Plaintiffs’ complaint was amended to exclude Detroit
Judge Steeh: “. . .a law directed at temporarily reorganizing local government for the purpose of addressing a serious fiscal concern cannot be characterized as a vestige of slavery.”
Plaintiffs’ attorney Philo: “. . . this case has never been just about Detroit, it’s about the law as it’s applied throughout the state. Not about any particular emergency manager or city.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “. . .you begin to question the capitalistic economy. You begin to ask the question, ‘Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that’s two-thirds water?’
By Diane Bukowski
November 20, 2014
“There are forty million poor people here, and one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising a question about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. . . .And you see, my friends, when you deal with this you begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the oil?’ You begin to ask the question, ‘Who owns the iron ore?’ You begin to ask the question, ‘Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that’s two-thirds water?’ These are words that must be said.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “Where do we go from here? Chaos or community?” 1967
“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” Shakespeare: Henry The Sixth, Part 2 Act 4, scene 2, 71–78
DETROIT – U.S. District Court Judge George Caram Steeh on Nov. 19 at long last issued a ruling keeping alive a lawsuit against Public Act 436, brought by civil rights groups, public officials, and residents of Michigan cities under emergency managers, but later voluntarily amended to exclude the City of Detroit. (See ruling at Steeh rulgin EM lawsuit 11 19.)
Steeh had promised to render a written opinion shortly after oral arguments on April 29. But he clearly waited until after U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Steven Rhodes affirmed Detroit’s bankruptcy plan Nov 7. Now that severe and possibly irreparable damage has been done to the people of the largest Black-majority city in the country, Steeh has decided it’s OK to rule.
Steeh dismissed eight of nine claims at the request of the State of Michigan. He upheld only a claim based on the Equal Protection clause of the 14th Amendment, which cited the discriminatory use of Emergency Managers in Michigan’s majority-Black cities.
“The First Amended Complaint states that 52% of Michigan’s African American population resides in cities with an EM, a consent agreement, or a transition advisory board,” Steeh said. “At the same time, only about 2% of Michigan’s white citizens live in communities governed by an EM. . . Fiscal indicator scores between 5 and 7 place a municipality on a fiscal watch list while scores between 8 and 10 result in the community receiving consideration for review. However, six out of seven communities (85%) with a majority population of racial and ethnic minorities received EM’s when they had scores of 7. At the same time, none of the 12 communities (0%) with a majority white population received on EM despite having scores of 7 or higher.”
During the April 29 hearing, Attorney Herbert Sanders passionately argued that PA 436 also violated the 13th Amendment, one of eight claims that Steeh denied. (Original lawsuit at PA 436 Phillips 2 6 13.)
“The stigma of PA 436 is that African Americans are incapable of self-government,” Sanders said. “I submit the denial of the right to vote through the exercise and implementation of PA 436 is to impose the badge and incidents of slavery.”
But Steeh opined, “. . . plaintiffs have not lost their right to vote. Not only is there no restraint on plaintiffs’ ability to vote in local elections, the power of the entire political process is open to them. . . . They can initiate new legislation through the petition process, or use the referendum procedure to reject PA 436, as was successfully done on . . . PA 4. With every device in the political arsenal remaining available to plaintiffs, a law directed at temporarily reorganizing local government for the purpose of addressing a serious fiscal concern cannot be characterized as a vestige of slavery.”
Steeh wrongly stated several times that Michigan residents could reject PA 436 through a referendum. However, state statutes proclaim that the general electorate cannot rescind statutes with financial provisions in them. Such a provision was deliberately written into PA 436 to nullify the people’s right to vote on the act.
Most mainstream media coverage has echoed Crain’s Detroit’s take on the matter.
“U.S. District Judge George Steeh in a ruling today echoed U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes’ prior statement that the lawsuit against Public Act 436 of 2012 would not necessarily invalidate Detroit’s bankruptcy or debt shedding plans, and called that assertion from state officials ‘speculative at best.’ He also notes that the lawsuit claims are not directly related to Detroit.”
John Philo, another attorney for the plaintiffs, agreed that the case is not about Detroit.
“There are a hundred variables that come into play before that stage, and that (rescinding Orr’s appointment) is not our endgame,” he told Crain’s. “Because this case has never been just about Detroit, it’s about the law as it’s applied throughout the state. Not about any particular emergency manager or city.”
U.S. President Barack Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder evidently agreed earlier, refusing to open a Voting Rights Act investigation of PA 436’s predecessor PA 4, and then sending federal witnesses to the bankruptcy trial who testified on behalf of Detroit EM Kevyn Orr. Obama staff earlier met with Detroit Emperor Dan Gilbert and his evident ally Dennis Archer to map out plans for “The Detroit District.”
Steeh continues throughout his ruling to describe PA 436 as simply “a law directed at temporarily reorganizing local government for the purpose of addressing a serious fiscal concern.”
Such a simplistic description of the Act belies the truth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.s’ statement challenging the system of capitalism.
The entire administration of Gov. Rick Snyder, in collusion with the Democratic administrations of two Detroit mayors and numerous Detroit legislators, have been acting at the behest of the banks and corporations represented by the law firm of Jones Day and others. They want to make an example of Detroit, boasting that they have now stripped the country’s largest Black-majority city of nearly all its assets, and of any economic self-determination whatsoever.
The capitalist system is foundering world-wide, and it is rushing to steal everything it can from the poorest and most oppressed segments of society, before moving on to the upper echelons. The future will show the level of resistance it encounters.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to Harry Belafonte: “We have fought hard and long for integration, as I believe we should have, and I know that we will win. But I’ve come to believe we’re integrating into a burning house. I’m afraid that America may be losing what moral vision she may have had. And I’m afraid that even as we integrate, we are walking into a place that does not understand that this nation needs to be deeply concerned with the plight of the poor and disenfranchised. Until we commit ourselves to ensuring that the underclass is given justice and opportunity, we will continue to perpetuate the anger and violence that tears at the soul of this nation.”