Michigan v. Seewald (Opinion - Leave Granted)Annotate this Case
Defendant Paul Seewald and alleged coconspirator Don Yowchuang worked in the district office of former Congressman Thaddeus McCotter during McCotter’s 2012 reelection campaign. Michigan election law required McCotter to submit at least 1,000 valid voter signatures before the Secretary of State could certify his placement on the ballot. Defendant and Yowchuang bore some responsibility for collecting those signatures and submitting them to the Secretary of State. The day before the nominating petitions were due, defendant and Yowchuang realized that several of the petitions had not been signed by their circulator, and agreed to sign the petitions as circulators, even though they had not circulated the petitions themselves. Defendant was charged with nine counts of falsely signing nominating petitions (misdemeanor), and one count of conspiring to commit a legal act in an illegal manner (felony). Following a preliminary examination, the trial court bound defendant over to the Wayne Circuit Court as charged. Defendant moved to quash the information on the felony charge. The circuit court granted his motion and dismissed the felony charge against him, concluding that there had been no conspiracy to commit a legal act. The Court of Appeals affirmed in an unpublished opinion, agreeing that the prosecution could not show an agreement to commit a legal act. The Supreme Court granted the prosecution’s application for leave to appeal. The issue before the Supreme Court reduced to what alleged conduct was sufficient to warrant a bindover on the peculiar charge of “conspiring to commit a legal act in an illegal manner.” In an "anomalous" reversal of roles, defendant argued that his aim was illicit through and through, that he never agreed to commit any legal act. Rather he conspired to commit an illegal act illegally; and that double illegality should have set him free. The prosecution argued that while defendant’s agreed-to means were illegal, his conspiratorial ends were legal; and that legality was sufficient to try him as a felon. The irony was not lost on the Supreme Court. After examining the conspiracy statute, the Court held that the conduct alleged provided probable cause for trial on the charge. Accordingly, the Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remanded the case to the Wayne Circuit Court for reinstatement of the district court's order to bind defendant over and for further proceedings.