“The Clayton Motion”: Can New York Set the Tone for the Future of Michigan?

“The Clayton Motion” is a criminal motion to dismiss an indictment in the interest of justice.  The action has garnered national recognition since it’s mention in the hit television series “For Life.”  Aside from its popularity in pop culture, motion is a powerful technique that has played a role in preserving justice in the New York criminal justice system and now has a chance to impact the Michigan criminal justice system with the encouragement of forwarding thinking prosecutors.

According to New York’s Criminal Procedural Law Section 201.40, An indictment or any count thereof may be dismissed in furtherance of justice, as provided in paragraph (i) of subdivision one of section 210.20, when, even though there may be no basis for dismissal as a matter of law upon any ground specified in paragraphs (a) through (h) of said subdivision one of section 210.20, such discharge is required as a matter of judicial discretion by the existence of some compelling factor, consideration or circumstance demonstrating that conviction or prosecution of the defendant upon such indictment or count would constitute or result in injustice. In determining whether such compelling factor, consideration, or circumstance exists, the court must, to the extent applicable, examine and consider, individually and collectively with the characteristics listed within the statute. To discuss these factors, we spoke to several Michigan attorneys to gain their insight.

Matthew McManus is the Managing Member of McManus and Amadeo in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and is known as one of the top business attorneys in our state but has ties to New York.  McManus stated, “Growing up in Brooklyn, the Clayton Motion was something that we regularly discussed. The first factor the courts look at is “the seriousness and circumstances of the offense,” and that could place a barrier immediately to a successful motion. We need to remember that the presumption of innocence is in effect at all times, and just because a prosecutor issued a charge that may be deemed severe, the court needs to look beyond the information in the complaint objectively.”

Jennifer Kelley is a Senior Associate for McManus and Amadeo and one of the top family law attorneys across Michigan. Kelley added her insight when she said, “The second factor is the extent of harm caused by the offense.  This is where things become very vague. In many ways, this leads to an admission of guilt from the start of the case and a segway into public policy. The attorney needs to be careful when arguing the second factor.”

Scott Grabel is the founder of Grabel and Associates (www.grabellaw.com) and has built a very successful criminal defense team. Grabel spoke of the third factor of the Clayton motion when he stated, “the evidence of guilt, whether admissible or inadmissible at trial is the third factor in Clayton.  In Michigan, if we are trying to invoke a full faith and credit type of argument, we do need to show that not only should the evidence be deemed admissible but also that the Michigan Rules of Evidence may keep certain facts away from the jury.”

Ashley Duplessis is a founder of Duplessis Law (www.detroitlegaldefense.com) and a top criminal defense attorney in Wayne County, Michigan. Duplessis spoke of the fourth factor when she stated, “The history, character, and condition of the defendant is what the court will look at next. This speaks to the defendant’s relationship or lack thereof with the criminal justice system. The better the record of the defendant, the better the opportunity for defense counsel to advocate Clayton.”

Joe Brugnoli is a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates and is a top criminal defense lawyer in Kent County, Michigan. Brugnoli spoke of the fifth factor when he stated; The court looks at any severe misconduct of law enforcement personnel in the investigation, arrest, and prosecution of the defendant. As a former police officer, I can tell you that the initial report will play a role in how effective defense counsel can advocate for the defendant. Often, the information is so damming that character building is out of the window, and it will be a pure fight in the facts or lack thereof.  Many police reports are based on subjectivity, not objective factors. That can alter how we attack a Clayton Motion.

Christian Weisenberg is the founder of “Fidelis Law PLLC” (www.fidelislawpllc.com) and a rising star in criminal law in Livingston and Shiawassee County, Michigan. Weisenberg spoke of the sixth factor when he stated, “The court will examine the purpose and effect of imposing upon the defendant a sentence authorized for the offense. This is where having a defense lawyer on the bench would be helpful because we are looking at factors beyond the charging documents.”

Ravi Gurumurthy is the founder of Ravi R. Gurumurthy, PLC (www.michiganlawnorth.com) and is known as one of the top criminal defense lawyers in the Northern part of Michigan.  Gurumurthy grew up in the New York area and added, “The 7th factor is the impact of dismissal upon the confidence of the public in the criminal justice system. In New York, this occurred when the public stood behind the defendant. In Michigan, this is more complex. Political lines are more heavily drawn, and this becomes a subjective factor.”

Lane Zabawa is the founder of “Ventures Law Firm.” (www.ventureslawfirm.com) Zabawa is a top criminal defense lawyer in the Grand Rapids, Michigan area and spoke of the 8th factor. Zabawa added, “The court will the impact of a dismissal on the safety or welfare of the community. This means the court wants to know if the defendant will be a repeat offender. The court looks at the concept of a prior record and community ties when making this determination.”

The last two factors in the Clayton Motion are where the court deems it appropriate, the complainant’s attitude or victim concerning the motion, and any other relevant fact indicating that a conviction judgment would serve no useful purpose. William Amadeo is a partner at McManus and Amadeo and a Senior Associate for Grabel and Associates. Amadeo is known as one of the top criminal defense lawyers across Michigan, and he provided commentary on the last two factors.  Amadeo said, “I’ve worked on these motions before with New York and New Jersey attorneys. In Michigan, these factors are essential in a sentencing motion.  If we are pushing for a “Restorative Justice” Platform, we want to prepare such a motion on the District Court level. This will not thrill many of our district court justices, but it may preserve justice in a way that Michigan has never before seen.”

While the Clayton Motion may be an uphill battle, it is an issue that needs further investigation in our criminal justice system. Just like “The Stanaway Motion” can preserve justice, “The Clayton Motion” may restore justice.

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