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Accepted Cases

Selesa's case is very different from the other cases the Clinic has accepted so far. She was convicted in 2008 for failure to pay child support and received a sentence of two years probation. During the time that Selesa allegedly failed to pay child support, however, she was disabled, unemployed, and confined to a mental institution. At trial, she was not able to present any evidence pertaining to her inability to pay.

In early 2010, the Clinic, citing Michigan case law dating back to 1889, argued before the Court of Appeals that no person can be constitutionally convicted of a crime for failing to pay an assessment she cannot pay. The Court of Appeals rejected Selesa's appeal, failing to account for the fact that she was in fact being punished for an act she had no control over (being mentally ill).

The clinic then appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, which held arguments in the case in late 2011, and issued a decision in July 2012. The Michigan Supreme Court agreed that a person should be able to show that it was impossible for them to comply with a child support order, and it threw out Selesa's conviction and granted her a new trial. The Michigan Attorney General dismissed all charges against Selesa in November 2012.




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