Federal judge refuses injunction in Warren ballot dispute

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News
Legal gavel

A federal judge refused Friday to issue an injunction against a state Supreme Court action that removed four Warren City Council members from the August primary ballot.

The four — Robert Boccomino, Cecil St. Pierre, Scott Stevens, and Steven Warner — were all term-limited, having served 12 years as defined by the city’s charter, the Supreme Court ruled this month. The decision reversed a ruling by the Michigan Court of Appeals that would have permitted the four to run in the Aug. 6 election.

The federal lawsuit was filed by four city residents who supported the incumbents' re-election efforts. Their attorney, Mike Cox, said his clients were "disappointed."

“We think these four people and others have a right to have their voices heard and have been denied that right," he said. "We will look at the ruling over the weekend and make a decision on whether or not we want to appeal it.”

U.S. District Judge Marianne O. Battani said the four residents had failed to make sufficient legal arguments to restore the four incumbents to the ballot.

“We’re extremely pleased by the judge’s decision,” said Jim Kelly, attorney for Connor Berdy, a Warren City Council candidate who filed to intervene in the federal complaint.

Berdy sued in Macomb Circuit Court earlier in the year seeking to have the four names taken off the ballot.

“The Supreme Court has spoken and the federal court has spoken and its time to respect the courts’ decision to follow the law," Kelly said.

The four residents — Clifford Frost, Sallie Hock, Jason McClanahan and Darrell Vickers — claimed election officials failed to follow established practice involving the eligibility of people who filed to run for office and had violated their constitutional voting rights by denying them the ability to choose candidates who represented their political point of view.

Battani disagreed in her 25-page opinion.

“Plaintiffs surely cannot contend that this posited right supplants the authority of state and local election officials to determine the eligibility of candidates. As plaintiffs concede, they and this court must accept the Michigan Supreme Court’s ruling, as a matter of state and local law, that the term limits set forth in the Warren City Charter apply across-the-board to all City Council positions, whether district or at-large,” Battani wrote.

 “… They have not been altogether deprived of their right to vote or their access to the ballot, but instead have suffered a diminution in the likelihood that their votes will result in the election of a candidate who shares their political views,” Battani wrote.


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