Gregory M. Meihn, a partner in the Detroit office of Foley & Mansfield, scored a double on two recent cases argued before the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Michigan Authentic Credentials in Education Act
The first case, City of Fraser v Almeda University, Case No. 323449, involved the application of the Michigan Authentic Credentials in Education Act (“MACEA”), which prohibits a “person or entity from knowingly issuing or manufacturing a false academic credential in the State of Michigan.” For each violation of MACEA, the company or municipality harmed is entitled to the greater of $100,000 or actual damages. In order to issue degrees of higher education in Michigan, a university must be accredited and licensed to do business in Michigan.
Almeda University was and is neither accredited nor licensed to do business in Michigan. Almeda University is a diploma mill located in the Caribbean Island of Nevis that provides degrees at the bachelor, master, and PHD levels to applicants for a fee based upon their “life experiences.” At issue in this case were six police officers that acquired master degrees from Almeda University and used the degrees to increase their annual pay by $3,800.
Affirming the Macomb County Circuit Court’s granting summary disposition in favor of the City of Fraser and awarding damages in the amount of $100,000 plus actual costs and fees, the Court of Appeals found that Almeda University, by soliciting students on the internet subjected itself to personal jurisdiction in Michigan and found that Almeda University violated the MACEA. This was a case of first impression in Michigan as MACEA has not been used previously by a company or municipality to sue a university for improperly providing diplomas in Michigan.
The City of Fraser could have also filed suit against the officer’s for use of a fraudulent credential, but decided for political reasons to pursue Almeda University only.
Michigan Fireworks Safety Act
The second case involves Foley & Mansfield client Delta Township regarding the Michigan Fireworks Safety Act (“MFSA”), Case No. 324444. In this case, Plaintiff Non-Stop Fireworks challenged the constitutionality of Delta Township’s local ordinance that restricted the hours of operation for transient vendors including transient vendors who sold merchandise out of tents. Plaintiff alleged that the local ordinance was preempted by the MFSA which prohibits local municipalities from enacting or enforcing an ordinance, code, or regulation pertaining to or in any matter regulating the sale of fireworks.