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ACLU of Michigan

ACLU of Michigan

Robert Williams of Farmington Hills was arrested and held for more than a day in January, on larceny charges that he stole Shinola watches from a downtown Detroit store.

But Williams says he was innocent, and the only evidence police ever had against him was a facial recognition technology “match” of his old driver’s license photo against grainy surveillance footage of the real thief.

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The ACLU of Michigan is launching a campaign to hold prosecutors responsible for inequities in the criminal justice system.

The group says prosecutors are the single most powerful elected individuals who decide who gets incarcerated, and for how long.

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A federal district judge says an Iraqi man who was being held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the Calhoun County Jail should not go back into custody there.  

U.S. District Court Judge Judith Levy had ordered ICE to release Fawzi Zaya in April because his obesity and diabetes put him at great risk of "irreparable injury" or death from the coronavirus.

He was released despite a history of serious crimes, including a second degree murder charge in 2008, as well as ICE's contention that he is a flight risk. 

Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Aimee Stephens, the Michigan woman at the center of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court civil rights case, died on Tuesday.

Stephens was fired from a Garden City funeral home when she publicly transitioned from male to female in 2013. The resulting legal case asked a fundamental question: do laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex apply to LGBTQ people?

water faucet
Flickr user Bart / http://j.mp/1SPGCl0

Governor Gretchen Whitmer will not use her executive powers to end water shutoffs in Detroit.

Civil rights groups, including the ACLU, petitioned Whitmer in November, asking for her to declare the shutoffs a public health emergency and to put a moratorium on such shutoffs. 

Judge's gavel
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Lawyers will make their case in front of a federal judge on Wednesday over what to do about the state’s sex offender registry.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled nearly four years ago that many of the requirements of Michigan’s registry are unconstitutional. But the law hasn’t been changed, and people continue to be on the list.

“The court has said that this registry is so ineffective, that it is also unconstitutional,” says Miriam Aukerman, senior staff attorney with the ACLU of Michigan. “And yet the Legislature has done nothing to fix it.”

Flint school lockers
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Updated January 3, 2020: A spokesperson for Flint Community Schools sent the following statement, attributed to FCS Superintendent Derrick Lopez:   “The Flint Community Schools District is deeply committed to the well-being and success of all students. In keeping with District policy, we will not be commenting on pending litigation.” Requests for comment to the Michigan Department of Education were directed to the Attorney General's office, which has not yet responded at this time. 

Protesters holding signs in Paw Paw
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The U.S. Department of Education has launched an investigation into a southwest Michigan school district.

Paw Paw Public Schools is no stranger to controversy. The district has been under fire for its mascot name and image – the Redskins – for years. Now, the district is facing a federal investigation after the ACLU of Michigan filed a complaint back in January.

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights is handling the investigation. A spokesperson for the OCR said in a statement that the office is investigating “possible discrimination on the basis of race.”

Photo courtesy of the family of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez

The ACLU of Michigan is suing Immigration and Customs Enforcement to get records related to the arrest and detention of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a Marine combat veteran who faced possible deportation last year.

The ACLU says it filed a Freedom of Information Act request in March to get the records. So far, it says no records have been released.

Photo courtesy of the family of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez

Peter Meijer headshot
Courtesy of With Honor

The ACLU of Michigan has filed a formal complaint of discrimination against Republican congressional candidate Peter Meijer. This comes after Meijer made the decision to bar London-based act Drag Syndrome from performing at his venue, the Tanglefoot Building, during Grand Rapids’ annual ArtPrize event. 

Peter Meijer headshot
Courtesy of With Honor

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Michigan and a Grand Rapids-based organization are planning to file a formal complaint of discrimination against Peter Meijer, who is currently running as a Republican candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in Michigan's 3rd Congressional District.

Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

A veteran Grand Rapids police captain was put on a 20-hour suspension, and will have to go through additional training, after the city’s Civilian Appeal Board found he violated department policy.

Captain Curt VanderKooi is the officer who contacted Immigration and Customs Enforcement in the case of Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a U.S. citizen who was detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and faced possible deportation based on a tip from VanderKooi.

Benton Harbor High School
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The ACLU of Michigan is asking Governor Gretchen Whitmer to let local leaders in Benton Harbor decide what happens in their schools.

The ACLU delivered that message in the form of a letter to the governor’s office on Friday.

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The ACLU of Michigan is asking a federal judge to toss out a lawsuit filed by parents against the Williamston Community School Board.

The lawsuit claims a board policy that’s supposed to protect LGBTQ students from harassment is unfair to their children – and that it violates their First Amendment rights.

Jay Kaplan is an ACLU attorney. He says the policy protects the rights of LGBTQ students.

Grand Rapids Police Department station
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Two social justice organizations filed complaints against the Grand Rapids Police Department with the state Department of Civil Rights.

The ACLU of Michigan and the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center say the GRPD has racially profiled residents in two recent incidents.

Grand Rapids Police cruiser
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

The Grand Rapids Police Department exonerated a controversial captain who called Immigration and Customs Enforcement about a U.S. citizen and Marine combat veteran.

The officer, Captain Curt VanderKooi, was reinstated on Friday after the department opened an internal investigation, which exonerated VanderKooi. 

36thdistrictcourt.org

A new lawsuit aims to end cash bail and overhaul the pre-trial justice system at Detroit’s 36th district court.

The ACLU filed the federal class action suit Sunday. It argues that the 36th district’s current process for arraigning defendants violates their constitutional rights in several ways.

lead service line held by worker
Mark Brush / Michigan Radio

Attorneys representing groups that sued to force the replacement of Flint’s lead service lines expect the job will get done this year.

Earlier this week, the city of Flint awarded contracts to replace the lead and galvanized pipes connecting homes to city water mains. It’s the final phase of a project started at the height of Flint’s water crisis. The pipes were a primary source of lead in Flint’s drinking water.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A Southgate school has made changes after the American Civil Liberties Union-Michigan warned it may be breaking the law in its student application process.

The ACLU sent a letter to the Creative Montessori Academy this week demanding that it revise its online enrollment process. The civil rights group says the school was potentially violating the constitutional rights of undocumented school-age children.

Grand Rapids Police cruiser
Bryce Huffman / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is considering a full investigation into the Grand Rapids Police Department.

The department held two public hearings Thursday to hear from residents, and most of the testimonies painted the police in a negative light.

James Fassinger / Stillscenes

Today on Stateside, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan is accusing Grand Rapids police of engaging in racial profiling after one of its officers contacted immigration authorities upon the arrest of a Marine combat veteran last December. Plus, two members of Michigan's business community talk about what "business friendly" means to woman and minority business leaders. 

Attorneys speaking at meeting
Dustin Dwyer / Michigan Radio

Attorneys from the ACLU and Michigan Immigrants’ Rights Center presented a resolution to Kent County’s Board of Commissioners Thursday.

The resolution would ensure that no county resources go to helping ICE detain immigrants living in the county.  

Protesters against the initial travel ban at Detroit Metro Airport, Jan. 30.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

The ACLU of Michigan and the Arab American Civil Rights League will continue to fight President Trump's travel ban, despite a Supreme Court ruling Tuesday morning that the ban is constitutional.

The travel ban, first imposed in January 2017 as the result of an executive order, restricts entry to the United States from several Muslim-majority Arab countries.

Courtesy of Michigan ACLU

In a letter to its principal this week, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan asked Utica Academy for International Studies to lift its prohibition against political signs at student demonstrations.

UAIS principal Shaun Greene-Beebe announced the ban to the school community leading up to the March 14 National Student Walkout that took place in response to the Parkland, Florida school shootings. 

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The American Civil Liberties Union is calling on Greyhound to end its practice of routinely giving U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents permission to conduct immigration raids on its buses without warrants. It says the CBP is unlawfully interrogating, detaining and arresting passengers.

UM-Dearborn restler Marina Goocher
Courtesy of the ACLU of Michigan

The organization that oversees college wrestling at the club sports level is standing by its policy forbidding co-ed wrestling in sanctioned competitions.

Marina Goocher is a junior at the University of Michigan –Dearborn. She's the only woman on the school's club wrestling team, and the only female wrestler in the league's Midwest conference of schools.

Courtesy of the ACLU of Michigan

She wants to wrestle with the University of Michigan-Dearborn men’s team, but the National Collegiate Wrestling Association (NCWA) says its rules are clear: “Women wrestle women, men wrestle men in practice and competition. Period.”

Now wrestler Marina Goocher has the ACLU on her side in her fight to compete against the men. That includes staff attorney Bonsitu Kitaba with the ACLU of Michigan.

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

A class-action lawsuit claiming state and local education officials are not doing enough to identify and educate Flint students exposed to lead-tainted tap water is moving forward.

U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow brushed aside almost all the legal motions offered by attorneys for the Michigan Department of Education, Flint Community Schools and the Genesee Intermediate School District seeking to dismiss the suit.

gavel
Blogtrepreneur / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Judges are required to suspend your driver's license if you're unable to pay court debts in Michigan, one of just five states to do that, according to a new report. 

The Legal Aid Justice Center's nationwide report says the practice unfairly punishes poor people by taking away their ability to drive legally. Some states are beginning to rethink this practice.

According to the report, about 100,000 people in Michigan currently have their licenses suspended for inability to pay court fees.

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