Snyder administration in freak-out mode over legal challenge to the Emergency Manager law

If there was any doubt about whether or not the Snyder administration was freaking out about lawsuit by Sugar Law Center challenging the constitutionality of the Emergency Manager law (PA 4), this should remove all doubt.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: THURSDAY, Aug. 18, 2011
CONTACT: Tova Perlmutter or Frank Joyce 313-993-4505

Snyder Wants High Court To Rule
on Emergency Manager Law

Sugar Law Calls Move To Bypass Other Courts ‘troubling’

DETROIT– The Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, which has filed suit challenging Michigan’s emergency manager law as unconstitutional, said today that they will oppose Gov. Snyder’s request to bypass normal court procedures by having the state Supreme Court take immediate control of the case.

Snyder on Friday asked the high court to take immediate control over the case.

“The mentality behind the emergency manager law is that fair process doesn’t matter, input from all stakeholders doesn’t matter, and decisions are better if they are simple and fast,” said John Philo, Legal Director of the Sugar Law Center. “This rush to the Supreme Court reflects the same attitude, and shows a fundamental mistrust of the state’s established judicial system.”

“The nature of our courts is that the initial fact-finding and introduction of critical evidence occurs at the circuit court level,” said Philo. “It is troubling that the Governor wants to skip that phase.”

Sugar Law represents 28 plaintiffs from throughout Michigan who filed suit against Michigan Public Act 4, the emergency manager law, in Ingham County Circuit Court on June 22. On Friday Governor Snyder filed an “executive message” with the Supreme Court asking that the case be certified to go directly to the Supreme Court.

“The Governor’s message highlights the extreme importance of the issues in this case—which is all the more reason that a full review is essential,” said Sugar Law Executive Director Tova Perlmutter. “Democracy requires due deliberate speed but not—contrary to the philosophy behind PA-4—haste at the expense of the people’s voice and the legal system itself.”

The citizens’ lawsuit says the emergency manager law violates the Michigan Constitution by:

  • Suspending home rule, by giving managers power to repeal local laws, ordinances, charters and contracts
  • Effectively eliminating citizens’ rights to vote for and petition local government on matters of local concern
  • Violating the separation of powers, by allowing the executive branch and its agencies to exercise legislative duties
  • Allowing the Legislature to enact unfunded mandates, by using local taxpayer dollars for such purposes as managers’ salaries and staff

The Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice is serving as the lead counsel for the 28 citizens. Sugar Law is joined by attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights, The Sanders Law Firm, Miller Cohen PLC, and Goodman & Hurwitz PC on behalf of the National Lawyers Guild, Michigan chapter.

Governor Snyder Executive Message to Michigan Supreme Court: http://www.sugarlaw.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Executive-Message-Aug-2011-Re-Brown-v-Snyder.pdf

The Snyder administration is, in effect, asking the Republican-controlled Michigan Supreme Court to subvert the normal judicial process to prevent them from having to face a loss. This is why it is so imperative that this effort be done in tandem with the petition drive to put this before the voters as a referendum. In Snyder’s request he says this:

I recognize the significance of seeking a bypass to this Court as provided by MCR 7.305, and only request this Court’s involvement after careful consideration of the urgency and importance of the issues presented here. I do not anticipate additional review requests in the immediate future and sincerely appreciate the Court’s granting of review in accord with my previous request regarding the issues related to the exemption for retirement income.

Two things here: first, Snyder knows damn well and admits that this is a HIGHLY unusual and “significant” request. It is, in fact, a subversion of the justice system to protect his administration from scrutiny and having to deal with the impact of their unconsititutional and undemocratic overreach in our state.

Second, this is the second time this summer that Snyder has run to the Supreme Court to head off any opposition. In June, he did the same thing, asking the Court to weigh in on his budget’s taxing of retirement pensions for the first time. You have to wonder if the Supreme Court justices, even as Republican as many of them are, will start to see this for what it is: a governor who is trying to game the system and use them as a way to grease the skids and shield him from any opposition.

This is all simply a very obvious indication that the Snyder administration knows they have gone too far. This desperate attempt to subvert the system to avoid legal scrutiny is clear evidence of that. Even if they are successful in this effort, and I will be very surprised if they are, they will still face the voters when the Emergency Manager law appears on the ballot. They may be able to run from this issue for a time but, eventually, it will catch up with them.

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