Daily Briefs

Attorneys say literacy isn’t a right in Detroit

DETROIT (AP) — Attorneys for Gov. Rick Snyder say there's no fundamental right to literacy for Detroit schoolchildren who are suing Michigan over the quality of their education.

The Detroit News reports assistant attorney general Timothy J. Haynes asked a federal judge to dismiss the case in a motion filed last week in U.S. District Court in Detroit. He says the U.S. Supreme Court and Michigan courts recognize the importance of literacy, but reject claims that it’s a legal right.

Seven children filed the lawsuit in September, saying decades of state disinvestment and deliberate indifference to Detroit’s schools have denied them access to literacy.

The plaintiffs say the schools have deplorable building conditions, lack of books, classrooms without teachers, insufficient desks, buildings plagued by vermin, unsafe facilities and extreme temperatures.

Haynes says these claims go far beyond mere access to education.


Federal judge who  handled Gabrion death penalty trial will retire

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — Robert Holmes Bell is retiring after nearly 30 years as a federal judge in western Michigan.

“I don’t want to be in a situation of not being able to comprehend what’s going on around me. I want to go out with the sails up and flying,” Bell, 72, told The Grand Rapids Press.

Bell was an Ingham County judge when President Ronald Reagan promoted him in 1987. He’s presided over many high-profile cases but none more noteworthy than the 2002 trial of Marvin Gabrion, who was convicted of killing a woman in a Michigan national forest.

The jury sentenced Gabrion to death. He remains on federal death row while he challenges his conviction and punishment.

“I think we have a movement in the United States to not execute these people,” Bell said. “I’m not advocating one way or another. At a certain point, it becomes a political question.”

Bell is stepping down in January. Technically, he’ll be on senior status and can help if needed, but he won’t have his own courtroom or office.

“He’s a towering figure,” said U.S. District Judge Robert Jonker, who appeared before Bell as a lawyer before becoming a colleague in the same Grand Rapids courthouse.

Attorney Paul Mitchell has regularly defended people in front of Bell, including Gabrion.

“Judge Bell should be remembered as a very firm and very just judge,” he said. “He’s a tough judge, no doubt about it, but he was always fair.”


DMBA Jingle Mingle Holiday Celebration

Ring in the holiday season with the Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association at the Hard Rock Cafe at Campus Martius, 800 Woodward Avenue in downtown Detroit. This special event will be held from 5:30-8 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1. Law students are welcome to attend. Registration is $30 for DMBA members and $40 for non-members, and includes light appetizers and one drink ticket. Members of the judiciary are welcome to attend for free. For more information about this event, contact Darlene Trudell at (313) 961-6120 or dtrudell@detroitlawyer.org.


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