Washington — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit challenging the Michigan law that allows the state to appoint a powerful emergency manager during financial emergencies.
The Supreme Court declined Monday to hear the case on appeal.
Voters and elected officials from Detroit, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Flint and Redford were challenging a Michigan law that allows the state to appoint an emergency manager to temporarily assume local power to rescue municipalities and school districts under serious financial stress.
An emergency manager was in place in the years leading up to the lead-contaminated water crisis in Flint.
Those bringing the lawsuit said emergency managers have been appointed in a high number of areas with large African-American populations, but not in similar areas with majority white populations.
The lower appellate court rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments, saying there is no fundamental right to select local officials by popular vote and that the EM statute did not impair the plaintiffs’ right to vote.
Judge John M. Rogers, writing for a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, also rejected the plaintiffs’ argument for a higher standard of review based on the claim that the EM law discriminates on communities based on the wealth of the people who live in the jurisdiction.
The argument was “logically incorrect” because financial solvency and wealth are different concepts, noting that it’s possible for a locality with wealthy residents to become insolvent and subject to the EM law, said Rogers, an appointee of former President George W. Bush.
The lower court also said the EM law does not violate the plaintiffs’ right to free speech or association under the First Amendment, nor does it violate the 13th Amendment because there is “no sufficiently direct connection to race” in the EM law.
“The state’s remedy for financially endangered communities — passed by state-elected bodies for which African-Americans have a constitutionally protected equal right to vote, and facially entirely neutral with respect to race — are far removed from being a ‘badge’ of the extraordinary evil of slavery,” Rogers wrote.
The Associated Press contributed.
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