Emergency Manager Dispute Heads to Mich. High Court

If the state Supreme Court allows voters to decide whether to repeal the controversial law, it would have an immediate effect on emergency managers in several towns and possibly the city-state consent agreement in Detroit.
by | July 12, 2012
Lou Schimmel, the emergency manager for Pontiac, Mich., meets with his staff to discuss topics such as how the city will sell its property and reduce its electric bill. (Photo: David Kidd)

By Dawson Bell, Detroit Free Press

The dispute over a proposed repeal of Michigan's beefed-up emergency manager law will go before the state Supreme Court on July 25 to settle a pair of questions:

-- Did the group Stand Up For Democracy, which collected 203,000 signatures to put the issue before voters in November, use the wrong font size in the heading of its petition?

-- Does it matter?

The state's high court agreed Wednesday to hear the case, which has been in legal limbo since a state elections panel rejected the petitions in April in a split decision that hinged on the same questions.

Most recently, Stand Up For Democracy won a round when the state Court of Appeals let stand a ruling that would require the Board of State Canvassers to certify a referendum on the law for the Nov. 6 election.

Certification also would automatically trigger suspension of the law, affecting emergency managers in Flint, Pontiac, Ecorse and Benton Harbor and possibly the city-state consent agreement in Detroit.

Why is the emergency manager law so controversial?

Stand Up is a Detroit-based group backed by labor unions that opposes the law and has lately sought to accelerate certification. The challenge to the font size was brought by a group calling itself Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility, headed by a lawyer who was the longtime legal counsel for the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

In its order Wednesday, a unanimous Supreme Court agreed to hear the case and address whether Stand Up "actually complied with the 14-point type requirement" in the law, and "if not, whether substantial compliance ... is sufficient."

Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. and Stephen Markman concurred in the order but said they would like the questions examined in greater detail.

Specifically, the justices asked lawyers in the case to address contradictory claims that arose during the canvassers meeting over how type size should be measured, and whether the standards of measurement changed between the time the law was written (1954; amended in 1965) and the advent of computerized typesetting.

If the referendum is to be held, state Bureau of Elections officials have said they need to know by Aug. 27 in order to prepare ballot language for the proposal in time to meet printing deadlines.

(c)2012 the Detroit Free Press

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. You can enter an anonymous Display Name or connect to a social profile.

More from Finance