Detroit—The Michigan Civil Rights Commission (the Commission) today voted to submit an amicus brief in a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, Bellant v. Snyder, arguing that the application of Michigan’s Emergency Manager Law should be subject to judicial review under the federal Voting Rights Act.
In the brief, the Commission will argue that when a political change has the effect of disparately lessening the voting rights of a protected class, voters are entitled to judicial review to determine whether there is adequate legal justification for doing so.
“From our investigation into the Flint water crisis, we believe the lack of accountability from the Emergency Manager to the people and elected representatives of City of Flint is a shortcoming of the Emergency Manager law found in P.A. 436,” said Commission co-chair Laura Reyes Kopack. “Flint residents are entitled to judicial review of whether the appointment of an EM violated their rights under the Voting Rights Act.”
The Commission’s decision to file a brief in the case is directly related to their investigation into the Flint water crisis and is consistent with their recommendations in the final report on their findings, The Flint Water Crisis: Systemic Racism Through the Lens of Flint.
The Commission’s final report on their investigation includes a list of recommendations for action in the aftermath of the crisis, including a recommendation that the state replace or restructure Michigan’s emergency manager law.
In January of 2016, the Commission unanimously voted to hold a series of public hearings to determine if the civil rights of Flint residents had been abridged in the provision of the city’s public water supply. After a year-long investigation including three public hearings, site visits, meetings with local residents and testimony from more than 150 experts, government officials, faith and community leaders and Flint residents, the Commission found that discrimination and structural racism had played a role in the Flint water crisis.
The Michigan Civil Rights Commission was created by the Michigan Constitution to carry out constitutional and legal guarantees against discrimination. The Commission is charged with investigating alleged discrimination against any person because of religion, race, color or national origin, sex, age, marital status, height, weight, arrest record, and physical and mental disability.