An Open Letter to the Public from Stand Up for Democracy

Courtesy of Democracy Tree

An Open Letter to the Public from Stand Up for Democracy

 The following is a letter from the coalition for a referendum on the Emergency Manager Law, Stand Up for Democracy:

Dear Citizen,
On June 8, 2012 the Michigan State Court of Appeals ruled that the petitions calling for a vote to repeal the emergency manager “dictator” law must be placed on the ballot this November.
Unfortunately, the court also delayed implementing its own ruling. The three judges hearing our case, called for a vote of all the members of the appeals court to consider overturning the case law that allows our petition to go on the ballot.   The court has 28 days from the date of the order to vote.
As you can imagine, there is a lot of confusion about the decision. After all, the court ruled the issue should be on the ballot. At the same time they delayed their own order forcing the state to put it on the ballot.
What is clear is that even though we played by the rules they are changing the game. Thirty years of case law is clearly in our favor. Even so, it appears there is a coordinated effort by the right wing to keep PA 4 off the ballot. That effort now clearly appears to extend from the business community to the legislature and now to the courts. For example, Court of Appeals Judges Kurtis Wilder , one of the original judges who wrote the law that allows the issue to be place on the ballot now says he wants to change it and stop repeal effort from making it to the ballot. Shameful.
Here is what the Detroit Free Press Editorial Board had to say on the issue:
Editorial: Stall tactics bring shame on court
June 9, 2012 |
Delay is the time-honored refuge of lawyers who know they are holding a losing hand. But when ostensibly nonpartisan judges postpone justice for the sole purpose of advancing their own party’s political interests, their actions invite contempt for the entire judicial process.
That’s precisely what three Republican state Court of Appeals judges did Friday when they properly struck down a cynical challenge to the voter referendum on Michigan’s controversial emergency manager law, but then delayed the ruling’s implementation in a transparently political effort to frustrate the referendum campaign.
A group called Stand Up for Democracy collected more than 225,000 signatures for a citizens initiative that would overturn Public Act 4, which gives emergency managers appointed by the state vast new powers to administer distressed cities and school districts.
We’ve opposed efforts to repeal PA 4, but we’re satisfied that those seeking a referendum on the law have met the legal requirements to place the issue before voters. So we were troubled when two Republicans on the state Board of Canvassers refused to certify the measure on the specious grounds that the typeface in which the petitions were printed failed to meet the legal type size prescribed by Michigan law.
Like Michigan Elections Director Chris Thomas, we were unpersuaded by the claim of Citizens for Fiscal Responsibility that the typeface two typographers certified was compliant with the 14-point standard was actually fractions of a millimeter too short.
Even more persuasive was the Court of Appeals own 2002 ruling that “all doubts as to technical deficiencies or failure to comply with the exact letter of procedural requirements” should be ” resolved in favor of permitting people to vote and express their will on any proposal subject to election.
That’s the precedent Republican Court of Appeals Judges Kurtis Wilder, Kirsten Frank Kelly and Michael Riordan reluctantly cited to reach the inescapable conclusion that the Board of Canvassers was bound to place the financial manager law on the November ballot.
But instead of simply applying the law, all three judges expressed the wish that they could ignore the inconvenient precedent and invited a larger panel of Court of Appeals judges to overturn it.
So much for impartiality.
If those seeking to block the initiative think the law controlling the case is wrong, they should appeal to the state Supreme Court. The only point of creating an intermediate appellate hurdle is to frustrate the petitioners.
The full Court of Appeals should waste no time in ordering the state to enforce the will of 225,000 Michiganders who’ve clearly signaled their desire for an up-or-down vote on PA 4. Respect for the rule of law will brook no more stall tactics.
You can view the editorial online at http://www.freep.com/article/20120609/OPINION01/206090328/Editorial-Stall-tactics-bring-shame-on-court
We cannot recall another time in the history of Michigan has there been such an overt effort by the government to suppress the will of the people and deny citizens their right of access to the ballot.
We cannot continue to allow the blatant disregard for citizens’ right to redress stand.
As citizens we must continue to demand our right to vote on the issue. There is a 3 p.m. meeting today (6/13/12) with community activists at the AFSCME Building, 600 W. Lafayette in downtown Detroit to discuss next steps. We urge you to attend that meeting. We also ask you to contact your state government representatives and ask them to protect our rights as citizens to petition the government for redress. Stay tuned for more updates and community actions surrounding this issue.
Stand Up for Democracy

As an update to this story, the Appeals Judges declined (to avoid embarrassment) to take up the panel their companions asked for, so it looks like the public may actually get to decide after all.
I suppose they are already scrambling to devise a way to work around the public vote on this issue come November.

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