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Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution v. Secretary Of State

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Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution v. Secretary Of State was a lawsuit filed July 19, 2008, by John Pirich and Peter Ellsworth against Terri Lynn Land in Land's official capacity as Michigan Secretary of State. Pirich and Ellsworth acted on behalf of Citizens Protecting Michigan's Constitution, which was sponsored by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. The suit was filed in the Michigan Court of Appeals.[1][2] The lawsuit sought a court order to prevent Land from certifying the Michigan Legislative and Judicial Restructuring Initiative (2008) for a spot on the November 4, 2008 ballot.

The plaintiffs argued the Reform Michigan Government Now proposal should be barred from the ballot because the initiative attempts to modify too many provisions on the Michigan Constitution simultaneously, not allowing voters to consider each change on its own merits. Plaintiffs argue that the measure's 28 constitutional changes can't be posed to voters in a single ballot question and that such a large rewrite should only be handled by a statewide constitutional convention.[3][4]

Ellsworth said the amendment makes, "literally dozens of changes to the constitution by putting all of them under one umbrella and presenting them to the voters as one amendment."[5] Pirich has, in past years, filed other challenges to Michigan initiatives.[6]

Details and rulings

The Michigan Court of Appeals rejected Aug. 13, 2008, a motion to disqualify judges from deciding the legal challenge to this ballot measure, which would cut judges’ pay and eliminate some of their jobs.[7] Proponents of the proposed amendment argued that seven of the appeals court judges should be disqualified from the case because of conflict of interest. Opponents, led by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, accused Reform Michigan Government Now of shopping for judges.[7]

A three-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals cited the "rule of necessity" in rejecting the recusal motion. The U.S. Supreme Court, for instance, has decided a case challenging the constitutionality of legislation that repealed salary increases for federal judges.[7] Judges Bill Schuette, William Whitbeck, and Patrick Meter dismissed attempts to distinguish between judges who would lose pay and those who also would be cut from the bench. Whitbeck is one of judges who would lose his job if the measure is approved. Whitbeck said that his economic interest in the case is minimal, as he could earn more in private practice.[7][8]

The three-judge panel ruled unanimously on August 20, 2008, that the proposed ballot measure was an illegal attempt to enact a general revision of the state constitution, something that must be done by calling a constitutional convention. The panel called the number and scope of the proposed changes "overarching" and unprecedented.[9][10] The court ordered a state elections panel scheduled to meet Aug. 21st to deny certification for petition signatures submitted by RMGN.[9]

RMGN spokeswoman Dianne Byrum called the decision a "travesty of justice" by "judges (who) have shown they will do anything to protect the status quo and their perks." The decision will be appealed, she said.[9] Reform Michigan Government Now asked the state Supreme Court on Aug. 22, 2008, to hold an emergency hearing on the proposal to allow county elections officials time to put the measure on their ballots.[11] The group's challenge argues that seven of the Appeals Court judges should be disqualified from the case because they could lose their judgeships if the measure passes in November.[11] The state Supreme Court heard arguments Sept. 3, 2008.[12] In a 6-1 decision on Sept. 8, 2008, Michigan's Supreme Court said it wasn't possible to communicate in a 100-word summary what the 19,000-word ballot proposal would do. Justice Marilyn Kelly dissented.[13][14] RMGN spokeperson Dianne Byrum called the decision "judicial activism at its worst."[13]

External links

References