Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Lt. Cmdr. Ned Schuman – An American Veteran and Hero

The story is told of his act of heroism in the obituary in the New York Times:

As Christmas 1970 approached, 43 American prisoners of war in a large holding cell at the North Vietnamese camp known as the Hanoi Hilton sought to hold a brief church service. Their guards stopped them, and so the seeds of rebellion were planted.

A few days later, Lt. Cmdr. Edwin A. Shuman III, a downed Navy pilot, orchestrated the resistance, knowing he would be the first to face the consequences: a beating in a torture cell.

“Ned stepped forward and said, ‘Are we really committed to having church Sunday? I want to know person by person,’ ” a fellow prisoner, Leo K. Thorsness, recounted in a memoir. “He went around the cell pointing to each of us individually,” Mr. Thorsness continued. “When the 42nd man said yes, it was unanimous. At that instant, Ned knew he would end up in the torture cells.”

The following Sunday, Commander Shuman, who died on Dec. 3 at 82, stepped forward to lead a prayer session and was quickly hustled away by guards. The next four ranking officers did the same, and they, too, were taken away to be beaten. Meanwhile, as Mr. Thorsness told it, “the guards were now hitting P.O.W.s with gun butts and the cell was in chaos.”

And then, he remembered, the sixth-ranking senior officer began, “Gentlemen, the Lord’s Prayer.”  “And this time,” he added, “we finished it.”  The guards had yielded.

Lt. Cmdr. Shuman served his country, his family and his God well.  This type of action is the epitome of courage and bravery.  He knew it was his job to support the morale of the men.  This simple act of defiance, in the face of known torture, was enough to keep others strong.  May God give rest to his soul.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Therapy Chickens and the Americans with Disabilities Act

Matthew Worley, Esq.
Upon hearing the term “service animal,” most people automatically envision guide dogs for the visually impaired.  Dogs have also been trained to help individuals prone to seizures.  But are other types of animals permitted to be used as service animals?  Our municipal clients had to answer this question recently.

For instance, many cities have local ordinances preventing residents from keeping or raising chickens on property within the city.  However, are those individuals permitted to keep chickens on their property if they are being used as “therapy” chickens?  For example, to provide therapeutic benefits for special needs children.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) governs the use of service animals for disabled individuals.  Under the ADA and its corresponding regulations, a “service animal” is defined as “any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.”  The regulations specifically state that other species of animals are not service animals for purpose of the ADA.

The only exception to the “dogs only” rule of the ADA is, surprisingly, miniature horses.  The ADA requires that reasonable accommodations must be made to permit the use of a miniature horse by an individual with a disability, as long as it has been individually trained to perform tasks for that person.  The use of these miniature horses is more restrictive than guide dogs, however.  In order to determine if reasonable accommodations can be made, the regulations provide several factors including the size of the horse, the handler’s control over the horse, and whether the horse is housebroken.

So, according to the text of the ADA Regulations, it is unlikely that “therapy chickens” would be protected under the ADA as service animals.  While chickens arguably may provide a benefit to those with special needs or a disability, a local city ordinance prohibiting would likely be controlling.

If you have questions about the ADA or other legal issues, contact the experienced team of legal professionals at Fausone Bohn, LLP, at (248) 380-0000 or online at

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Diversity in the Troops

Jim Fausone
Veterans Disability Lawyer

One of America’s unique features for the last 238 years is the diversity of the population.  Over time the diversity has been broadened from British, French, German, Polish, and Irish to include people from every continent. Sometimes they came for the opportunity and sometimes they were forced to come to the country.  Each wave of immigrants brought different religions and customs.  The country’s ultimate acceptance of that diversity, which has not always been readily provided, has strengthened the country.  The military has been forced to accept diversity from Native Americans, African Americans, Japanese Americans, Mexican Americans, Indian Americans, etc.  The military has been a social experiment as well as a melting pot.  In every instance, the military is a better organization for it.

With this in mind, I want to echo the need for more Indian Americans and in particular Sikhs in the service of the country. Indian Americans comprise about 3.18 million people, or about 1.0% of the U.S. population.  In 2007, there were estimated to be approximately 250,000 Sikhs living in the United States, with largest populations living on the East and West Coasts with additional populations in Detroit, Chicago, and Austin. 

In the Detroit area, I have friends and business associates who are of Indian heritage that are of the Sikh and Muslim faiths.  I know they enrich the community in which they live and are grateful to be Americans. 
It is reported that “The United States should change its policy to allow more Indian Americans to join the military without compromising on their religious beliefs and practices, the only three Sikh soldiers in the U.S. Army say.”  This would allow Sikhs and their offspring to more readily serve the country in the military. The wearing of a turban by a male is a tenant of the religion.  This article in the India West profiles the accomplishments of the three Sikhs currently serving.  It also makes the point that Sikhs serve in other militaries around the world with slight adjustments to the dress code.  Let us continue on the path of being a tolerant country and military.

Can You Sue the US Military?

We were recently asked by an immigration lawyer if an Iraqi citizen (whose civilian husband was killed by US troops) or her children could sue the US Government.  The incident took place in Iraq during 2005. An Iraqi civilian, his wife and two children were driving in an area where there was troop movement. Military personnel ordered the individuals to move out of the area, using a megaphone. The vehicle did not move out of the area and the Iraqi civilian was shot in the back of the head. The wife of the deceased man claims that she did not hear the warning and that the family was not personally warned. After the man was shot in the head, the vehicle veered into a light pole. The children and wife of the deceased man witnessed the incident and have suffered psychological trauma. One of the children, who was four years of age at the time, has not spoken since the incident; he is now twelve years of age.  Sad facts always scream for a remedy. However, the law does not always deliver a remedy even if damages have occurred.

Non-U.S. citizens are precluded from bringing claims against the United States involving military operations on foreign territories. In this specific instance, the incident occurred during a time of war and in a foreign country. (1) The Federal Torts Claims Act does not waive sovereign immunity for such claims; (2) The Military Claims Act only applies to U.S. citizens; and (3) the Alien Torts Statute only creates jurisdiction for aliens raising civil actions related to a violation of the law of the nations or a treaty.

There is case law that supports these findings.  For example, in Koohi v. U.S., 976 F.2d 1328, 1994 A.M.C. 1514 (9th Cir. 1992), a case holding that 28 U.S.C.A. § 2680(j) applied to prevent survivors of passengers on board an Iranian commercial airliner shot down by a U.S. Navy vessel during the 1986-1988 Iran-Iraq "tanker war" from suing the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act, the court stated that the result in the case would be no different if the downing of the civilian plane had been deliberate, rather than the result of error. The court explained that the combatant activities exception applies whether U.S. military forces hit a prescribed or an unintended target; whether those selecting the target have acted wisely or foolishly; whether the missiles employed turn out to be "smart" or dumb; and whether the target chosen performs the function it was believed to perform, or whether the choice of an object for destruction is a result of error or miscalculation. The court added that, in other words, it does not matter for purposes of applying the exception whether the military makes or executes the decision carefully or negligently, properly or improperly, but that it is the nature of the act and not the manner of its performance that counts. The court therefore found that in the case before it, it was of no significance whether a plane that was shot down was civilian or military so long as the person giving the order or firing the weapon did so for the purpose of furthering the United States' military objectives or of defending lives, property, or other interests. 23 A.L.R. Fed. 2d 489 (Originally published in 2007).

As often stated, war is a terrible thing.  Since the dawn of time, groups of men have been waging war on each other.  Unfortunately, the innocent civilians also suffer. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Decline in Service

The 0.45% who protect our nation

Last week Al Qaeda militants took over the key Iraqi city of Fallujah – a city that American soldiers fought valiantly to liberate just nine years ago. Unfortunately, many Americans may not remember or understand the sacrifice of the veterans who fought to free the city in the first place. The sobering news reminded me of recent comments made by General David Petraeus thanking our veterans and noting the lack of national sacrifice in the recent War on Terror.

Since the tragedy of 9/11, just 0.45% of the US population has served in the War on Terror. This is a lackluster statistic compared to the 11.2% who served four years during WW II and the 4.3% who served twelve years during the Vietnam War.

While the dangers to our country have intensified and grown more pervasive, a greater burden to protect our freedom has been shouldered by fewer and fewer Americans. Perhaps this trend has led to the unfortunate disconnect between the public and veterans – today’s War on Terror seems distant in the minds of Americans. This fact is unfortunate, yet unsurprising as less than one percent answer the call to serve.

During WW II and Vietnam, if your family members didn’t answer the call to serve, then your neighbors and friends did. The sacrifice of the country was readily visible. Today, that patriotic sacrifice made by military men, women, and families is less apparent and less understood. However, the bravery of our service men and women should not be any less appreciated.

These short comments from General Petraeus are eye-opening and worth a read:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Overhaul of the MTT in the works?

Matthew Worley, Esq.

As anyone who has tried to contest the city or township’s assessment of their property can attest, the process can be daunting.

Currently, the Michigan Tax Tribunal (MTT) hears appeals from property owners contesting the assessment on their property.  However, there are some who think the MTT should be reformed or eliminated altogether because it is too complicated and yields inconsistent results.

There is currently a movement to eliminate the MTT and replace it with a Michigan Tax Court.  Supporters of this plan hope to hire judges and magistrates with more experience and pay them more.  Part of the problem, according to supporters of the new tax court, is that the current MTT members’ compensation is significantly lower than district and circuit court judges.  This makes it difficult to attract high caliber candidates.

Of course, legislation is required to make these changes.  A common complaint with the current process is that the agency doesn’t track residential appeals.  Only paper copies are kept of small claims appeals, making it difficult for property owners to research previously decided cases.

Whether this movement for reform will catch on remains to be seen.  One thing is for sure – if a new agency or court is created, careful planning will have to be made to ensure that the problems of the MTT aren’t simply rolled over into a new entity.

If you have questions regarding the appeal process for property tax assessments, contact Matthew Worley or Keith Madden, the experienced MTT legal team at Fausone Bohn, LLP, at (248) 380-0000 or online at 

To read more about the movement to reform the MTT, please visit: 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Budget Punishes Retirees

Jim Fausone
Veteran Disability Lawyer

There is no end to the mischief Congress can get itself into.  It did little to assist veterans in 2013 and I have written about that earlier in the month.  In a last minute budget deal, the Congress and President have a budget law that punishes retirees from the military.  "The deal Obama signed includes a provision that would pare down annual cost of living increases in benefits for military retirees under age 62, saving the government an estimated $6.3 billion over a decade."   On the theory that younger retirees have the chance to work in the private sector, the budget team isolated these “younger” retirees and stripped out COLA from their pensions.  These folks put in their 20–30 years and now get a point shaving game run on them. 

Congress does not treat all retirees this way.  It is not stopping COLA for all similar situated people or for those on other federal programs.  But remember, only less than 10% of the population have served in the military.  The early retirees are not that big of a voting block.  So Congress cut them from the herd and then cut them down - a military tactic dating back to Sun Tzu and the Art of War.  The veterans may need to employ some of the same tactics in the next election cycle.

If you want to view a good discussion of the problem, listen to this retired Marine on Fox discuss the problem.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Northville Township welcomes auto parts maker Aisin

International automotive parts manufacturer Aisin will move its local corporate headquarters and 245 employees from Plymouth Township to Northville Township.According to company officials, they have outgrown their 90,000-square-foot facility at Beck Road and M-14 in Plymouth Township. They have purchased a 172,000-square-foot industrial facility located at 15300 Centennial Drive (at Five Mile) in Northville Township, which was the former home of Maxion Wheels. The company, which formed in 1965 in Japan, will invest nearly $8 million in the facility, including both “brick and mortar” improvements to the building itself and the addition of property, largely in the form of high-tech equipment used for research and development.The Northville Township Board of Trustees has unanimously approved the creation of an industrial development district for two parcels on Centennial Drive, equaling 17.59 acres, which Aisin (pronounced “eye shin”) now owns. In addition, the township board approved eight-year tax abatements for both the business and personal property as an incentive to bring the company to Northville.Most of the property is already developed, although about five acres is vacant and could be developed later.Michael Lapinski, vice president of Human Resources-Sales Division and Corporate Communications, said the company expects to create an additional 51 jobs at the facility within the first 12 months after the company moves into the new facility.The new headquarters will house office space, product storage, as well as product testing and development.Paul Bohn, the township’s attorney who helped broker the tax abatement deal with Aisin, said the deal includes a binding agreement that stipulates Aisin must make the investments in both capital and job creation it is promising or it would lose the tax abatements.“They are bringing 240-some professional jobs to the community, plus an additional 51 jobs in the near future,” Bohn said. “And these are predominantly high-paying engineering positions.”The Michigan Economic Development Corp awarded the company a $1.2 million Michigan Business Development Program grant, largely based on the number of jobs the company promises to create at the new facility.Joe Rohatynski, who handles public relations for Aisin, said the goal is to move into the facility by the end of the first quarter in 2014. He said the company will move all its personnel from Plymouth to Northville Township so “we have everyone under one roof.” He said the company hopes to create the additional 51 jobs within the first 12-18 months after making the move.“This is wonderful news for our community,” said Northville Township Supervisor Bob Nix. “We’re really excited about the jobs that will be created right here in Northville Township.”In return for making the improvements and bringing the jobs into the community, the company will get tax relief over the eight years of the agreement. Without the abatements, the company would have to pay the township about $19,000 per year, most of which would be levied against the personal property at the facility. The abatements will cut their tax bill to the township roughly in half over the eight years.Aisin has facilities across the globe, including many in Japan. According to Lapinski, the company manufactures “a very wide range” of auto parts. Their biggest customer is Toyota, both in the U.S. and abroad. In the U.S., he said about 15 percent of their business is with General Motors and about 15 percent with Chrysler.The company has experienced tremendous growth in recent years, and this move is to keep up with customer demand, he said.“We had very exciting growth for years until 2009 when the recession hit,” said Lapinski, who lives in Northville. “But we are on a nice little recovery. We are experiencing record sales.”

By Kurt Kuban