A few weeks ago, I wrote about how Governor Rick Snyder has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to intervene in a Sugar Law Center lawsuit on behalf of 28 Michigan citizens, challenging Public Act 4, the Emergency Manager Law. Snyder asked the Court to expedite the process and make an instant decision, avoiding the discovery process and fact-finding that takes place as suits wend their way through the lower courts. This week, the Sugar Law Center has filed a response challenging the governor’s request. Here is their press release detailing their response filing.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Contact: Tova Perlmutter, 313-993-4505
Response Filed Challenging Snyder Supreme Court Request
Sugar Law Center Says Fast-Tracking Emergency Manager Suit Short-Circuits Justice
LANSING, MI – Lawyers for 28 Michigan citizens challenging the state’s emergency manager law have filed a response with the Michigan Supreme Court opposing an extraordinary request by Governor Rick Snyder that the high court bypass normal procedures and immediately take up a legal challenge to the controversial law.
The Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, representing the citizen plaintiffs, told the justices in a brief filed Wednesday that short-circuiting the normal judicial process does not serve the public interest and would deny their clients necessary fact-finding that occurs in circuit court.
“The emergency manager law was passed hastily, without input from all stakeholders, and its substance reflects a mentality that values fast action over a fair process or effective policy that would help our cities to recover,” said Tova Perlmutter, Executive Director of the Sugar Law Center. “Unfortunately, the Governor’s request appears to reflect a similar attitude and a fundamental mistrust of the state’s established judicial system.”
Governor Snyder on August 12 asked the Supreme Court to order the case removed from Ingham County Circuit Court and make an “early determination” as to the constitutionality of Public Act 4, the emergency manager law. If the Supreme Court takes up the case directly, the “discovery” process that occurs in lower courts will be omitted, which limits attorneys’ ability to learn actions that have been taken by the state and emergency managers.
Public Act 4 does not require emergency managers to publish their decisions and actions or the costs they incur – information that is essential to the arguments brought by the plaintiffs. Fact-finding procedures in circuit court would require the parties to disclose all such information.
Snyder’s request, contained in an Executive Message to the high court, invokes a rarely used procedure under Michigan Court Rule 7.305(A). The rule allows the Supreme Court to take immediate control of cases where lack of resolution prevents the government from continuing important operations.
“It’s clear that the lawsuit is not interfering at all with the appointment of emergency managers or the operation of their offices,” said Perlmutter. “In the period since the suit was filed, emergency managers have not hesitated to impose decisions on communities including Benton Harbor, Pontiac, and the Detroit Public Schools.”
The citizens’ lawsuit says the emergency manager law violates the Michigan Constitution by:
- Suspending home rule, by giving emergency managers sole power to adopt and 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
“Democracy requires due deliberate speed,” said Perlmutter, “but not, contrary to the philosophy behind PA-4, haste at the expense of the people’s voice and the legal system itself.”
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.
As they say, you certainly can’t say that their lawsuit has done anything to stop the actions of Emergency Managers. Last week, a new one was assigned to Pontiac, a former staffer from the Mackinac Center on Public Policy, in fact. Since they’ve filed it, dozens of decisions have been made by EMs across the state. The argument that the state can’t function until a decision is made immediately is categorically absurd.