blog, articles & publications

JEFF SLUGGETT RECEIVES 2020 "BEST LAWYERS IN AMERICA" HONORS


We're pleased to announce that Jeff Sluggett has been selected by his peers for inclusion in "The Best Lawyers™ in America 2020” for his work in the area of Municipal Law.


This is the fourth time Jeff has been recognized as a Best Lawyer; in 2019 he received “Lawyer of the Year” honors, also by Best Lawyers.

Best Lawyers is a peer-review group, first published in 1983. The group recognizes outstanding lawyers, from more than 70 practice areas, who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Each selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. Congratulations, Jeff, on a well deserved honor!  Read More

Municipal Authority to Enter and Make Safe Dangerous Buildings

A recent decision of the federal U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has reaffirmed the authority of municipalities to require owners of vacant property to register the property with the municipality and permit municipal entry and abatement if it becomes dangerous.  
At issue in Benjamin v Stemple, Case No. 18-1736, was a City of Saginaw ordinance requiring owners of vacant property to register the property with the city clerk and to agree that city personnel may enter and make safe the premises if it is found to be “dangerous.”  A number of property owners in the city challenged the ordinance as unconstitutional on Fourth Amendment search and seizure grounds.
In finding for the city, the Sixth Circuit stated that the property owners were not surrendering any Fourth Amendment rights in registering their properties.  While the Fourth Amendment generally protects a person’s right to be free from unreasonable warrantless searches and seizures, an exception applies which permits administrative searches designed to assure compliance with building codes, including codes intended to prevent buildings from becoming dangerous to tenants or neighbors.  However, the Court emphasized that the “administrative search” exception is narrowly applied; it is only valid when procedures are in place that permit property owners to challenge before a neutral decision maker a building official’s request to enter a property suspected of being dangerous.  Accordingly, municipalities must provide property owners with a hearing at which both parties may make testimony, call witnesses, introduce evidence, and conduct cross examination.  Because Saginaw’s vacant building registration form and ordinance did provide for such an administrative process, the Court found that the property owners were not forced to waive any Fourth Amendment rights.
This court decision will likely be considered hereafter as a fairly limited exception to constitutional search and seizure safeguards.  Read More

2018 Legislative Update

As 2019 commences, there are a number of statutes that will begin to take effect (and that have already taken effect) as a result of legislation passed during Michigan’s 2018 lame duck legislative session.  The following is a brief summary of legislation passed during 2018 that may affect a number of our clients, as well as a number of House and Senate bills we were tracking that failed to become enacted.  Read More

Michigan Right To Farm Act Update

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently issued an unpublished decision interpreting the scope of the Michigan Right To Farm Act (the “Act”) and its protections for farm equipment against municipal zoning regulations.  In Lima Township v Bateson, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued on October 11, 2018 (Docket No. 338934), Lima Township sought to enforce provisions of its zoning ordinance that prohibited the storage or staging of commercial vehicles and equipment used for commercial operations in one of its agricultural zoning districts.  In that case, a landowner had been keeping “gravel haulers, bull dozers, road graders,” and other industrial equipment on its property, claiming the equipment was used for commercial production related to a tree farm.  Read More

Jeff Sluggett Named 2019 Lawyer of the Year

Jeff Sluggett has been named the 2019 "Lawyer of the Year" by Best Lawyers® for his work in the field of municipal law. In addition, Sluggett was selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2019 for the Grand Rapids metro area.  Read More

Michigan Court of Appeals Strikes Down Zoning Restriction on Protected Medical Marihuana Activity

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently struck down a municipal zoning provision which made it a local violation for registered caregivers licensed under Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act (“MMMA”) to partake in medical marihuana activities in a commercial zoning location.  In Deruiter v Township of Byron, the township permitted medical marihuana related use of property by a registered caregiver only as a “home occupation.”  Read More

Bloom Sluggett, PC, Secures a Major Victory for its Client and also Muncipal Zoning Boards of Appeals in Michigan.

On July 3, 2018, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a Bloom Sluggett, PC (“BSPC”) client, which had obtained a dimensional nonuse variance for a dwelling from the Chickaming Township’s Zoning Board of Appeals (the “ZBA”).  Read More

Email Warning/Disclosure Regarding the Michigan Open Meetings Act

Most municipal officials in Michigan know that under the OMA, members of a public body (such as a city commission, village council, township board, zoning board of appeals, board of review or planning commission) cannot deliberate toward any decision outside of a public meeting if a quorum is involved in those discussions or deliberations.  Furthermore, the Michigan courts have gone so far as to hold that even “one-on-one” deliberations between two members of a public body can constitute a prohibited deliberation (and a violation of OMA) where a “round robin” occurs.    Read More

Important Open Meetings Act Decisions

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently issued two unpublished opinions which may affect a public body’s obligations related to meeting in closed sessions under Michigan’s Open Meetings Act, MCL 15.261 et seq. (“OMA”).  The cases, Andrich v. Delta College Board of Trustees and Estate of Timothy Ader v Delta College Board of Trustees decided on June 5, 2018, found that when a Michigan public body elects to go into a closed session to “consult with its attorney regarding trial or settlement strategy in connection with specific pending litigation” under MCL 15.268(e), the OMA requires the public body to identify beforehand on the record the specific litigation that it will be discussing.  Similarly, the decision further suggests that public bodies must be as transparent as possible when recording the minutes related to the content of the closed session meetings.  For instance, in Andrich, the closed session at issue resulted in the Board of Trustees’ acceptance of its legal counsel’s recommendation that the Board agree to a settlement within designated dollar parameters, which was subsequently formalized by resolution of the Board once back in open session.  However, the minutes of the open meeting reflected only that the Board accepted counsel’s unknown recommendation.  The Court found that, “to more fully comply” with the OMA, the Board should have informed the public in open session that it had authorized its counsel to settle the case “within certain parameters” without disclosing what those parameters were.  Read More

Michigan Department of Treasury Proposed Assessing Reform

The Michigan Department of Treasury released on May 3rd an “assessing reform proposal” that is intended to be introduced in the Legislature prior to its summer break. The stated goal of the proposed legislation is to improve the assessment profession through quality control. As drafted, the proposed bill could force many small assessing districts to “consolidate” their assessing departments, either with other assessing districts or under the county’s umbrella.

For an assessing district that does not use county assessing services, the State Tax Commission (“STC”) would mandate “substantial compliance” with various “quality standards,” including requiring the assessor of record to have attained either MMAO(4) or MAAO(3) level certification, to be responsible for assessing a certain minimum number of parcels and generated tax revenue (with some exceptions), and to provide full time service to an assessing district as an employee or contractor (with some exceptions).
  Read More