Federal lawsuit challenging EM law is filed

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Standing on the steps of Detroit’s federal courthouse, the Rev. Al Sharpton on Thursday announced that, in addition to the filing of a complaint challenging the constitutionality of Michigan’s new emergency manager law, the measure will also be vigorously opposed in the streets.

Sharpton, head of the National Action Network civil rights group, pledged that thousands of protestors from around the country will soon come to Detroit to stage a mass march and to participate in nonviolent civil disobedience actions.

“This is a local issue, but it is a national struggle,”  said Sharpton, who led a procession of about 100 people down W. Lafayette Street to the Theodore Levin U.S. Courthouse, where the lawsuit was filed late Wednesday.

“If you can get away with it in Detroit,” he added about the controversial law that took effect Thursday, “then it can happen all across the United States.”

The federal compliant was filed on behalf of specific Detroit municipal union officials, school board members and clergy, as well as various elected officials from the cities of Pontiac, Flint and Benton Harbor — which are also under the rule of emergency managers. Gov. Rick Snyder and state Treasurer Andy Dillion are named as defendants.

“Through its provisions, Public Act 436 establishes a new form of local government, previously unknown within the United States or the State of Michigan, where the people within local municipalities may be governed by an unelected official who establishes local law by decree,” the suit alleges.

The law, passed during a lame-duck session of the Legislature in December, allegedly violates protections guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution including due process, equal protection, collective bargaining rights and voting rights.

Among other things, it is alleged that, as a result of the way the law has been implemented, African-Americans are disproportionately targeted. Of the 10 cities no under either an emergency manager or a consent agreement, eight has African-American populations above 50 percent. In addition, 52 percent of the state’s African-American population is “now under the governance of an emergency manager or consent decree.

Organizations involved in the suit include Michigan AFSCME Council 25, Sharpton’s National Action Network, the Rev. Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow PUSH Coalition, the Detroit Council of Baptist Pastors, and the law firms Miller Cohen PLC and Bertram L. Marks’ Litigation Associates PLLC. Also involved are three nonprofit legal organizations: the Sugar Law Center for Social and Economic Justice; Detroit and Michigan Lawyers Guild; and New York’s Center for Constitutional Rights.

The complaint seeks a declaration that the law is unconstitutional, and an injunction preventing emergency managers from exercising any of the sweeping powers conveyed to them under PA 436.


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