As Managing Partner and the leader of the Firm’s litigation practice, Greg Hanley applies over 32 years of complex commercial litigation experience to the problems of the Firm’s clients.
Greg has tried many cases and has experience in a wide range of substantive areas, including antitrust, banking, construction, securities, contracts, accounting and legal malpractice, insurance, tax, real estate, corporate, business and municipal law. He has acted as class counsel in numerous certified class actions. He also is actively involved in the Firm’s real estate tax appeals practice.
Greg is no stranger to either side of the courtroom, having defended large corporations like General Motors and Johnson Controls in monetarily-significant cases. He also has represented many business and consumer plaintiffs, often on a contingent fee basis. Greg’s current cases include class actions challenging certain stormwater management charges imposed by the cities of Detroit and Ann Arbor, class actions challenging the water and sewer rates imposed by the City of Novi, Rochester Hills and Farmington Hills, a class action against the City of Detroit challenging certain fire inspection fees, a class action against the Great Lakes Water Authority and the City of Detroit challenging certain Industrial Waste Control charges imposed on thousands of non-residential property owners in Southeast Michigan, and a class action against the City of East Lansing challenging purported “franchise fees” imposed on certain utility users in those municipalities.
In addition, since June 2022, Greg has filed six class actions against Michigan municipalities which Greg believes are abusing their taxing authority under Michigan’s “Act 345,” which authorizes property taxes to fund contributions to certain types of police and fire pension funds. The new complaints allege that the cities of Westland, Taylor, Warren, St. Clair Shores, Dearborn Heights, and Southgate have violated the Headlee Amendment because they impose property taxes which generate revenues far in excess of the amounts necessary to finance the required pension fund contributions. More suits are planned against other municipalities with “Act 345” pension plans that have imposed excessive property taxes.
One of Greg’s most significant new cases is a class action against the City of Chicago challenging the City’s so-called “Water and Sewer Taxes” (which generate over $200 million in annual revenues for the City) and the City’s Water and Sewer Rates, which Greg claims are excessive because, among other things, the City forces one group of disfavored citizens to subsidize the costs of water and sewer services provided to other (favored) citizens who are exempt from paying for those services.
Greg has achieved much recent success in class actions brought against municipalities in Michigan challenging various fees and charges imposed by those municipalities upon their citizens. Since 2012, Greg has successfully resolved 15 class actions which collectively involved over 160,000 class members and which created over $115 million in benefits for class members. Recent examples include the following:
- In 2021, Greg resolved two class actions challenging municipal stormwater charges. The Oakland County Circuit Court approved a $2.6 million settlement in a case against the City of Madison Heights and the Macomb County Circuit Court approved a $2.4 million settlement in a similar case against the City of Roseville.
- In February 2020, after the Eaton County Circuit Court ruled that a “franchise fee” imposed by Delta Township on certain residents of that Township who received electric service from the Lansing Board of Water and Light constituted an unlawful tax imposed in violation of the Headlee Amendment, the Court approved a $2.3 million settlement. The Township also ceased collection of the “franchise fee;”
- In January 2018, the Wayne County Circuit Court approved a settlement valued at approximately $75 million dollars in a class action challenging certain drainage charges imposed by the City of Detroit on certain commercial property owners in the City. As part of the settlement, the City agreed (1) to create a settlement fund of $27.5 million (to provide refunds and credits to affected property owners), (2) to write-off $24 million in unpaid drainage charges for the period prior to July 2013, and (3) to reduce the drainage charges by approximately 25% for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018.
- In September 2020, the Macomb County Circuit Court approved a $3.4 million settlement in a case against the City of St. Clair Shores, which alleged that the city’s Stormwater Charges were illegal taxes imposed in violation of the Headlee Amendment.
- In December 2020, the Macomb County Circuit Court approved a $6 million settlement in a case against Shelby Township, which alleged that the township’s water and sewer rates were excessive.
- In May 2020, the Wayne County Circuit Court approved a $2.2 million settlement in a class action against the City of Detroit challenging the City’s private fire line charges.
- In February 2019, the Oakland County Circuit Court approved a $2.85 million settlement in a class action against the City of Oak Park challenging certain stormwater management charges imposed upon the City’s water and sewer customers.
- In August 2018, the Livingston County Circuit Court approved a $1.5 million settlement in a class action against Brighton Township challenging certain sewer charges imposed by that municipality.
- In September 2017, the Oakland County Circuit Court approved a $1.4 million settlement in a class action against Waterford Township challenging its water and sewer rates.
- In June 2017, the Oakland County Circuit Court approved a $2 million settlement in a class action against the City of Royal Oak challenging certain stormwater management charges imposed upon the City’s water and sewer customers.
- In December 2016, the Wayne County Circuit Court approved a $5 million settlement in a class action against the City of Detroit which alleged that the City was overcharging for private fire line service. In addition to the refund, the City agreed to reduce its rates for private fire line service going forward.
- In April 2015, the Oakland County Circuit Court approved a $4.2 million settlement in a class action Greg handled against the City of Ferndale which challenged that city’s stormwater management charges. Greg settled a similar case against the City of Birmingham in early 2016, with the Court approving a $2.85 million settlement.
- In February 2012, the Wayne County Circuit Court approved a $4.2 million settlement in a class action Greg handled against the City of Detroit which challenged a solid waste inspection fee. The case lasted over four years and reached all 3 levels of the Michigan judiciary.
As for Greg’s pending cases, in March 2022, the Ingham County Circuit Court ruled that certain “franchise fees” imposed by the City of East Lansing on residents of the City who receive their electricity from the Lansing Board of Water and Light were illegal taxes. The City has appealed the ruling. If the Circuit Court’s ruling is upheld, Greg believes that the City will be required to refund in excess of $6 million to its citizens.
In addition, Greg has two class action settlements that are awaiting Circuit Court approval:
- In June 2018, the Wayne County Circuit Court ruled that a stormwater management charge imposed by the City of Harper Woods constituted an unlawful tax in violation of the Headlee Amendment to the Michigan Constitution. In June 2022, the parties executed a settlement agreement requiring the City to refund $2 million to its citizens. The Court has preliminarily approved the settlement and will conduct a hearing on November 18, 2022 to determine whether the settlement should receive final approval.
- In August 2022, Greg settled yet-another class action challenging the City of Detroit private fire line charges. If approved by the Wayne County Circuit Court, the settlement will require the City to refund over $3.9 million and further reduce the charges going forward. The Court has preliminarily-approved the settlement and will conduct a hearing on October 21, 2022 to determine whether the settlement should receive final approval.
Greg’s successes on the defense side include obtaining a judgment of no-cause of action after a lengthy bench trial in a contract case for a “Tier One” auto supplier, obtaining the dismissal of a federal securities class action against Compuware, and obtaining dismissal of a federal antitrust suit brought by the National Hockey League Players Association against the Ontario Hockey League and its member teams. In 2007 and 2008, Greg acted as Michigan counsel to CompUSA, Inc., handling various real estate litigation matters arising out of its liquidation process.
Greg also has an active appeals practice, and, among other successes, has obtained from the Michigan Supreme Court two peremptory reversals of decisions of the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Greg cut his teeth and matured as an attorney in two large corporate law firms. Prior to the establishment of Kickham Hanley in 1999, Greg was a partner at Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, in Detroit, Michigan. Before his tenure at the Honigman firm, Greg was an attorney in the Chicago office of Mayer Brown LLP, one of the world’s largest law firms.
Greg is proud to possess two degrees from Wayne State University. He is a 1989 magna cum laude graduate of the Wayne Law School, where he was a member of the Wayne Law Review and was elected to the Order of the Coif. He received his B.A. magna cum laude in Economics from Wayne in 1986, and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. Greg also was a founding member of the Wayne State Law School chapter of the Federalist Society.
More information about Greg’s current and recently concluded class action cases is available at www.kickhamhanley.com/class-actions