In 2012, Michigan passed a law that allowed the governor to appoint emergency managers in municipalities, depriving local elected officials of governing power. The communities that were divested of governing power as a result of the implementation of this law were those with large populations of people of color. In total, more than 50 percent of black Michigan residents were placed under emergency manager rule while only about 2 percent of white Michigan residents lived in jurisdictions where emergency managers were granted decision-making authority. Flint, Michigan was one of the municipalities placed under emergency manager rule. In Flint, the emergency manager’s decision to change the source of water for the city resulted in the Flint Water Crisis. And, even after evidence arose surrounding the serious harms the water source was causing to the health of Flint residents and the city council voted to switch water sources, the emergency manager unilaterally overruled that vote.
Michigan residents and local officials brought action challenging the legality of Michigan's emergency manager law under both the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act (“VRA”). The District Court dismissed Plaintiffs' VRA claim, and the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld this decision. The Plaintiffs asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit's decision to consider whether Michigan's emergency manager law was subject to scrutiny under Section 2 of the VRA. Demos, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, and Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP, filed an amicus brief supporting the request made by the Plaintiffs in Bellant.
The Supreme Court denied the Bellant Plaintiffs' request to review their case. A Fourteenth Amendment challenge to the emergency manager law is still being considered in the lower courts.
Demos, LatinoJustice PRLDEF
Co-counsel on the amicus brief
LatinoJustice PRLDEF, Debevoise & Plimpton, LLP