By Bankole Thompson
CHRONICLE SENIOR EDITOR
The Michigan Supreme Court acknowledged receiving mayoral challenger Tom Barrow’s request challenging his opponent Mike Duggan’s candidacy for mayor of Detroit.
But the state’s highest court hasn’t decided whether it wants to hear the case and has not scheduled anything on the docket for it.
A lower court ruled this week that Duggan be removed from the ballot for issues emanating from his residency forcing the Duggan campaign to seek reversal from the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Duggan, told the media Wednesday morning that his team of lawyers have appealed the decision of Wayne County Circuit Judge Lita Popke.
Fearing that the appeals court will grant a favorable ruling to the Duggan campaign, Barrow, countered by asking the Michigan Supreme Court to take jurisdiction of the case bypassing the appeals court.
“We had hoped that whoever won in the Circuit Court would just accept the verdict and move on,” Barrow said. “But the Duggan campaign chose to appeal, which is his right, but the legal dispute must end quickly to ensure Detroiters that their primary election will occur without any further delays.”
However, because the Michigan Supreme Court gave no answer to Barrow’s request, the Michigan Court of Appeals announced today that it will take the case on Monday June. 17 to hear arguments regarding Duggan’s qualification for the Aug. 6 primary ballot.
Duggan had earlier questioned how the judge Popke could issue a 22-page opinion without hearing the oral arguments of the case brought by Barrow and labor activist Robert Davis.
“I found it very unusual that someone would write a 22-page opinion without hearing the oral arguments,” Duggan said.
“The court finds that the Detroit City Charter’s provisions regarding the qualifications for elective office are clear and unambiguous. The candidate must have been a qualified and registered voter in the city of Detroit for one year before he filed for office,” Judge Popke said in her ruling.
“The stakes are so high that we get somebody elected mayor and I’m going to try my best to make that happen,” Duggan said. “This will be in the hands of the court of appeals and I’ll be out campaigning.”
The appeals court is expected to expedite the hearing and issue a ruling soon after Monday’s hearing because absentee ballots will be mailed out on June 22.
If Duggan is not on the ballot by then, he cannot run for mayor.
Alternatively, the appeals court could ask Detroit City Clerk Janice Winfrey to halt the printing of absentee ballots until it decides to issue a ruling in the case.
Davis, the activist who has initiated many legal fights against the state, insisted the latest ruling is according to law.
“It’s quite evident Mr. Duggan didn’t meet the requirements as set forth in the Detroit City Charter,” Davis said. “The people should send a very loud message for Mr. Duggan to go back to Livonia and run for mayor there. I presume Mr. Duggan will appeal. We’re prepared for an appeal. I am confident that her ruling will be upheld and the will of the people of Detroit will be upheld.”
However, Duggan cited Chicago mayor and former White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel who had similar issues and was reinstated on the ballot by a higher court. He also noted that former Detroit mayor Coleman Young was kicked off the ballot in 1973 because he couldn’t run as a sitting legislator. But he was reinstated and went on to win.
Barrow has maintained that Duggan’s residency as a technical flap disqualify him from the August ballot, calling Duggan’s campaign “another suburban transplant taking over the reigns of the city.”
Barrow responded to Duggan’s move to appeal saying, “Duggan is free to appeal to the state courts, the U.S. Supreme Court, the World Court at the Hague and even Capt. Kirk’s United Federation of Planets, the result will be the same because the decision is rooted in the case law and state statutes.”
In response, Duggan said Barrow is running a campaign of hate and divisiveness that does not reflect the views of the majority of Detroiters.