BREAKING: Major lawsuit attacks Michigan’s Financial Martial Law Act as unconstitutional


I have a piece up at that reveals the breaking news that 28 Michigan residents along with the Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice and the Center for Constitutional Rights have filed a lawsuit in Michigan challenging the constitutionality of Public Act 4, the so-call “Financial Martial Law Act” recently passed by Republicans.

The defendents in the complaint are none other than Governor Rick Snyder and State Treasurer Andy Dillon.

Here are the main points of the complaint (a link to the complaint can be found in the A2Politico article):

  1. This lawsuit arises from violations of Plaintiffs’ constitutional rights under the Constitution of the State of Michigan of 1963.
  2. The Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act, Act No. 4, Public Acts of 2011, MCL §§ 141.1501 et. seq. (the Act) effectively establishes a new form of local government within the State of Michigan. The new form of government allows Michigan cities, villages, townships, and other forms of municipal corporations to be ruled by one unelected official and that this official’s orders, appointments, expenditures, and other decisions are not reviewable by local elected officials or local voters.
  3. On its face and in practice, the Act violates the rights of local voters by delegating law-making power and the power to adopt local acts to unelected emergency managers, by suspending the rights of local electors to establish charters and to elect local officials, and by imposing substantial new costs and expenses upon local municipalities without providing new revenue.
  4. The Act thereby violates Art. I, § 17, Art. I, § 23, Art. III, § 2, Art. IV, §§ 1 & 29, Art. VII, §§ 21, 22, & 34, and Art. IX, § 29 of the Michigan Constitution.

The complaint goes on to state five explicit ways in which the Financial Martial Law Act violates the Michigan Constitution. Unlike most lawsuits I have read, this one is fairly easy to read and follow and is eminently interesting. It lays out its case in (mostly) plain language—methodically and compellingly.

This move is a part of a two-pronged approach, running in conjunction with Michigan Forward’s petition drive to get the repeal of the Financial Martial Law Act on the 2012 ballot.

When I asked the Executive Director of the Sugar Law Center, Tova Perlmutter, why her group had taken this step when Michigan Forward was already moving forward with its referendum, she replied, “In social change movements, all viable strategies have to be pursued in tandem, and they compliment and inform each other. So the hope is that the litigation will help to educate Michigan voters about the blatant unconstitutionality of the emergency manager law, which will then hopefully help the repeal effort.”

Additionally, I would suggest the two-pronged approach has two other important benefits. First, the referendum, if successful, will be over in six months or less. If they are successful, the law comes to an immediate halt. This is a far faster impact than a lawsuit is likely to have. On the other hand, a successful conclusion to the lawsuit will set a powerful precedent for the future, one sure to have a suitably chilling impact that will reduce the likelihood that such a huge overreach of governmental powers will ever happen again. The two approaches together help to ensure the eventual demise of the Financial Martial Law Act while helping to ensure that such a law doesn’t get passed again in the future.

If you are interested in learning more about Michigan Forward’s petition drive to put the Financial Martial Law Act on the 2012 ballot, you can attend an informational townhall this Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Ann Arbor Community Center at 625 N. Main Street. I will be speaking along with representatives from Michigan Forward and other groups. For more information, visit their Facebook page.

Many more details, analysis and choice excerpts from the very well-done lawsuit are HERE.