Michigan Supreme Court visits East Grand Rapids High School to hold oral argument



by Cynthia Price
Legal News

Last Wednesday was a big day for East Grand Rapids High School when the seven justices of the Michigan Supreme Court (MSC) came to visit.

As part of its Community Connections program, the court held oral argument at the high school in order to educate the public about the operations ot the court system, with secondary-school-aged students the primary target audience.

Principal Craig Wiegel welcomed those in the very full auditorium, noting that a few hours earlier the stage was taken up by the set of The Addams Family, which the high school drama department was putting on April 25-27.

17th Circuit Court Judge Christopher Yates, who played a large role in facilitating the MSC appearance, followed with remarks thanking a large number of people, including his colleagues on the Kent County courts – many of whom attended – and his wife Janice, a former EGR teacher he said was invaluable in putting the event together.

Judge Yates had also served as an attorney mentor to prepare the students, along with attorneys Jerry Lykins, Michael Adams, and Paul Janes.

The case under consideration was People v. Hammerlund, with Andrew Lukas of the Kent County Prosecutor’s office representing the People of the State of Michigan and Jason R. Eggert of the State Appellate Defender Office on behalf of Hammerlund. At issue was whether an officer who arrested Hammerlund after her car struck a guardrail and she abandoned it without reporting to the police violated her rights at the time of arrest. When the officer went to her home, considered under the Fourth Amendment  to the U.S. Constitution to be a place where she could expect not to be subject to arrest without a warrant, he asked Hammerlund to come to the door so he could return her driver’s license. When she asked if he was just trying to coax her outside, he said he was just filing an exit report, and than arrested her when she put her hand out for the ID.

A variety of justices asked  questions to narrow the issue, including about the applicability of  U.S. v. Santana, Pyton v. New York, and Kentucky v. King.

Afterwards, Supreme Court Commissioner Dan Brubaker led a discussion, along with the attorneys plus Michael Mittlestat, also of SADO. Brubaker, who lives in Lowell, commented that he was very proud to show off his home area to the justices.

Very few of the students’ excellent questions had to do with anything other than the case itself, but one young woman asked, “How does it feel when you’re in a position to change the strength or weakness of our Constitution, to change the way our lives might be?” Eggert replied, “I feel very fortunate to argue cases that are important to our Constitutional rights.”

A reception followed, with students clustering around the justices in the halls.