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Brown, et al. v. Snyder, et al.

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Synopsis

Brown v. Snyder was rendered moot after the people of Michigan, in a November 6, 2012 voter referendum, repealed Public Act 4.  Please read about our direct follow-up case Phillips v. Snyder.

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On June 22, 2011 CCR, The Sugar Law Center for Economic & Social Justice, Goodman & Hurwitz, The Sanders Law Firm, and Miller Cohen PLC filed a case on behalf of 28 Michigan residents challenging the March 2011 Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act as unconstitutional under numerous articles of the Michigan State Constitution.

On August  12, 2011, the State formally requested that the Michigan Supreme Court hear the case now, without letting the trial court rule. On September 14, 2011, the Plaintiffs filed their opposition to the State’s request, arguing that the parties should first be allowed to conduct discovery and develop the factual record in the case before the State Supreme Court rules and that the trial court is in the best position to supervise that discovery process. A ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court on whether to hear the case right away is expected in September 2011.

On September 14, 2011, Plaintiffs also filed an amended complaint, which challenges both the facial language and now the application of the Emergency Manager law.

Status

Brown v. Snyder was rendered moot after the people of Michigan, in a November 6, 2012 voter referendum, repealed Public Act 4.  Please read about our direct follow-up case Phillips v. Snyder.

Description

On March 16, 2011, the Republican Governor Richard Snyder signed into law Public Act No. 4, the Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act, also known as the “emergency financial manager law.” Under this law, the Governor has the power to unilaterally (1) declare a local government or school district to be in a state of “financial emergency”, (2) determine if that local government or school district has a “satisfactory” plan to resolve the emergency, and, if he determines that no satisfactory plan exists, (3) appoint an emergency financial manager to act for, and in place of the, the local governing body (i.e., mayor, school superintendent, city council, school board).

Once appointed, an emergency financial manager, who is an unelected state executive branch official, is given unchecked power and authority over virtually all operations of local government, financial and otherwise.  Under the new law, the emergency manager can unilaterally: (1) repeal existing local laws and ordinances, (2) enact new local laws or ordinances, and (3) act in violation of City charters.  Meanwhile, the law itself provides no standards to guide an emergency financial manager’s exercise of these broad powers, and the law also requires that any city or school district taken over by a state emergency financial manager pay all costs associated with the manager’s work, including the salaries of the manager and his or her staff.

Thus far, emergency financial managers have been appointed over the cities of Benton Harbor, Ecorse, and Pontiac and over the Detroit Public Schools, all of which are among the most economically devastated areas in the state (if not the nation), and three of which (the Detroit School District and the cities of Pontiac and Benton Harbor) are majority Black.

Timeline

February 2011 - Local Government and School District Fiscal Accountability Act is introduced to the Michigan legislature

March 2011 - Governor Richard Snyder signs the Act into Law

June 2011 - Complaint filed in Circuit Court for the County of Ingham, State of Michigan

August  12, 2011 - the State formally requested that the Michigan Supreme Court hear the case now, without letting the trial court rule. On September 14, 2011, the Plaintiffs filed their opposition to the State’s request, arguing that the parties should first be allowed to conduct discovery and develop the factual record in the case before the State Supreme Court rules and that the trial court is in the best position to supervise that discovery process. A ruling from the Michigan Supreme Court on whether to hear the case right away is expected in September 2011.

September 14, 2011 - Plaintiffs filed an amended complaint, which challenges both the facial language and now the application of the Emergency Manager law.