89.1 WEMU

Nonprofit Group Stands Up Against Michigan's Emergency Manager Law

Mar 31, 2016

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A group challenging Michigan’s emergency manager law is asking a federal appeals court in Cincinnati to order a trial in the case.  


The group wants the Sixth Circuit US Court of Appeals to reverse a Detroit federal judge’s order tossing most of a lawsuit challenging the 2012 law.  The law allowed the state to take over local governments that run into financial trouble and name emergency managers with sweeping authority to run them.  “This appeal seeks to restore to the constitutional rights of all residents in Michigan who have lost their voting rights and/or had their 1st Amendment rights infringed by Michigan’s novel experiment in local governance,” says the brief filed last week.

Attorney John Philo of the not-for-profit Sugar Law Center says the emergency manager law raised new issues that courts have never decided.  He wants to know whether it’s legal for the state to transfer power from local elected officials to a political appointee.  “That hasn’t been seen before,” he said.  “It’s a novel issue for the court.  It’s important, we believe, for the courts to finally say, look, if a person has the legislative power to make laws, they have to be elected.” 

The challenge also says the emergency manager law discriminates against people in poor communities that are most likely to face a state takeover.  It also says the law violates voting rights.  

The challengers’ brief was filed with the court last week.  The next step is for the state to file its response before the appeals court decides whether to hear oral arguments on the case. 

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— Rick Pluta is the Managing Editor and Reporter for the Michigan Public Radio network.  Contact WEMU News at 734.487.3363 or email us at studio@wemu.org