ACLU re-files lawsuit to block right-to-work legislation

By Steve Thorpe Legal News The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan was joined on Thursday by labor unions, legislators and a journalist in re-filing a Dec. 6 suit that says the State of Michigan denied the public the right to participate in the legislative process while "Right to Work" legislation was being considered. The suit claims that a lockout at the Capitol "prevented citizens from exercising their First Amendment right to petition the government and their right under the Michigan Constitution to instruct their representatives." "Rushing controversial bills through a lame duck session is a bad way to make public policy under the best of circumstances; doing so on such important issues while the public is shut out of the debate every step of the way is illegal and shameful," said Kary Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director, in a statement. "We have a sacred right to peacefully assemble and petition our government. When there is dissent and emotions are running high, our elected leaders should encourage more open debate, not close the doors to concerned voters." On Friday, the Michigan Education Association, United Auto Workers, Michigan AFL-CIO, Michigan Building & Construction Trades Council, and the law firms of White, Schneider, Young & Chiodini; Sachs Waldman; and Pitt McGehee Palmer Rivers & Golden filed an amended complaint seeking to invalidate the "Right to Work" law. A Lansing journalist and Michigan Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Brandon Dillon also joined the suit. The case is currently before Ingham County Judge William E. Collette. The lawsuit is being brought under the Open Meetings Act, which provides that the laws and acts of a public body may be invalidated by a court when official meetings, deliberations, or votes are held in a place that was not open and accessible to the public. Democrat Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit's 6th District was eager to participate in the legal action. "The suit promotes transparency," she says. "I was sitting in the chamber that day and didn't have any access to my constituents who were outside the building. When I looked up in the gallery expecting to see residents of my district, instead I saw Republican staff members." Tlaib believes that the actions of the lame duck lawmakers also clearly ran afoul of state's rules under the Open Meetings Act. "(The deliberations) also violated the Open Meetings Act because the public notice was completely inadequate," she says. "There wasn't a committee hearing and the bill didn't go through the regular process." Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, believes the suit will fail to change the outcome of December's legal maneuvers. "In December, several of these groups asked for a temporary restraining order to have the Capitol opened during debate," Yearout says. "A judge granted that, however, the next day the chief judge reversed that ruling and declared that there was no violation of the Open Meetings Act." And Yearout believes that ruling will stand the latest challenge and the Right to Work law will be unaffected. "These same arguments were dismissed once before. We expect the law to stand," she said. The complaint can be viewed at www.aclumich. org/sites/ default/files/file/RTWcomplaint.pdf. Published: Mon, Feb 11, 2013

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