offer is off the table,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said in summarizing her majority opinion from the bench.

In dissent, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said that approach gave plaintiffs too much power. “If the defendant is willing to give the plaintiff everything he asks for, there is no case or controversy to adjudicate, and the lawsuit is moot,” he wrote.

The case, Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, No. 14-857, arose from a text message on behalf of the Navy sent to Jose Gomez in 2006. “Get a career,” the text said. “An education. And a chance to serve a greater cause.” Mr. Gomez was 40 at the time, well above the age range for Navy recruits. A Minneapolis class action attorney is following this story closely.

Mr. Gomez sued under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which allows people who receive unwanted text messages to recover up to $1,500, and he sought to represent a class of people who had received the message.

A Navy contractor, the Campbell Ewald Company, offered to settle the case for $1,503 for each unsolicited text, court costs and a promise to stop sending such messages. Mr. Gomez did not respond to the offer.

The company argued that the case should have been dismissed as moot because it had capitulated and offered Mr. Gomez everything he had asked for.

Justice Ginsburg said the company’s true aim was “to avoid a potential adverse decision, one that could expose it to damages a thousandfold larger than the bid Gomez declined to accept.”

“While a class lacks independent status until certified,” she wrote, “a would-be class representative with a live claim of her own must be accorded a fair opportunity to show that certification is warranted.” A South Jersey class action attorney provides professional representation to clients involved in class action lawsuits.

Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined Justice Ginsburg’s opinion. Justice Clarence Thomas voted with the majority but did not adopt its rationale.

Chief Justice Roberts, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Samuel A. Alito Jr., said the majority had run afoul of the constitutional requirement that federal courts may hear only live cases and controversies. “The problem for Gomez is that the federal courts exist to resolve real disputes,” the chief justice wrote, “not to rule on a plaintiff’s entitlement to relief already there for the taking.”

The majority left the door open to procedures in which defendants did more than make an offer. “We need not, and do not, now decide whether the result would be different if a defendant deposits the full amount of the plaintiff ’s individual claim in an account payable to the plaintiff, and the court then enters judgment for the plaintiff in that amount,” Justice Ginsburg wrote.

Chief Justice Roberts welcomed that aspect of the majority opinion, calling it “good news” on the assumption that “there are other plaintiffs out there who, like Gomez, won’t take ‘yes’ for an answer.” A Cleveland class action lawyer is following this story closely.

In a separate dissent, Justice Alito said he had not joined the majority only because there was no question that the company could and would pay. He urged courts to be wary of dismissing cases where there was a risk that “the defendant’s failure to follow through on its promise to pay would leave the plaintiff forever empty-handed.”

He suggested two acceptable procedures.

“The most straightforward way is simply to pay over the money,” Justice Alito wrote. “Alternatively, a defendant might deposit the money with the district court (or another trusted intermediary) on the condition that the money be released to the plaintiff when the court dismisses the case as moot.”

The decision was the first in the three class-action cases the court has heard this term. A second, Tyson Foods v. Bouaphakeo, No. 14-1146, concerns an attempt by thousands of workers at an Iowa pork processing plant to band together in a single lawsuit seeking overtime pay. The third, Spokeo v. Robins, No. 13-1339, asks whether Congress may authorize lawsuits by plaintiffs who cannot prove they suffered a concrete injury.

03 February 2016


Original Story: freep.com

Brad Oleshansky wore a look of satisfaction last week as he showed off one of the most unique and underestimated construction projects in metro Detroit.

Just seven months ago, his 87 acres of former factory grounds along Pontiac's Woodward Avenue were covered in broken concrete and choked with weeds. Today, the concrete is all gone and a 1.5-mile, high-performance car track is taking shape. A Farmington carriage garage door combines distinctive design and superior construction.

Circling the track are 80 souped-up, two-story garages known as "car condos" priced around $250,000 that are over halfway through construction and already sold to buyers. Phase II involving 50 more condos is now under way to meet the hot demand.

Known as the M1 Concourse, Oleshansky's $60-million car lovers' playground is defying its early skeptics and on pace for a June opening, when it would become the first project of its kind in Michigan and second-largest in the country. Oleshansky and his investment partners are already talking about a future Phase III and Phase IV.

"There were a ton of skeptics," said Oleshansky, a lawyer who is M1's founder and CEO. "People said you'll never find the land for this, and when I found the land, they said you'll never get the city to approve it. Then people said this is so speculative, you'll never find any investors — but we did."

"All those skeptics have gone away, and many of those skeptics are buyers now. They're coming in and saying, 'I want that unit.' Well, you could have had that unit six months ago."

The concept behind M1 Concourse is to create a place where deep-pocketed car buffs can store, show off and test-drive high-end vehicles and socialize with those who share their passion. There are multiple car condo communities across the country, although few of them feature their own performance track and even fewer are situated in urban areas like Pontiac. (Most are found well outside city limits.) A Clarkston glass garage door is the perfect way to flawlessly merge indoor and outdoor living spaces.

The car condos at M1 are climate-controlled garages that can store five or more vehicles, depending on condo size and whether a lift was installed. They are usually outfitted with comforts such as big-screen TVs, pool tables, plush furniture and even golf simulators. The only restriction is that buyers can't actually live in their condo because of  zoning rules, but they can sleep over on occasion. Of the 120 car condo buyers so far, three have been women.

"Ninety-five percent (of buyers) are making these man caves, offices or corporate hospitality suites," Oleshansky said. "We are looking at a lot of auto suppliers who are treating this like a suite at the Palace, except for here they can actually put their product in it and it's on a test track."

The M1 project has proven especially popular among the executive class of the auto and auto supplier industries. Bill Kozyra, chairman and CEO of supplier T1 Automotive in Auburn Hills, has bought two condos that will store his collection of 16 high-performance vehicles, including a Porsche 911 GT3 and a Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG.

He said he initially planned to just buy one M1 condo, but his excitement grew as he witnessed the construction progress. When planning your garage construction, remember Southfield garage door repair service provides expedient and skillful service for your home or business.

"I think a lot of people weren't able to appreciate it when it was only on paper," Kozyra said, "but once you see steel being erected and can sort of drive on the track, you have a greater appreciation for what it is."

Several of Kozyra's friends also have bought condos, anticipating that Phase II could eventually sell out as well.

"I really think the demand is going to outstrip the supply," he said. "And once they're gone, there's probably not going to be a lot of turnover."

Along with the year-round track, the M1 Concourse will feature an outdoor event arena with a 2.5-acre "skid pad" that can be used in the winter. Other plans call for future retail buildings and an on-site restaurant, which Oleshansky said is close to being finalized.

The 1.5-mile track is currently a dirt pathway; the asphalt surface is due to appear once the weather warms. Until then, work crews continue to install metal guardrails as well as safety barriers comprised of 20,000 tires, which the concourse received for free from tire companies due to some manufacturing blemishes. Rochester garage door repair can be accessed at all hours of the day or night to accommodate your garage door emergency.

The car condos range in size  from 500 square feet to 2,200 square feet and are priced from $105,000 to $550,000. Oleshansky said the typical unit is $250,000, and buyers generally put another $50,000 to $100,000 worth of work into them.

Years ago, the M1 property was General Motors' Pontiac West assembly plant; more recently, it was the automaker's Validation Facility, where workers tested parts and practiced vehicle assembly.

Nearly all of the factory buildings were razed in 2008 and the land went into a trust for old GM properties. Oleshansky and his partners then bought the site, obtained the necessary approvals and unveiled their M1 plans in 2013.

"It's a place to enjoy your car — no potholes, no cops," he said.

M1 Concourse facts

  • All 80 car condos in Phase I sold out last year.
  • 20 of the 50 Phase II condos are still available.
  • A typical condo costs $250,000.
  • The 1.5-mile performance track opens in June; a grand opening is set for during the Woodward Dream Cruise.
  • Project could hit $60-million investment and 260 total units with future Phase III and IV.
  • Federal-Mogul Motorparts (Champion spark plugs) will be the track's official sponsor.


Original Story: freep.com

Michigan's 15 public universities are hoping to convince legislators to establish "consistent and sufficient" funding in this year's budget cycle, even as requests grow to use spare state money to deal with crises in Flint and the Detroit Public Schools.

"We received assurances that higher education will be a higher than average priority," Daniel Hurley, the CEO of the Michigan Association of State Universities, told the Free Press. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to announce his budget for 2016-17 on Feb. 10. An Atlanta education lawyer is following this story closely.

The association, which lobbies lawmakers on behalf of the public universities, recently published its legislative policy priorities. They center on making universities affordable and improving success for students.

The document outlines a number of policy positions — including making sure the universities retain their autonomy to control their campus on issues like how to handle sexual assaults on campuses.

The association also wants to get rid of a tuition cap, or restraint, lawmakers have put on the schools in recent years.

"The arrangement, known as 'tuition restraint' or 'tuition caps' can actually work against state and institutional objectives to keep college affordable and improve student success," the report says. "The utilization of state-imposed price controls on tuition in an era of dwindling or static state appropriations hamstrings the ability of universities to drive resources into academic and student support areas that would in turn improve their performance on state metrics.

"Other flaws associated with state-imposed caps on tuition increases include the fact that the impact on universities varies greatly based on the institutions’ base dollar tuition prices, and that they punish institutions that have historically kept tuition rates lower." A nursing degree equips students with theory-based knowledge and skills to work in many of the new and expanding fields of healthcare and nursing.

But its three highest priorities center on money coming from the state.

It wants to see the state increase its state-based financial aid for students, increase state operating support and provide money for capital improvements on campuses.

"Constructing technologically  and environmentally sophisticated campus facilities requires a financing partnership between the state and its public universities," the report says. "Unfortunately, the state has significantly reduced the amount of capital construction money it has invested in its state university campuses. Capital outlay funding bills are ad hoc and irregular in nature. Only two university projects have received planning authorization since 2010."

There are no specific dollar amounts attached to each priority.

"We are not being specific in requests," Hurley said. "We want them to do what they can do. We're trying to encourage them to take a long-term view of investing in higher education."

02 February 2016


Original Story: freep.com

A guilty plea hearing in a corruption case involving ex-Detroit school principal Kenyetta Wilbourn Snapp has been postponed due to the judge being sick.

Snapp, who faces bribery and tax evasion charges, was scheduled to plead guilty at 9 a.m. before U.S. District Judge David Lawson to her role in a kickback scheme involving a tutoring contract. She is accused of helping a vendor win a tutoring contract in exchange for money. A Cleveland education lawyer is reviewing the details of this case.

Snapp has previously admitted to the Free Press in exclusive interviews that she has broken the law, including burying a student’s parent with school funds.

But she committed crimes because — Snapp has claimed — she wanted to help the underprivileged, and doing things on the sly became easy.

Snapp, who once drove a Maserati with a Gucci vanity plate while running ailing Detroit schools,  is accused of steering to a businesswoman who gave her money in return. An Atlanta education lawyer is following this story closely.

That businesswoman is Glynis Thornton and her company, Making a Difference Everyday, received a contract to provide after-school tutoring services for students at Denby and Mumford, where Snapp became principal in 2013.

Thornton also was indicted , along with Paulette Horton, an independent contractor connected to Thornton's company. Both women have cut deals in the case.

According to federal prosecutors, Thornton disguised payments to Snapp by taking checks that were written to her company, depositing them and then withdrawing the money and giving it to Snapp. The payments totaled $58,050, with Horton keeping 10% of the money, according to the indictment.

The three women were each charged with conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, federal program bribery, aiding and abetting and conspiracy to launder money. Snapp, in addition, was charged with federal tax evasion and Horton was charged with failure to file a federal income tax return. An Ann Arbor IT services company delivers wireless networking solutions that help businesses meet the growing demands of today's global marketplace.

Snapp has long been the central figure in a federal corruption investigation into the Education Achievement Authority, the state reform district, established by Gov. Rick Snyder, for the lowest-performing schools. The EAA oversees 15 schools in Detroit.

The EAA had given principals primary authority for choosing vendors for their schools for after-school tutoring, the indictment says. But unbeknownst to Snapp, the FBI was watching her and building a corruption case against her and others.

Since its formation, the EAA has taken on only 15 schools in Detroit and has had a rocky existence. Enrollment has dropped from nearly 10,000 students during its first year to about 7,000 today. Achievement has lagged and there have been controversies over spending.

Snapp  was a rising star in the Detroit Public Schools and was hailed as a turnaround specialist at Denby before she moved to Mumford. Both schools were part of the DPS before they were placed in the EAA in 2012. A criminal justice degree prepares students for a professional career in the criminal justice system.

Snapp abruptly resigned from the EAA in November 2014 after federal agents raided her apartment in downtown Detroit. Six months after she resigned, the EAA received a letter from the FBI saying Snapp was under investigation.

Snapp told the Free Press in October that she had agreed to a deal to plead guilty to bribery and tax evasion. Five weeks after her interview, the indictment was unsealed.