Traverse City Record-Eagle

April 4, 2013

Michigan in Brief: 04/04/2013


---- — Judge declines to toss right-to-work lawsuit

MASON — A judge declined Wednesday to toss a lawsuit that says Michigan’s right-to-work law is invalid because the Capitol doors were locked while the measure was debated, but he warned the law’s opponents that winning the case could be tough.

Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette said he is required to allow depositions and document collection to resolve disputed facts. He ordered the state to respond to the suit by Monday.

“You got a real uphill battle in this thing,” he told a lawyer representing the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. “But there are some little haystacks of fire around the field.”Labor unions, Democrats and others sued in January, saying the state Open Meetings Act was violated when police closed the Capitol to new visitors for more than four hours Dec. 6 during the first of two days of legislative action on right-to-work bills.


Plant experts may help find baby’s remains

LUDINGTON — Authorities are hoping that plant experts will be able to help them find the remains of a West Michigan baby who disappeared nearly two years ago, police said Wednesday.

Investigators think that botanical evidence found on the shoes of Sean Phillips could lead them to the body of his daughter, Katherine, who was last seen when she was 4 ½ months old, Ludington Police Chief Mark Barnett said at a news conference.

Phillips was last year convicted of unlawful imprisonment in the case and sentenced to 10 to 15 years in prison. Police are treating Katherine’s disappearance as a homicide.

Police will resume the search for Katherine’s remains June 28-29, because it’s the same timeframe in which she disappeared in 2011 and similar plants will be present, Barnett said.Authorities have been working with scientists from Michigan State University, University of Michigan and the Field Museum in Chicago to retrieve and identify grass-like plants called sedges, sphagnum moss, pine, sand from a dune and other elements, he said.


Great Lakes levels below normal

TRAVERSE CITY — The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says Great Lakes levels probably will remain below average for the next six months but won’t set records unless the weather is unusually dry.

Officials with the corps’ Detroit office said Wednesday the shipping industry and commercial boaters will continue to deal with hazardous conditions in many harbors for the foreseeable future.

Watershed hydrology chief Keith Kompoltowicz says the winter’s heavy snowfall will help the lakes recover slightly from extremely low levels in recent months. Lakes Michigan and Huron set an all-time record low in January. They’re still more than two feet below their long-term average but are expected to stay slightly above record lows through September.

But Kompoltowicz says it would take several wet years to get the lakes back to normal.