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Michigan has led a worldwide trend in abolishing one of the most controversial punishments in history, the death penalty. Michigan has also helped revolutionize affirmative action policy, as the state’s largest university has been at the center of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions that both confirmed and refined the use of affirmative action in higher education. Although the impact of these cases was great, the High Court’s composition has changed since they were handed down, and it is unclear whether affirmative action’s role in school admissions will change along with the new Justices’ ideologies.
Michigan was the first state in the country and the first government in the English-speaking world to eradicate the death penalty. In the 1972 case Furman v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court found that the punishment violated the Eighth Amendment because it was applied arbitrarily and affected a disproportionate number of minorities.
However, in 1976 the Court reinstated the death penalty in Gregg v. Georgia, stating that it is constitutional so long as federal and state governments apply the punishment consistently and fairly, as well as in proportion to the crimes committed. The Fifth Amendment has been cited in support of this decision; specifically, supporters argue that the Fifth Amendment, which guarantees no one will be deprived of “life, liberty, or property, without due process of law,” implies that the Constitution permits depriving someone of his or her life, so long as due process is followed.
Although 34 states continue to authorize the death penalty, a number have limited its use, for example banning the execution of the mentally retarded; additionally, major national organizations, including the American Bar Association, the ACLU, and the Southern Baptist Convention publicly oppose the death penalty, and only two other democracies in the world—Japan and South Korea—still allow it at all.
Michigan has also been a leader in shaping affirmative action policy across the nation. Two cases arising out of the University of Michigan helped characterize the role of affirmative action programs in higher education. In the 2003 cases Grutter v. Bollinger and Gratz v. Bollinger, the U.S. Supreme Court found that a school may consider race in its admissions process, so long as race does not replace an individualized assessment of applicants, race is just one of many factors considered, and the school’s consideration of race is motivated by a goal to achieve a “diverse” class. Furthermore, the Court held that programs in which race automatically increases an applicant’s chances of admission are unconstitutional, as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
The University of Michigan has continued to revolutionize the higher education admissions process with its Wolverine Scholars program. This program allows the University’s Law School to admit 5-10 U of M undergraduates who have at least a 3.8 GPA without requiring them to take the LSAT.
In 2007, there were 37,668 lawyers holding active licenses in Michigan. According to an ABA Survey on Lawyer Discipline Systems, there were 3,293 disciplinary related complaints filed against Michigan lawyers in 2007; of those against whom complaints were filed, 319 were sanctioned and 17 were disbarred.
When searching for representation, it is important to make sure a lawyer is in good standing with his or her State Bar. By finding a lawyer through a free service such as LegalMatch, you can easily review lawyers’ disciplinary records as well as reviews from former clients.
The websites below lead to further information about Michigan’s laws and legal system:
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Last Modified: 02-03-2010 10:27 AM PST