Judge holding gavel, close-up

The Michigan appeals court has overturned key rulings and reinstated lawsuits against a popular personal-injury lawyer who is accused of sexually assaulting two women who worked at his Detroit-area firm.

Judges in Oakland and Wayne counties had said the claims against Mike Morse needed to be handled privately through an arbitration process. But the appeals court says an arbitration clause for employees at Morse's firm doesn't fit these cases.

Morse is accused is grabbing the breasts of a paralegal and a receptionist in separate incidents. He denies the allegations.

The court says sending the complaints to 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 Jensen and Jane Beckering were in the 2-1 majority.

Judge Colleen O'Brien disagreed.

Copyright 2019 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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