Opponents of Michigan’s emergency manager filed a lawsuit Thursday charging that Public Act 436 is a violation the federal Voting Rights Act. The suit coincides with the first official day the law goes into effect, with bankruptcy lawyer Kevyn Orr serving as emergency manager of Detroit. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who declared the city a state of emergency and selected Orr earlier this month, is named as one of the defendants, along with state Treasurer Andy Dillon.
Civil rights leaders Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton are among those backing the lawsuit, believing that the emergency manager law overrides the democratic process. As the emergency manager Orr will be able to overturn union contracts and force pay cuts for city officials. Voters struck down a similar law in a referendum last November, but the state legislature wasted no time pushing PA 436 through Snyder’s office in December.
Last week, the governor released a statement saying that the lawsuit would impede the progress of Detroit’s recovery. But speaking to an audience at the Detroit Athletic Club, he appeared confident that the state would prevail.
“That’s just part of democracy and the process,” Snyder said, according to The Associated Press. “When you have actions like this, people are going to file lawsuits. But our track record is very strong in winning those lawsuits.”
“We’ll go through the normal legal process. When they file lawsuits, I leave it to legal counsel and the attorney general’s office to take them,” he added.
While the case works its way through Detroit’s District Court, Orr will continue his duties as emergency manager. Protesters forced a brief closure at Detroit City Hall, as security prevented their march to Orr’s office. Dissenters feel that Orr’s power exceeds those of the city’s elected officials, making his appointment unconstitutional.
“This is an issue that has national ramifications,” Sharpton said while announcing the lawsuit Thursday. “If they get away with it here in Michigan, it can be a model across the country that you can suspend elections.”