Supreme Court takes case involving lawyer Mike Morse
The Michigan Supreme Court will hear arguments involving claims of sexual misconduct against high-profile Metro Detroit attorney Mike Morse, the court announced Thursday.
Morse is accused of grabbing the breasts of a paralegal, Jordan Smits, and a receptionist, Samantha Lichon, in separate incidents. He has denied the allegations.
Judges in Oakland and Wayne counties had ruled the claims against Morse should be handled privately through arbitration. In March, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that an arbitration clause for workers at Morse’s law firm doesn’t fit the cases involved.
Morse's attorney Deborah Gordon, who filed the appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court, applauded the court's move to take on the case.
"This was the correct decision," she said. "Twenty years ago, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that agreements to arbitrate claims arising from the employment relationship are enforceable. This is the law throughout the country. There is nothing unique about this case that makes it an exception."
Geoffrey Fieger, who represents the plaintiffs, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment Thursday.
The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that sending the cases into arbitration “would effectively perpetuate a culture that silences victims of sexual assault and allows abusers to quietly settle these claims behind an arbitrator’s closed door.” Judges Kathleen Jansen and Jane Beckering were in the 2-1 majority. The third panel member, Judge Colleen O’Brien, dissented.
A third woman, Renee Swain, filed a lawsuit in May 2017 claiming Morse had grabbed her breast during a "selfie" photograph in a Farmington Hills restaurant. Swain's lawsuit was dismissed in December by an Oakland County circuit judge after it was found that she perjured herself by lying under oath.
Gordon said the other women "jumped on the bandwagon" and filed their own lawsuits a couple weeks apart claiming they were sexually harassed on the job.
"They had never made such accusations when employed and one even wrote what a good place it was to work," Gordon told The News in March.
Both had allegedly signed employment forms agreeing to arbitration in on-the-job disputes.