Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

People v. Sledge

Court of Appeals of Michigan

October 1, 2015

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
CARLA SLEDGE, Defendant-Appellee, and DETROIT FREE PRESS, INC., Intervenor-Appellant. PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
STEVEN M. COLLINS, Defendant-Appellee, and DETROIT FREE PRESS, INC., Intervenor-Appellant

         Editorial Note:

         This opinion is subject to revision before final publication in the Michigan Court of Appeals reports.

          Wayne Circuit Court. LC No. 14-008080-FH.

         For PEOPLE OF MI, Plaintiff-Appellee (COA Case Number: 324680): WILLIAMS JASON W, FRANK MURPHY HALL OF JUSTICE, DETROIT MI.

         For SLEDGE CARLA, Defendant-Appellee (COA Case Number: 324680): GUREWITZ HAROLD, DETROIT MI.

         For DETROIT FREE PRESS INC, Intervenor - Miscellaneous-Appellant (COA Case Number: 324680): FINK HERSCHEL P, DETROIT MI.

         For PEOPLE OF MI, Plaintiff-Appellee (COA Case Number: 324681): WILLIAMS JASON W, FRANK MURPHY HALL OF JUSTICE, DETROIT MI.

         For COLLINS STEVEN M, Defendant-Appellee (COA Case Number: 324681): THOMAS JAMES C, STERLING HEIGHTS MI.

         For DETROIT FREE PRESS INC, Intervenor - Miscellaneous-Appellant (COA Case Number: 324681): FINK HERSCHEL P, DETROIT MI.

         Before: GADOLA, P.J., and JANSEN and BECKERING, JJ.

          OPINION

          [312 Mich.App. 518] Kathleen Jansen, J.

         In Docket Nos. 324680 and 324681, intervenor, the Detroit Free Press, Inc. (Free Press), appeals by leave granted the trial court's order denying [312 Mich.App. 519] its motion to vacate the order precluding " all potential trial participants" in the cases pending against defendants Carla Sledge and Steven M. Collins from commenting to the media about the case ( gag order). We reverse the trial court's denial of the Free Press's motion to vacate the gag order, and we vacate the gag order.

         I. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         The Wayne County Jail Project, a 2010 project budgeted at $300 million to construct a jail in downtown Detroit, came to a halt when construction was only about a quarter complete because of approximately $100 million in cost overruns. The failure of the project, in spite of the fact that $220 million of the money budgeted for the project was spent, has been the subject of public and media scrutiny.[1] The Free Press is a newspaper interested in publishing articles regarding the criminal charges stemming from the failed jail project. On September 12, 2014, defendant Sledge, the former Wayne County Chief Financial Officer, and defendant Collins, the Assistant Wayne County Corporation Counsel, were each indicted on two counts of a common-law offense (misconduct in office), MCL 750.505, and two counts of willful neglect of duty, MCL 750.478, stemming from the Wayne County Jail Project.[312 Mich.App. 520] The indictment alleged that defendants intentionally misled the Wayne County Commission and the Wayne County Building Authority regarding " the cost(s) and/or financial status of the Wayne County Consolidated Jail Project," and willfully neglected to fully and honestly inform the Wayne County Commission and the Wayne County Building Authority regarding the project.[2] On September 30, 2014, the trial court, sua sponte, sealed the court record and entered an order, which stated:

IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that all potential trial participants shall be prohibited from making any extra judicial [sic] statements regarding this case to members of the media or to any individual(s) for the purpose of for [sic] disseminating by public communications.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that potential trial participants shall include all attorneys for the prosecution and defense, the defendant and any agent acting on behalf of the attorneys ordered.

         The court did not hold a hearing or make any findings of fact when it sealed the record and entered the order.

         On October 6, 2014, the Free Press's attorney sent a letter to the trial court, urging the court to vacate the gag order prohibiting all potential trial participants from making extrajudicial statements to the media regarding the case. The letter argued that the great public interest in the case outweighed any prejudice to defendants' right to a fair trial. The letter cited several cases in support of the request. On October 14, 2014, the Free Press filed formal motions to intervene in the case and to vacate the gag order. The Free Press requested leave to intervene " pursuant to MCR 8.116(D) and applicable U.S. Supreme Court precedents giving the media standing to oppose restraints [312 Mich.App. 521] on its ability to gather news . . . ." In an accompanying brief, the Free Press argued that the gag order was overbroad and constituted an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech.

         On October 31, 2014, the trial court held a hearing on the Free Press's motions to intervene and to vacate the gag order. The attorney for the Free Press emphasized that the gag order was overbroad and covered " anybody potentially involved" in the case. He argued that the gag order constituted a prior restraint on the media's ability to report on the news and that the gag order was entered without a request from one of the parties and without findings by the court. He stated that the court file should be unsealed. Sledge's attorney stated that he appreciated the trial court's efforts to ensure a fair trial, but he could not disagree with the legal authority cited by the Free Press. He noted that he would leave the issue up to the trial court's discretion and did not specifically request that the court uphold the gag order. Counsel for Collins stated that the court entered the gag order in order to protect his client's right to a fair trial and noted that his client had " a right to a jury that is untouched by bias," ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.