Over two years ago, a federal judge swept aside multiple delay tactics by the administration of Gov. Rick Snyder and allowed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law to move forward. The wheels of justice turn slowly but they do, indeed, turn and today arguments were heard on the case, Phillips v. Snyder, before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. At question is whether the disparate impact of Public Act 436 on racial minorities makes it in violation of the U.S. Constitution. The plaintiffs argue that Public Act 436 discriminates on the basis of income and race, deprives thousands of Michigan citizens of their fundamental right to vote, freedom of speech and association, and violates the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The Sugar Law Center for Economic and Social Justice, the National Lawyers Guild/Michigan-Detroit Chapter, the ACLU, and the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), along with several Michigan civil rights lawyers filed the complaint and arguments were heard this morning. The case will now be decided by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and, if successful, the case will return to a lower court for a trial.
“If our federal laws and Constitution are to have any meaning at all, then this law must be overturned,” said Julie Schwarz of the Detroit-based civil rights firm, Goodman-Hurwitz, P.C., co-counsel for the plaintiffs in a statement to the press. “There is no place in a democracy for the unilateral appointment of dictators in any of community, especially not those that have historically been most disenfranchised.”
“While election season grips the country, democracy has been effectively cancelled for certain communities,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney Darius Charney. “The right to vote is meaningless if elected officials can be summarily replaced with unelected and unaccountable individuals. This is the situation for low-income communities of color throughout Michigan.”
Here’s hoping that the Court of Appeals stops this undemocratic law in its tracks before it spreads like cancer to other Republican-controlled states.