Emergency Manager Law — May 4, 2012 at 9:10 am

Proponents of Emergency Manager law repeal use rare legal move to force certification of petitions


I can haz democracy?

The legal team for the Stand Up For Democracy coalition seeking to put the repeal of Public Act 4 — Michigan’s anti-democratic Emergency Manager law — are using a rare legal move to force the Board of State Canvassers to certify nearly a quarter million petition signatures and put the repeal on the November ballot.

The Stand Up For Democracy coalition issued a statement yesterday (pdf) following a press conference explaining their move:

The Stand Up For Democracy coalition filed a writ of mandamus today with the Michigan State Court of Appeals, seeking to force the Secretary of State to place the repeal of the emergency manager law on the November ballot.

Last Thursday, the State Board of Canvassers failed to certify over 200,000 petition signatures that were collected in accordance with state elections law. The only basis offered for rejection of the petition was a claim that one font size in the petition was too small—a claim that was not only contested by expert witnesses, but also irrelevant to the requirement that petitions’ format be only “substantially as provided” by law. […]

The filing explained, “This is really what the instant case comes down to. Plaintiffs’ expert, through testimony and a Printer’s Affidavit verifies that the font is 14 point bold type. The Challenge states it believes it is still too small, though this claim was roundly dismantled by expert testimony at the hearing.”

News that the challenger’s Printer’s Affidavit may be perjury is no surprise. No experts testified in person at the hearing in support of claims that the font size on the petition was incorrect. The entire affair calls into question whether the challenger affidavits are little more than pieces of paper signed by “ghost” printers.

Use of a writ of mandamus dates back to 17th Century England and was first used in the United States in 1803 in Marburry v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137, a landmark case which formed the basis for the exercise of judicial review in the U.S.

[A writ of mandamus is a] writ or order that is issued from a court of superior jurisdiction that commands an inferior tribunal, corporation, Municipal Corporation, or individual to perform, or refrain from performing, a particular act, the performance or omission of which is required by law as an obligation.

In this case, the “court of superior jurisdiction” is the Michigan State Court of Appeals and the “inferior tribunal” is the Michigan Board of State Canvassers. The two Republicans who voted against the certification of the petitions clearly violated the rights of the petitioners by ignoring the testimony, evidence and Printer’s Affidavit proving that the font size was correct and followed the law.

There is a subtle point made by Stand Up For Democracy that I’ve pondered a great deal: if Norm Shinkle and Jeff Timmer, the two Republicans on the Board of State Canvassers that voted against certifying the petitions believe that the challenge by Michigan Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility are valid, this presumes that the printer, Bruce Hack of Inland Printing, perjured himself when he signed the Printer’s Affidavit — that he LIED.

Since there has been no such public accusation and no effort to arrest or otherwise punish Hack for this alleged perjury, we can only assume that they did not, in fact, believe he lied. The challenge was only subterfuge used to give Timmer and Shinkle an excuse to vote “no”.

It suggests, as I have said repeatedly, that this is simply a ruse to force repeal proponents to spend precious time and resources fighting a bogus challenge rather than working to convince Michigan voters to vote for the repeal of the odious Emergency Manager law. They also sought slow down the process enough that it might be possible to delay a court decision for so long that it would be too late to get the repeal on the November ballot.

I applaud Stand Up For Democracy‘s move and hope that our court system has enough credibility to rule fairly on this time-sensitive case.

For more information on the Stand Up For Democracy coalition, go to www.standup4democracy.com or call 1-866-306-5168 to volunteer.