Welcome to Midwest Law Blog
Dedicated to examining
legal cases and issues affecting
the American Midwest.

Welcome to Midwest Law Blog

Ohio Supreme Court Ruling Creates Budget Gap for Kasich

by Adam VanHo on 12/09/12

The Columbus Dispatch is reporting that a recent ruling by the Ohio Supreme Court has created a $140-million gap in Governor Kasich's 2014-2015 budget.

In a 6-1 ruling, Ohio's high court ruled that the Ohio Constitution prohibits the state from using money from the Commercial Activity Tax, or CAT, on gasoline from being used for non-highway purposes.  The suit against the Ohio Tax Commissioner was filed by Beaver Excavating, several other companies, and the County Engineers of Ashland and Highland counties.  The engineers and companied argued as a result of a 1947 constitutional amendment, tax revenues from fuel sales can only be used for construction, repair and maintenance of roads, and not for other purposes.

The Supreme Court's decision reversed that of both the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas and the Tenth District Court of Appeals, both of which had ruled for the State on the issue.

Indiana State Police Superintendent Backs Legalized Marijuana

by Adam VanHo on 12/09/12

The Superintendent of the Indiana State Police has endorsed the idea of legalizing and taxing marijuana in the Hoosier State.

According to Examiner.com, State Police Superintendent Paul Whitesell told members of the Indiana State Budget Committee that after 40 years in law enforcement, he believes that marijuana should be legalized and taxed.  The staement surprised members of the committee, and Whitesell's office quickly released a statement saying that the opinion about legalizing marijuana was a "philosophical opinion," and not an official one.

Currently in Indiana, possession of less than thirty grams of marijuana is a Class A misdemeanor, carrying a prison sentence of up to one year.  Possession of more than thirty grams of marijuana is a Class D felony, carrying one to three years in prison.

Nebraska Bank Robber Busted After Posting YouTube Video

by Adam VanHo on 12/09/12

A 19-year-old Nebraska woman is in trouble with the law after posting a YouTube video about her bank robbery.

ABC News reports that Hannah Sabata, also known as the "Chick Bank Robber," was arrested after posting a YouTube video about her stealing a car and then robbing a bank.  The video, which went viral, was ironically not what brought police to her doorstep: it was a tip from her ex-husband, who saw police photographs of the bank robbery on the news and contacted law enforcement.

The video, which can be seen here, also plays background music from the rockband Greenday.  No word from Greenday if Sabata will be charged with copyright violations -- or if she'll be invited out on their next tour (after she gets out of prison in ten years).

Federal Tax Fraud Way Up

by Adam VanHo on 12/04/12

According to the Dayton Daily News, federal officials are reporting a spike in cases of attempted tax fraud. 

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is reporting that attempted tax fraud has shot up 39 percent in the 2012 tax filing season compared to the same timeframe in 2011.  The side-effect to the increased fraud is that refunds are slower to arrive for some legitimate taxpayers.

According to the IRS, in the first quarter of this year, federal officials identified $6.4 billion in fraudulent tax returns, preventing the issuance of $6.1 billion in checks for those fraudulent returns.  Federal officials also identified over 200,000 prisoners attempting to file for tax refunds, which represented a 5.3 percent increase in inmates applying to get funds from Uncle Sam.

Missouri Lawmaker Proposes Law to Close Retail Stores on Thanksgiving

by Adam VanHo on 12/04/12

Following a rash of stores opening their doors on Thanksgiving, a Missouri lawmaker has proposed a law to prohibit retail stores from opening on Thanksgiving.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Representative Jeff Roorda is proposing the "Thanksgiving Family Protection Act," which would close retail stores on Thanksgiving.  The proposed law would exempt certain places, including restaurants, gas stations, and drug stores, but would cover places like Target and WalMart. 

According to Roorda, other states already have laws that require businesses to be closed on Turkey Day. 

Chicago Man Sentenced to Life Without Parole for Human Trafficking

by Adam VanHo on 12/04/12

A Chicago-area man was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for his role in a human trafficking network that linked Eastern Europe to the Chicago area.

According to the Chicago Reporter, 47-year-old Alex Cambell, who operated the Day adn Night Spa in Mount Prospect, Illinois, was also fined $124,000.  According to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement investigation, Cambell recruited undocumented workers from the Ukraine and Belarus to work for him without pay between July 2008 and January 2010.  He kept them in slavery by using violence and the threat of violence against their family members.

According to the Reporter, once he gained the women's trust, he would force them to be "branded" with his tattoo, which included his moniker.  He used this justification to stop paying the women, and then took their passports and visas.  He also threatened to release a video of one of the women performing explicit sex acts to her family if she did not stay in line.

Michigan Attorney General Asks U.S. Supreme Court to Review Affirmative Action Ban

by Adam VanHo on 11/30/12

According to Michigan Public Radio, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is asking the United States Supreme Court to review a controversal decision by the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals to throw out Michigan's ban on affirmative action.

Joy Yearout, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General, stated to Michigan Public Radio that when the Sixth Circuit threw out the Affirmative Action ban, they in fact were endorsing discrimination. 

This is not the first time the Supreme Court has been asked to review the issue of Affirmative Action in a Michigan case.  In 2003, in the case of Gratz v. Bollinger, the Supreme Court struck down the University of Michigan's policy of awarding extra points for admission purposes to racial minorities based solely on their race.

South Dakota Man Sentenced for Sexual Assault

by Adam VanHo on 11/30/12

A South Dakota man was sentenced by a federal judge to nine years in prison for a sexual abuse case from Eagle Butte, South Dakota. 

According to the Rapid City Journal, 27-year-old David Low Dog was sentenced for the incident that occurred on July 9, 2011.  Prosecutors say that Low Dog had entered a house in Eagle Butte and committed an unlawful sexual act, but the paper does not go into more discription as to what happened.

Minnesota Man Facing Charges for Double-Murder

by Adam VanHo on 11/30/12

A Minnesota man arrested in Iowa has been sent to Minnesota to face charges he committed a double-stabbing in Minneapolis.

WCFCourier.com is reporting that the man, 22-year old Wilson Roberts, is alleged to have stabbed to death his mother, Beatrice Wilson, 57, and his nephew, Peter, 14.  A Japanese sword is the suspected murder weapon.

According to the Courier, Roberts was arrested in Iowa following a car accident in which he fled the scene.  When Roberts refused officers' orders that he stop running, they used a Taser to subdue him.  Blood was found on a number of items in the car.

Indiana Supreme Court Considers Fate of Nation's Largest Voucher Program

by Adam VanHo on 11/29/12

The Washington Post and Associated Press report that the Indiana Supreme Court is weighing the future of the nation's largest school voucher program.

The Court is considering a constitutional challenge to a 2011 law that has allowed over 9,000 Housier students to switch from public schools to private schools with state funds.  State Solicitor General Thomas Fisher argued that because parents, and not the state, decide the school their children would attend, the program does not end up supporting religious institutions.  The Indiana State Teachers Association, which is challenging the act, states that because "virtually all" of the voucher money goes to schools whose primary purpose is to promote the teachings of an affiliated-church, the state is directly paying for religious education.

The Indiana case is being watched by public school supporters and voucher supporters around the country.

Closely Divided Ohio Supreme Court Approves New Legislative Maps

by Adam VanHo on 11/29/12

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the Ohio Supreme Court ruled 4-3 to approve legislative maps which opponents say is the worst gerrymandering in Ohio history. 

In a 4-3 decision written by Republican Justice Terrence O'Donnell, the Supreme Court ruled that the Ohio Apportionment Board, which is dominated 6-1 by Repiblicans, had followed the constitutional requirements when drawing legislative boundries.  Even though the map split over 250 governmental entities, Justice O'Donnell ruled that the political factors were considered only after other legal requirements were met.  He further adopted the normally-criminal standard of "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" for challengers of the legislative lines to show that the apportionment plan is unconstitutional.

Justices Paul Pfeifer, Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor and Yvette McGee Brown all dissented, with Pfeifer writing the dissenting opinion.  In his opinion, Pfeifer, a former legislator himself, recognized that the Court had relegated itself to "the status of a pawn in a high-stakes political chess match." 


Cleveland Councilman Arrested for OVI

by Adam VanHo on 11/26/12

Cleveland Councilman Eugene Miller was arrested by Cleveland Police for Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence (OVI) early on Sunday morning.

Miller, who immediately admitted the mistake, was driving home from a social event when he was stopped by Cleveland Police.  According to WEWS Channel 5, Miller admitted that he was rushing home to see highlights of the Notre Dame football game when he was stopped for speeding. 

According to Miller, this is his first OVI. 

Federal Authorities Accuse Michigan Supreme Court Justice of Real Estate Fraud

by Adam VanHo on 11/26/12

The federal government has filed a civil suit to seize the Florida home of Michigan Supreme Court Justice Diane Hathaway. 

According to the Washington Examiner, Hathaway and her husband, attorney Michael Kingsley, submitted a hardship letter to ING Bank seeking a short sale on their home in Grosse Pointe Park, a Detroit suburb.  According to federal officials, the couple did not disclose that they had previously placed their Windermere, Florida, home in the name of their daughter.  The short sale ended up erasing $600,000 in mortgage debt, and the home in Florida was later transferred back to Hathaway and Kingsley.

While the federal government has not charged Hathaway with a crime, officials in Michigan, where the Supreme Court is controlled by the Republican Party by a 4-3 margain, are requesting that Hathaway speak publically about the incident.  She has thus far declined to do so.

Indiana Man Charged for Assaulting Police Officer

by Adam VanHo on 11/26/12

A Gary, Indiana man is facing felony charges for disarming and repeatedly punching a police officer during a routine traffic stop. 

Officers in Crown Point, Indiana pulled over fifty-one year old Linzell Davell Brooks for expired plates.  According to WISH-TV, Brooks then gave the officer a false name, pulled away from him, and parked behind a business.  Brooks then grabbed the officer's sidearm and attempted to drive away with the officer holding on.  Brooks also alledly punched the officer several times in the face before the officer was able to get Brooks into the back of his patrol cruiser.

Minnesota Man Convicted for Violating Endangered Species Act

by Adam VanHo on 11/26/12

A Finland, Minnesota man was convicted for killing two wolves in 2010, in violation of the Endangered Species Act. 

Following a four day trial, a federal jury found Vernon Lee Hoff of violating the Endangered Species Act and making false statements to federal agents.  According to the Echo Press of Alexandria, Minnesota, Hoff lied to Fish and Wildlife Officers when asked about transporting two wolf carcasses that another man, Kyler James Jensen, had purposely killed with his vechicle and buried in the Superior National Forest. 

The two men will be sentenced at a future date.

Akron Police Unveil Crime-Fighting Robot

by Adam VanHo on 11/17/12

The Akron Police Department has unveliled a new Avatar II tactical robot.  The robot, which will be used by the Akron Police SWAT team, will help officers see what is going on in a building before SWAT officers enter the building.  The hope is that by having an early set of eyes in a hostage or tactical situation, the officers will better be able to protect themselves and any civilians who may be in harm's way. 

In an effort to encourage regionalism, the Akron Police will make the robot available for other area SWAT teams. 

For more information about the Akron Police Department's newest crime-fighting tool, check out the Akron Beacon Journal's article.

South Dakota State Trooper Discovers Minnesota-bound Marijuana

by Adam VanHo on 11/17/12

Four California men were arrested by the South Dakota Highway Patrol with 89 pounds of marijuana.  The marijuana was discovered in a trailer being towed by a speeding SUV, and was hidden in two box-spring mattresses.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the marijuana was bound for St. Pail, Minnesota when it was intercepted.  It was the second major marijuana bust in South Dakota this week.  Earlier in the week, officials in Pennington County interceptd a car carrying 99 pounds of marijuana.

For more information, check out the Minneapolis Star Tribune's article on the bust.

St. Louis Officials to Enlist Bar Association in Combatting Nuisance Properties

by Adam VanHo on 11/17/12

St. Louis officials will be teaming up with the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis to combat dilapidated and abandoned properties.  According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a team of lawyers has been enlisted to bring resistant property owners to court.  The hope is also that the committee will bring ideas to help strengthen the city's property ordinances.

For more information on the project, check out the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article on the project.

Law Enforcement to Crack Down Over Thanksgiving

by Adam VanHo on 11/17/12

Did you know that behind New Years/New Years Eve, Thanksgiving is the second highest spike in DUI/OVI/DWI arrests nationwide? 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, violations for DUI/OVI/DWI increase by 54% on Thanksgiving Day.  That is second only to New Year's Eve/Day, when DUI/OVI/OWI arrests/violations jump 62%.  Courts, including courts in the Midwest, are expected to clamp down on drunk driving-related offenses.

For more information about the increased enforcement during the holidays, check out the Marketwatch article on the issue

Remember, if you get a DUI / OVI in Ohio during the holiday season, you can check out Attorney VanHo's website at www.vanholaw.com or www.LakeDUI.com

Federal Appeals Court Strikes Down Michigan Affirmative Action Law

by Adam VanHo on 11/15/12

The United States Sixth Circuit struck down a 2006 voter-approved banagainst using affirmative action in university admissions.  The Court voted 8-7 against the State of Michigan and a constitutional amendment that prohibited the use of race in admissions.  The Court ruled that the amendment, named the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, also prohibits the use of affirmative action in public hiring.

For more information on the Court's ruling, check out Michigan Live's article on the case.