Case Studies

Davis v. Chorak, No. 22-1839, 2023 WL 2487339 (6th Cir. Mar. 14, 2023)

Plaintiff-Appellant was incarcerated when he was assaulted by a fellow inmate, whom he had verbally accused of cheating during a card game. Claims were brought against the inmate who assaulted him, the two deputies involved in classifying/maintaining the classification of the inmate who assaulted him, and the County. RSJA was initially successful in obtaining a full dismissal of this case by way of a motion in lieu of an answer. Following briefing, the Sixth Circuit upheld the district court’s opinion. Notably, despite Plaintiff-Appellant’s argument that qualified immunity is not properly decided in a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), the Sixth Circuit agreed with Defendants’ position that questions of qualified immunity should be resolved at the earliest possible stage of litigation.

LaFave v. Northern Lakes Community Mental Health Association, et al Case No. 22-36138-NO (13th Circuit Court for the County of Grand Traverse)

Plaintiff was the guardian of a developmentally disabled individual who was hospitalized following an acute medical event suffered at his group home. It was alleged that Defendants acted with gross negligence by not timely placing the disabled individual at an appropriate facility after the hospital was ready to discharge him. As a result of their extensive review of medical records and other client documentation, RSJA was able to “demonstrate that the named Defendants acted reasonably given the facts of the case.” Based on the evidence cited in Defendants’ motion to dismiss in lieu of an answer, the Court found no reasonable trier of fact could conclude that the individuals acted with gross negligence or that their conduct was the proximate cause of injury. RSJA also successfully argued that Plaintiff failed to plead in avoidance of governmental immunity as to the Community Mental Health Authority. Ultimately, all claims were dismissed by the Court with no appeal filed.

Smith v. Bauer, No. 1:22-CV-382, 2023 WL 2706252 (W.D. Mich. Mar. 13, 2023)

In a case that initially made the national news when it was filed, RSJA successfully argued that Plaintiff’s claims lacked subject matter jurisdiction and dismissal of the defendant officer was thus appropriate. Plaintiff was suspected of vehicle theft and fled on foot when officers approached. One officer accidentally discharged his firearm during the foot chase, though Plaintiff was not hit. RSJA’s extensive knowledge and familiarity with these types of cases and with the federal courts, in general, resulted in an early dismissal without the need to engage in costly discovery.

Alexander v Bloomfield Twp

2018 WL 1637946. RSJA successfully defended the township against allegations of illegal seizure after a police pursuit. Over time, the plaintiff and her relations have been the subject of multiple criminal prosecutions in the township and neighboring communities. RSJA has successfully defended several mandamus actions against judges and township officials and criminal appeals brought by these individuals, as well as defending a township ordinance officer in getting wrongful prosecution claims against him dismissed.

Barrera v City of Mt. Pleasant, 12 F4th 617 (6th Cir. 2021)

Officers conducted a Terry stop of a speeding vehicle registered to an unlicensed driver. The driver lacked a driver’s license but was not the registered owner. Because allowing an unlicensed person to drive a vehicle violates Michigan law, officers sought to discover whether the owner was among the three remaining passengers. The plaintiff refused to identify himself and was taken into custody. Illegal drugs were subsequently found on him. The state court of appeals reversed his drug conviction, and the plaintiff sued claiming he was unlawfully arrested. The federal Court of Appeals observed that an officer may request a detained person to identify himself, so long as the request amounts to one “reasonably related in scope to the circumstances which justified the stop.” Officers were entitled to qualified immunity under both prongs where it was reasonable to believe that the plaintiff’s refusal to identify himself violated Michigan’s obstruction statute and that such an interpretation of state law did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

Booth v. Orion Township

USDC No. 18-13739. Plaintiff was a contracted Mechanical Inspector for the Orion Township Building Department. When his contract was not renewed, Plaintiff sued in federal court alleging race based discrimination and retaliation for complaining of discrimination. Plaintiff, who alleged that he was Mexican, alleged that the Township acted with discriminatory animus when not renewing his contract. After extensive discovery and a Motion for Summary Judgment which was prepared and argued by Laura Amtsbuechler of RSJA, the Court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims in their entirety.

Burley v. Gagacki, et al

729 F.3d 610 (6th Cir. 2013). Two local law enforcement officers appointed to a joint task force of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration retained Kenneth Galica and Anne McClorey McLaughlin to conduct a new trial ordered by the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals in a federal civil rights action. Our attorneys successfully persuaded the jury that the defendants were not involved in the search warrant raid, resulting in a verdict in favor of all four defendant-officers. The Sixth Circuit upheld the jury verdict in the defendants’ favor and denied a request for rehearing.

Bykaylo v. Charter Township of West Bloomfield, et al.

OCCC No. 2017-162558-CD. Plaintiff was an administrative employee working for West Bloomfield Township who went on workers compensation and long-term disability after an alleged injury at the Township offices. Plaintiff was given a long term leave and time to heal. When she remained unable to return to employment, she sued in Oakland County Circuit Court alleging disability discrimination, retaliation under the Elliott Larsen Civil Rights Act, and retaliation under the Workers’ Compensation Act. Attorney Laura Amtsbuechler, on behalf of West Bloomfield Township filed a Motion for Summary Disposition, and the Court dismissed all claims. Lisa Anderson of RSJA handled the appeal, and Plaintiff’s appeal in the Michigan Court of Appeals was denied. Plaintiff sought leave with the Michigan Supreme Court which was also denied.

Community Treatment Center v Westland

970 F Supp 1197 (ED Mich 1997). The city denied a request for a special land use permit for a federal corrections treatment center. Plaintiff sued alleging violations of constitutional rights, and also argued that it was exempt from zoning because it would be operating a facility for the benefit of the federal government. The court ruled that plaintiff must comply with the zoning ordinance, and the court granted the city’s motion to dismiss.

Countrywalk Condominiums v City of Orchard Lake Village

221 Mich App 19 (1997). The property owner challenged the denial of its request to rezone property for a mobile home park, raising constitutional claims and charges of exclusionary zoning. The court of appeals affirmed the grant of summary disposition in favor of the city.

Deer Lake Property Owners Association, et al. v. Independence Twp, et al.

2019 WL 5092617 (Mich Ct App, October 10, 2019). We have successfully handled many cases brought by property owners and others challenging the decisions of zoning administrators, zoning boards, and planning commissions. In this case, two neighboring associations were locked in a dispute over whether one association could use its lakefront property to provide docking and overnight boating privileges to its non-lakefront association members. During the litigation, RSJA successfully defended the township’s interpretation and application of several ordinances. RSJA obtained a circuit court judgment affirming a decision of the township zoning board of appeals, which recognized certain nonconforming rights of the association seeking to dock the boats. We also successfully defended the decision of the township planning commission to approve a special land use permit to allow certain docking activities. Additionally, RSJA won an appeal filed in the Michigan Court of Appeals challenging the planning commission’s approval of the special land use permit.

Devine v. Bloomfield Twp, et. al.

2017 WL 2348719 (Mich Ct App, May 30, 2017). An elected official, even one who receives compensation, does not have access to the same remedies as a municipal employee, as demonstrated in this case, where an elected treasurer sued the township, alleging violation of the Michigan Whistleblower’s Protection Act. RSJA strategically chose to file an early motion for summary disposition instead of an answer to the complaint, which the court granted. RSJA also successfully defended the appeal from the circuit court judgment and secured a favorable appellate court ruling affirming the dismissal of all claims against our clients.

Divergilio v West Bloomfield Township

2006 WL 3103012 (Mich App 2006 unpublished), affirmed 480 Mich 1077; 744 NW2d 132 (2008). Residential landowners filed a lawsuit against the Township and the Township’s wetlands review board, saying that the Township’s wetlands ordinance was preempted under the Natural Resources Environmental Protection Act (NREPA). The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed the circuit court’s grant of summary disposition to the Township on all of plaintiffs’ constitutional claims.

Epicurean Developments, LLC, et al. v. Summit Township, et al.

2018 WL 4478821 (E.D. Mich., Sept. 19, 2018). After the township issued building permits, it discovered that the plaintiff intended to build a nightclub-like swingers club, complete with a sports bar and state-of-the-art dance club, which were not the uses represented to the township in the permit applications and were not permitted uses in the C-2 general commercial zoning district. Plaintiff sued after the township issued a stop work order and revoked its building permits. RSJA successfully defended the township and township officials against claims brought under 42 U.S.C. §1983 for alleged due process, equal protection, and First Amendment violations, conspiracy, and state law claims, securing dismissal of all claims against all defendants with prejudice.

Fazica v Bloomfield Twp

2016 WL 795901 (ED Mich 2016). The case alleged excessive force by township officers and sheriff’s department deputies. RSJA obtained a dismissal on the merits for the township, saving fees, costs and a potential judgment, while the plaintiff was able to proceed against the county defendants.

G. M. Engineers v West Bloomfield Township

922 F2d 328 (6th Cir 1989). An applicant raised federal constitutional issues when denied a lot split. The sixth circuit court of appeals affirmed the grant of a motion to dismiss in favor of the township.

Ghaith v Rauschenberger

2012 WL 3289922 (6th Cir 2012 unpublished). RSJA’s experience in civil rights cases and in the federal courts protected Gladwin County in a complex case involving a man with dual American and Jordanian citizenship. Sheriff’s deputies arrested the plaintiff after he threatened his daughter in a long-simmering family dispute. With multiple sources reporting the plaintiff’s anger and threats, detectives arrested him. After a mistrial, the prosecutors dropped the charges and the plaintiff filed a section 1983 civil rights lawsuit against the officers and county prosecutors. The federal trial court summarily dismissed plaintiff’s federal civil rights claims, finding that the police officer and prosecutor defendants were entitled to immunity because plaintiff’s constitutional rights were not violated. The Sixth Circuit Court affirmed the trial court’s decision, holding that ample probable cause existed to investigate and prosecute Plaintiff for the crime of extortion, despite the mistrial in the state criminal case.

Gherghel v Canton Charter Township

2011 WL 1982921 (ED Mich 2011). Plaintiff moved a business into a building without obtaining any site plan approval or certificate of occupancy. The township ticketed the plaintiff for failing to do so and for numerous fire code violations. The plaintiff successfully defended against the tickets in the district court with the exception of three charges. Plaintiff turned around and sued the township, alleging numerous constitutional violations as a result of the township’s tickets and its failure to issue building permits and a certificate of occupancy. The federal district court granted the township’s motion for summary judgment.

Glenn v. Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority

2017 WL 5615821 (Mich Ct App, Nov. 21, 2107). Governmental immunity protects communities from being sued for their day-to-day work. But what if they receive money for a function that looks like a business? In this case, plaintiff sought damages alleging that she fractured her ankle exiting a waterslide at a Family Aquatic Center located in a Metropolitan park operated by the Huron Clinton Metropolitan Authority (HCMA). To avoid the HCMA’s governmental immunity from tort claims, plaintiff alleged that the HCMA operated the Aquatic Center as a self-contained and self-functioning, for-profit waterpark under the proprietary function exception to governmental immunity. The circuit court denied the HCMA’s motion for summary disposition. RSJA filed an appeal with the Michigan Court of Appeals and obtained a decision reversing the circuit court judgment and securing the dismissal of all claims against the HCMA.

Grimaldi v. Orion Twp, et al.

2020 WL 1487708 (Mich Ct App, March 24, 2020). This case involved allegations of trespass and negligent construction of a bike path in the public right-of-way. RSJA filed an early motion for summary disposition based on governmental immunity and secured a circuit court judgment dismissing the allegations with prejudice. Plaintiff moved for reconsideration and filed an appeal, raising new and different claims with each filing, including due process and First Amendment violations, takings, gross negligence, and challenges to the highway by user statute. We secured a favorable judgment from the Michigan Court of Appeals affirming the dismissal of all claims against the township with prejudice.

Hammoud v. Wayne County, et al.

697 Fed. Appx. 445 (6th Cir 2017). Plaintiff brought a purported class action, raising constitutional and statutory challenges to defendants’ authority to collect delinquent property taxes through tax foreclosure sales under the Michigan General Property Tax Act. RSJA succeeded in securing favorable district court and appellate court judgments on behalf of two municipal clients and their officials.

Hendee v Putnam Township

486 Mich 556; 786 NW2d 521 (2010). The owner of agricultural land in Putnam Township failed in his attempts to rezone the land residential, establish a planned unit development or obtain a use variance. He then sued the township, trying to rezone the property for a manufactured housing community, raising constitutional and exclusionary zoning claims. The fact that the owner requested rezoning for one use but sued for an entirely different use without first going through the zoning application process made the lawsuit unripe for court because plaintiff had not obtained a final decision -or any decision for that matter – regarding a potential manufactured housing community RSJA lent its expertise by filing an amicus curiae brief in the Michigan Court of Appeals, and later supporting the township’s application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court. That supreme court agreed that the case was not ripe, supporting the application of the ripeness doctrine to exclusionary zoning claims, a decision with meaningful protection for Michigan municipalities.

Hilton v. City of Grand Rapids, et al.

Case No. 16-00702 (W.D. Mich. Dec. 13, 2016); Case No. 16-2741 (6th Cir. Jan. 5, 2018). The action involved allegations of First Amendment retaliation arising out of an email sent by a former City Attorney from her city email account to a non-city employee. The case revolved around differing interpretations of whether the city attorney’s actions constituted an official act which set policy for the City. Plaintiff said that, because the city attorney had “ultimate authority” in her position to respond to citizen emails, the city was liable. RSJA attorneys filed an early Motion to Dismiss, and the Court found that the City was not liable because the acts of the City Attorney were not within the scope of her authorized duties. The City prevailed and the decision was upheld by the Sixth Circuit.

International Outdoor v City of Southgate

556 Fed Appx 416 (6th Cir 2014 unpublished). The plaintiff claimed that the city’s blanket ban on billboards violated its First Amendment and other constitutional rights. The city said that the proposed billboard did not meet other reasonable time, place and manner regulations in the city’s sign ordinance. The lower court granted the city’s motion to dismiss for lack of a redressible injury. The dismissal and the city’s ordinance were upheld on appeal.

Investment Realty et. al. v. City of Garden City

2019 WL 4017142 (E.D. Mich. 2019). Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that the City’s rental property inspection ordinance authorized warrantless inspections in violation of the 4th amendment, and that fees collected under the inspection program constituted an unconstitutional condition for obtaining a rental certificate of occupancy. Plaintiffs also challenged the City’s tall grass abatement ordinance as imposing excessive fees without proper notice. The Court granted the City’s motion to dismiss and for judgment on the pleadings, finding that the plaintiff challenging the rental property ordinance lacked standing because the ordinance did not facially authorize warrantless searches, and plaintiff had not shown that it had suffered a warrantless search. In addition, the plaintiff challenging the grass abatement fee lacked standing because the abatement fee accrued before the plaintiff took ownership of the property. The rental property ordinance challenge in this case resembled numerous others that had been decided by the Eastern District of Michigan, but this was the first to acknowledge the facial constitutionality of an ordinance and result in an unqualified full grant of a municipality’s dispositive motion.

Jones v Walled Lake, Mich Court of Appeals, decided June 17, 2021 (Docket No. 350997)

Plaintiffs sued the City of Walled Lake and its City Manager alleging defamation. The circuit court granted summary disposition but denied absolute immunity to the City Manager, finding his role to be administrative rather than executive in nature. The Court of Appeals affirmed summary disposition to the City and, on the City Manager’s cross-appeal, held that he was entitled to absolute statutory immunity as the City’s highest appointed executive official. Absolute immunity was not reserved solely for the Mayor as the elected executive official.

Katz vs. Village of Beverly Hills

677 Fed. Appx. 232 (6th Cir. 2017). Anne McClorey McLaughlin defended the Village, its manager and ordinance officer in a federal lawsuit claiming the defendants treated plaintiffs differently than their neighbors in ordinance enforcement because of religious discrimination. The U.S. District Court granted summary judgment to the defendants, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.

Kuriakuz v West Bloomfield Township

196 Mich App 175; 492 NW2d 757 (1992). Land owners with disputes between themselves often try to shift the responsibility to the municipality. Such was the case when a condominium’s rain water drained onto a neighboring property, causing substantial damage. Although the township reviewed and approved the condominium site plan, the mere approval of the development plan did not confer responsibility on the township for the condominium’s private storm water drainage system. The Oakland County Drain Commission reviewed the drainage system and recommended changes, with which the private developers complied. Plaintiffs sued the township alleging trespass-nuisance on the basis that if the township had not approved the site plan, the developers could not have created the nuisance that caused damage to plaintiff’s property. The Michigan Court of Appeals held that issuing permits that enables another to create a nuisance was not enough to impose liability on the township.

Kyser v Kasson Township

486 Mich 514; 786 NW2d 543 (2010). The plaintiff sought to rezone property to mine sand and gravel. The case involved the important issue of whether the “no very serious consequences” rule established in prior mining cases had any continued viability after the Michigan Supreme Court decisions invalidating the concept of preferred uses and confirming the presumption of validity to municipal regulations. RSJA filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the township’s application for leave to appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, and on the accepted case in the Michigan Supreme Court. The court issued a favorable ruling to municipalities on July 15, 2010, invalidated the “no very serious consequences” rule, and found that the rule had also been superseded by the exclusionary zoning statute. Unfortunately, the state legislature amended the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act after the decision to codify the “no very serious consequences” rule.

Larkin v State of Michigan and City of Westland

883 F Supp 172 (ED Mich 1994). The city followed state law in denying a license for a foster care home due to its proximity to an existing home and the court dismissed the plaintiff’s suit. The case continued against the state, and the court eventually invalidated certain state statutes (notice and distancing requirements for placement of foster care homes) as being violations of the Fair Housing Amendments Act.

Liogghio v Salem Township, et. Al

USDC, Southern Division 15-12803. In this case, the federal District Court granted an early Motion to Dismiss on several of Plaintiff’s claims as a matter of law based upon immunity and because the Plaintiff did not sufficiently allege a valid basis for her claims. After discovery, the Court granted the Township’s Motion for Summary Judgment, finding that Plaintiff had no evidence of an unconstitutional custom policy or practice on the part of the Township. (2018)

Livingston Christian Schools vs. Genoa Charter Township

858 F3d 996 (6th Cir. 2017), cert. denied, 138 S Ct 1696, 200 L Ed 2d 952, 86 USLW 3553 (2018). RSJA was a successful co-counsel in the first published decision under RLUIPA, setting a precedent for analysis of RLUIPA claims within the Sixth Circuit. A Christian school applied to Genoa Charter Township for a special land use permit to move its K-12 school from another community into an existing church in the township that was adding onto facility. Although the township planning commission recommended approval of the special land use the township board denied the permit. The school sued the township, alleging violation of the First Amendment and RLUIPA. The township obtained summary judgment on all claims and the Sixth Circuit upheld the ruling. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the plaintiff’s petition for writ of certiorari, leaving the circuit court’s decision as a precedent.

Machan v Olney, 958 F3d 1212 (6th Cir. 2020)

The plaintiff, father of a middle school student, sued a police officer alleging that she violated his and his daughter’s constitutional rights by, over his objection, taking her to the hospital for a mental health evaluation and authorizing a blood draw for harmful substances after the principal told the officer that the student advised she had been contemplating suicide. The federal district court denied summary judgment, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed finding that the officer had probable cause to believe that the student was dangerous to herself, for purposes of a Fourth Amendment seizure and detention for a mental health evaluation and blood draw, and that the officer had qualified immunity from father and student’s substantive due process claims.

May (Estate of Jesus Gillard, deceased) v Bloomfield Twp

2013 WL 2319323 (ED Mich, 2013). RSJA successfully defended claims brought by the Estate of a mentally-ill individual who, while suffering from excited delirium, led township police officers on a multi-city pursuit and was subject to 30+ police Taser deployments. Securing summary judgment on behalf of the township and its officers, RSJA attorneys relied (among other cases) on Caie v West Bloomfield, 485 Fed Appx 92 (6th Cir, 2012), a case successfully litigated by RSJA’s Margaret Debler and frequently cited by the Sixth Circuit when affirming summary judgment. (Caie involved police and fire response to a mental health seizure, where a Taser was used to apprehend the at-risk teen. RSJA successfully obtained summary judgment as to fire fighters in this significant mental health seizure case where force was necessary.)

Miles Christi v Charter Township of Northville

629 F3d 533 (6th Cir 2010), cert denied 131 S Ct 3071 (2011). RLUIP does not mean that churches can ignore zoning ordinances and building codes. A religious group began holding services and meetings in a five-bedroom house on a one-acre plot in a residential neighborhood of the Charter Township of Northville. Township officials told the church to request a variance from the ZBA to allow parking in the front yard and submit a site plan to the planning commission detailing parking and screening. The church did not comply and it was ticketed. Even though the ticket was subsequently dismissed the church filed a RLUIPA suit against the township in federal court. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals found in favor of the township because the church had not made application for the establishment of its religious use through the zoning procedures available at the township.

Moutsatsos v City of Huntington Woods

Unpublished decision per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued November 22, 2016 (Docket No. 327838), leave denied, 500 Mich 1060 (2017). The plaintiff obtained a dismissal of a municipal civil infraction notice for violating a city grading ordinance then turned around the sued the city, its ordinance officer and building inspector for malicious prosecution and abuse of process. The circuit court granted the motion for summary disposition in lieu of answering the complaint, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed and the Michigan Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

Myers v City of Portage

304 Mich App 637; 848 NW2d 200 (2014) (briefed and argued): Although a law-enforcement agency, during internal-affairs investigations, may compel its officers, on penalty of discharge, to give statements on the subject of the investigation, the constitutional right against self-incrimination prohibits the use of those forced statements against the officers in later criminal proceedings brought against them. The Michigan Court of Appeals held that the statute limiting public inspection of law enforcement officers’ involuntary statements does not permit a private cause of action for monetary damages by an officer against a law enforcement agency.

Nolan Brothers of Texas v City of Royal Oak

219 Mich App 611 (1997). Plaintiff, which had entered a contract to purchase property from MDOT located within the city of Royal Oak, sued the city alleging that it lacked authority to rezone property while MDOT (e.g., State of Michigan) still owned it. In 1991, while still owned by MDOT, the city rezoned the property from industrial to multiple-family residential in accordance with its master plan. In 1993, plaintiff entered into a contract with MDOT for the property with the intention of constructing a mini-warehouse facility, which was not a permissible use under the zoning ordinance. Plaintiff sought rezoning in 1993 and 1994 but was denied each time. A request for a use variance was also denied. Plaintiff thereafter sued the city, alleging that the city lacked jurisdiction to apply its zoning ordinance to state-owned land and its actions constituted an unlawful taking and violation of other constitutional rights. The Michigan Court of Appeals held that because there was no evidence that the legislature intended to preempt MDOT from the application of the zoning ordinance, particularly where MDOT had sold the land to a private party.

Northridge Church v Charter Township of Plymouth

647 F3d 606 (6th Cir 2011). When Northridge Church wanted to relocate its expanding membership in a rural part of the Charter Township of Plymouth, it entered into a 1995 consent agreement with the township to limit its seating, services, parking, traffic patterns and outdoor activities to address negative impacts on the surrounding residents. By 2008, weekly attendance had grown from 1,100 to 14,000. The church wanted to void the consent agreement, using multiple arguments including the assertion that the agreement violated the Religious Land Use and Institutional Persons Act (RLUIPA) (which was not established until 2000). RSJA successfully defended the township through the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which upheld the consent judgment.

Paragon Properties v City of Novi

452 Mich 568 (1996). Plaintiff owned vacant property in the city of Novi that was zoned for large-lot, single-family residential use. The planning commission recommended against their request to rezone the property to a mobile home district. The plaintiff did not seek a use variance from the ZBA, but immediately sued the city claiming that the denial was an unconstitutional taking of property. The case was appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court which ruled that plaintiff’s claims were not ripe because plaintiff had not obtained a final decision from the city on the use of the land due to the failure to seek a use variance before filing suit. The case was significant as, for the first time, the Michigan Supreme Court adopted the ripeness doctrine established by the federal courts. RSJA filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of the Michigan Municipal League in this case.

Parks v George Heartwell and City of Grand Rapids

United States District Court, Western District, Southern Division Case No. 1:14-cv-1285. When the city of Grand Rapids terminated the city clerk she sued, alleging race and gender discrimination. Because she was a political appointee the plaintiff was not entitled to Title VII protection, as RSJA successfully asserted in its motion to dismiss. Plaintiff’s discrimination claims were also dismissed because she was replaced by someone in the same protected classes.

Phillips v City of Ferndale, et. al.

Unpublished Court of Appeals #330689 (2017) Plaintiff Phillips was a City police officer who alleged religious discrimination after his employment was terminated for misconduct. After extensive discovery, the trial court found that Plaintiff did not have admissible evidence that he was terminated because of his religion. The Court found that the City had legitimate reasons for the dismissal and granted Summary Judgment. The Court of appeals affirmed.

Prewitt v City of Rochester Hills

105 F Supp 724 (ED Mich 2000). The city took action to keep the plaintiff from demolishing a historical structure. Plaintiff claimed this violated his constitutional rights and “took” his property. The court granted the city’s motion to dismiss.

Remus v City of Romulus

116 F3d 180 (6th Cir 1997). The plaintiff, a waste disposal company, wanted to build a commercial hazardous liquid waste injection well in the city of Romulus. After obtaining various work-related permits for the well, none of which concerned zoning, they began construction. The city then filed suit to stop it because it violated local zoning ordinances. The plaintiffs took action on multiple fronts, contesting the city’s action in Wayne County Circuit Court; seeking, without success, zoning variances; filing claims of constitutional violations in federal court while simultaneously filing a complaint in state circuit court, and appealing the unfavorable lower court decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals. RSJA attorneys with expertise in these multiple disciplines and jurisdictions coordinated to successfully defend the city against all the constitutional claims at both the state and federal level.

RJMC Corporation d/b/a Barnstormer v Green Oak Charter Township

2016 WL 1533562 (Mich App 2016 unpublished). Plaintiff operated a bar, restaurant, banquet center, and nightclub out of a structure that it had illegally expanded over a period of 20 years. Fire and construction code inspections led to an occupancy reduction from 2000 to 175 and multiple violation notices by the township and a lawsuit by the owner. The township won in circuit court, but the court denied the township’s request for sanctions based on a frivolous filing. Both sides appealed and the court confirmed the finding of a dangerous building. RSJA also appealed the denial of its request for sanctions and was eventually awarded $103,000 for the township in sanctions in addition to almost $30,000 in costs.

Rudlaff v Gillispie

791 F3d 638 (6th Cir. 2015): We have successfully handled many cases in which an arrestee claims excessive force by police. In this case, police used one Taser shot and a knee strike to subdue a defendant who tried to prevent the officer from handcuffing him, swung his arms in the officer’s direction, balled up and refused to comply with verbal commands. The United States Court of Appeals reversed a denial of qualified immunity and summary judgment against the officer.

Sampson v Gee-Cram

655 Fed Appx 383 (6th Cir. 2016): In general, police cannot allow civilians to participate in the execution of a warrant but, in this case, the Sixth Circuit agreed that law enforcement officers acted properly when they let a health insurer’s employees accompany them in raids of the home and office of a physician who was suspected of defrauding the insurer. The civilians were present only to help execute the search warrant and not to access the premises.

Sargeant v City of Pontiac

2018 WL 3039884 (Mich Ct App, June 19, 2018). Plaintiff filed suit after she tripped and fell on a sidewalk, arguing that her claim fell within the highway exception to governmental immunity because of the alleged existence of a vertical discontinuity in the sidewalk at the time of her fall of two or more inches. RSJA won dismissal of the complaint in circuit court and successfully defended the circuit court judgment on appeal.

Schneider v. City of Orchard Lake Village et. al.

Oakland County Case No. 2018-164868-CH (Dec. 2018). Plaintiffs sought to hold a City and its Building Official liable for approving site plan modifications for their neighbors’ house without first submitting them for the plaintiffs’ approval pursuant to private deed restrictions between plaintiffs and the neighbors. Plaintiffs also alleged that a retaining wall on the neighbors’ property was a nuisance per se that should be abated by the City. The Court agreed with the City that the plaintiffs lacked standing, and granted the City’s motion for summary disposition.

Scott v. City of Wayne et. al.

Wayne County Circuit Court Case No. 18-012968-CK (Feb. 2019). Plaintiff sought to hold the City, its Building Official, and inspectors liable for a partial taking and for negligent inspection, where an unlicensed contractor fraudulently procured a homeowner’s permit and had concealed defects in his construction of a home addition. The Court granted the City’s pre-answer motion to dismiss on grounds of governmental immunity, lack of duty, and upon finding that no City actions could be considered the cause of any harm plaintiffs alleged to have suffered.

Sempliner v. Huntington Woods

Oakland County Circuit Court Case No. 2015-147320-AA. Plaintiff filed an appeal in circuit court from the zoning board’s denial of a variance from the City’s off-street parking ordinance. A variance was required in order for plaintiff to use a concrete parking slab she installed in the road right-of-way. RSJA defended against the claims and obtained a judgment affirming the zoning board’s decision denying the variance.

Shoemaker v. City of Howell

795 F.3d 553 (6th Cir. 2015). A Howell man who refused to mow the grass in the greenbelt between the sidewalk and curb adjacent to his house challenged on constitutional grounds a property maintenance ordinance that authorized the city to charge him the cost of enforcing the ordinance and hiring a vendor to mow the grass. At the motion stage, the federal district judge ruled that the plaintiff had a right not to be forced to maintain municipal property and granted summary judgment in favor of the plaintiff. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court in a published decision, holding that the city’s ordinance did not violate the Constitution.

Seguin v City of Sterling Heights

965 F2d 584 (6th Cir 1992). The plaintiff challenged a rezoning decision on constitutional grounds. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of a motion to dismiss in favor of the city.

Smith v Keego Harbor

2014 WL 6632163 (E.D. Mich. 2014). Plaintiff sued a neighboring owner of a landscaping company for creating a nuisance. She also sued the city to enforce its zoning ordinance and a consent judgment with the company regarding permitted uses on the property.

Spencer v. Huron County

717 Fed. Appx. 555 (6th Cir 2017): Sheriff’s deputies used a confidential informant to conduct drug buys and identify the participants, one of whom was bound over for trial at a preliminary exam. The charges were subsequently dismissed based on contradictory testimony from another participant and the fact that the plaintiff passed a polygraph test. He then sued Huron County and several deputies, claiming that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated in the drug buys. The trial court granted summary judgement to dismiss the case against the county and deputies, because the bind-over conclusively established that there was probable cause to arrest plaintiff on the charges. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s dismissal of all claims against Defendants.

Stephan v Heinig

676 Fed Appx 466 (6th Cir, 2017). The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit reversed the district court’s denial of qualified immunity and held that the defendant paramedic did not violate the plaintiff’s clearly-established Fourth Amendment rights by grabbing the plaintiff, who was being aggressive, and forcing her to the floor and, thus, was entitled to qualified immunity in her federal use of force action. The paramedic acted reasonably by intervening because reasonable an officer in her position would have found intervention necessary, various factors could have led paramedic to believe that her use of force was necessary, citizen was second-degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do and knew how to fight, citizen acted aggressively in front of paramedic by yelling obscenities, throwing her phone, and walking angrily toward another paramedic, and police officer told citizen immediately before paramedic intervened that citizen needed to stop fighting him.

Superior Communications, et al. v. City of Riverview

881 F3d 432 (6th Cir 2018) (briefed and argued on appeal). When the City of Riverview denied a radio broadcaster’s request to modify its equipment on a city-owned telecommunications tower, the broadcaster filed suit. The broadcaster’s proposed equipment modifications would have increased the number of antenna on the tower and occupied ten times more tower space in order to increase the broadcast power from 700 watts to 50,000 watts. The complaint alleged due process and equal protection violations, breach of a license agreement, and violation of the Telecommunications Act. RSJA attorneys obtained an order from the federal district court granting summary judgment and dismissal of all claims. In a published opinion on a matter of first impression, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the grant of summary judgment for the City, finding that no private cause of action was available under §253(a) of the Telecommunications Act and holding that the City’s denial of the equipment modification under the License Agreement was not a regulatory action that had the effect of prohibiting telecommunications services within the meaning of the Telecommunications Act.

Thomas v Charter Township of Genoa

2010 WL 866133 (Mich App 2010 unpublished). The plaintiff wanted to convert an existing donut and coffee shop into a gas station and convenience store. The property had a triangular shape and was bordered by roads on each side. The township denied the request, which the plaintiff alleged was a taking and a violation of due process. The lower court summarily dismissed the claims which was later upheld by the court of appeals.

Thornton v City of Allegan

863 F Supp 504 (1993). The city denied an application for a special use permit for a group for up to 12 individuals. The applicant built its case on constitutional issues as well as specific claims under the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act. The court granted dismissal in favor of the city.

Unique Linen Services et. al. v. City of Hazel Park et. al.

Oakland County Circuit Court Case No. 18-169647-CK (May 2019). Plaintiffs operated a business that had been the subject of complaints and code enforcement actions, leading the City to impose restrictions on its hours of operation at the time its business license was up for renewal. Plaintiffs sued alleging a taking, tortious interference with contracts, and other claims. The Court granted the City’s pre-answer motion to dismiss on the basis that the plaintiffs’ historical claims were barred for failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and claims regarding a pending license renewal were not ripe. Other claims were also barred by governmental immunity. This case exemplifies RSJA’s commitment to defending municipalities’ control over their own affairs, and holding plaintiffs accountable when they try to use courts as a substitute for local administrative procedures.

Vashi v West Bloomfield

159 F Supp 2d 608 (2001). The township denied a special land use permit for a daycare center, which alleged religious discrimination. The court granted summary judgment in favor of the township.

Vermilya v Delta College Board of Trustees

Unpublished decision per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued November 4, 2014 (Docket No. 315403), leave denied, 498 Mich. 865 (2015); Vermilya v Delta College Board of Trustees, unpublished decision per curiam of the Court of Appeals, June 15, 2017 (Docket No. 331958). Summary disposition on all but one of several claims of violations of the Michigan Open Meetings Act. The remaining claim was tried to a verdict in favor of the board and its compensation committee. The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the summary disposition twice and awarded 150% of trial costs to board members. The Michigan Supreme Court declined to consider the case.

Wainscott v. Hillsdale County Board of Elections et. al

Hillsdale County Circuit Court Case No. 18-863-AW (March 2019). Plaintiff was an unsuccessful candidate in a city council election who sought leave to file a post-election petition for writ of quo warranto to declare him the winner of the election. He contended that the County Board of Elections and County Clerk should have disqualified his opponent from appearing on the general election ballot because his opponent allegedly did not satisfy the City’s residency requirement. The County successfully opposed the application. The Court held that the application was barred by the doctrine of latches since the plaintiff could have challenged his opponent’s affidavit before the primary election, or between the primary and general election before ballots were printed. In addition, the City Council had already determined not to seat the election winner and to schedule a special election, which mooted the plaintiff’s request for relief.

Waskul v Washtenaw Cty. Cmty. Mental Health

900 F3d 250 (6th Cir. 2018) (argued): When a county mental health agency reduced its budget for Medicaid-funded community living support services, an advocacy group sought preliminary injunctive relief, asking that the agency fresh notice of and hearings about the reductions. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the group lacked associational standing; that they did not suffer any actual or imminent injury from any loss of due process that would find redress through fresh notices and hearing rights.

Webley v Kalamazoo County Friend of the Court, et al.

Unpublished Court of Appeals #334917 (2017). Plaintiff was a contractual consultant who services were terminated by the Court. Plaintiff sued alleging violation of the Whistleblower Protection Act. RSJA attorneys obtained an early dismissal of this case with the argument that Plaintiff was not an employee entitled to protection under the WPA. Defendants also obtained sanctions for plaintiff’s filing of this frivolous suit. The ruling of the lower court, including the order that plaintiff pay sanctions was upheld on appeal.

Estate of Fluegge et. al. v. City of Wayne, 442 F.Supp.3d 987 (E.D. Mich. 2020)

Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that the City’s rental property inspection and pre-sale inspection ordinances authorized warrantless inspections in violation of the 4th amendment, and that fees collected under the inspection program constituted an unconstitutional condition for obtaining a rental certificate of occupancy. In a published opinion, the Court granted the City’s motion to dismiss, finding that plaintiffs lacked standing because plaintiffs had not suffered any injury, as they validly consented to inspections, the ordinances provided opportunities for pre-compliance review and for appeals, and the ordinance’s requirement of an inspection and payment of a fee as a condition of obtaining a certificate of occupancy was a “run-of-the-mine exercise of the city’s police power.”

Hometown Village of Marion Association v. Marion Township et. al., ---F.Supp.3d--- (E.D. Mich. 2021)

The plaintiff homeowner association sued a township, water authority, and electrical company, alleging constitutional violations and seeking to quiet title to a piece of property it alleged was improperly foreclosed upon and deeded to the Township, which the Township granted an easement upon to the water authority and electric company nearly a decade earlier to construct a water tower. Representing the water authority, RSJA moved for dismissal on grounds including that the lawsuit improperly collaterally attacked the state foreclosure judgment. In a published opinion, the District Court ruled that it lacked jurisdiction over the quiet title and declaratory judgment acts under the Tax Injunction Act since the relief requested would require the Court to question and vacate the state foreclosure judgment and to enjoin the collection of taxes in violation of that Act where state law provided adequate remedies.

Outdoor One Communications, LLC v. Charter Township of Canton, Docket No. 21-1323, 2021 WL 5974157 (6th Cir. 2021)

The Township’s sign ordinance allowed for billboards, but Plaintiff wanted to construct one that was far larger than allowed under the ordinance, and its permit was denied based on its dimensions. Plaintiff filed a First Amendment lawsuit, alleging that the entire sign ordinance was unconstitutional based on the existence of allegedly content-based distinctions and that its permitting and variance procedures constituted a prior restraint. RSJA filed a motion to dismiss on behalf of the Township, while Plaintiff filed a cross-pre-discovery motion for summary judgment. The District Court denied Plaintiff’s motion and granted summary judgment to the Township on the basis that Plaintiff lacked standing for its challenge since its only alleged injury flowed from content-neutral constitutional dimensional requirements, and no other sign was treated more favorably based on its content. In addition to lacking an injury under other challenged ordinance provisions, those provisions were severable, such that Plaintiff still would not be allowed to construct its oversized sign even if it was correct that the other provisions were unconstitutional. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals panel unanimously affirmed the District Court for the same reasons, and because Plaintiff stated no injury relative to variance procedures since it did not use them. In so doing, the Sixth Circuit reaffirmed its commitment to following its precedent on constitutional standing for sign ordinance challengers that disfavors the type of broad attack that the plaintiff attempted to pursue in this case.