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Council of Organizations and Others for Education About Parochiaid v. State

Court of Appeals of Michigan

September 21, 2017

COUNCIL OF ORGANIZATIONS AND OTHERS FOR EDUCATION ABOUT PAROCHIAID, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF MICHIGAN, MICHIGAN PARENTS FOR SCHOOLS, 482FORWARD, MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL BOARDS, MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS, MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS, MICHIGAN SCHOOL BUSINESS OFFICIALS, MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF SECONDARY SCHOOL PRINCIPALS, MIDDLE CITIES EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, MICHIGAN ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCIPALS ASSOCIATION, KALAMAZOO PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and KALAMAZOO PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
STATE OF MICHIGAN, GOVERNOR, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, and SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, Defendants, and IMMACULATE HEART OF MARY, SENATOR PHIL PAVLOV, SENATOR PATRICK COLBECK, REPRESENTATIVE TIM KELLY, REPRESENTATIVE KIM LASATA, STEPHEN SANFORD, JENNIFER SANFORD, NATHANIEL CHOL, ROCHIEL ATEM, ANDREW LAUPPE, CARRIE LAUPPE, STEPHEN SWEETLAND, and BERNADINE SWEETLAND, Appellants. COUNCIL OF ORGANIZATIONS AND OTHERS FOR EDUCATION ABOUT PAROCHIAID, AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION OF MICHIGAN, MICHIGAN PARENTS FOR SCHOOLS, 482FORWARD, MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL BOARDS, MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS, MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL ADMINISTRATORS, MICHIGAN SCHOOL BUSINESS OFFICIALS, MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF SECONDARY SCHOOL PRINCIPALS, MIDDLE CITIES EDUCATION ASSOCIATION, MICHIGAN ELEMENTARY AND MIDDLE SCHOOL PRINCIPALS ASSOCIATION, KALAMAZOO PUBLIC SCHOOLS, and KALAMAZOO PUBLIC SCHOOLS BOARD OF EDUCATION, Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
STATE OF MICHIGAN, GOVERNOR, DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, and SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION, Defendants, and MICHIGAN CATHOLIC CONFERENCE and MICHIGAN ASSOCIATION OF NON-PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Appellants.

         Court of Claims LC No. 17-000068-MB

          Before: Hoekstra, P.J., and Meter and K. F. Kelly, JJ.

          METER, J.

         In Docket No. 338258, Immaculate Heart of Mary, Senator Phil Pavlov, Senator Patrick Colbeck, Representative Tim Kelly, Representative Kim Lasata, Stephen Sanford, Jennifer Sanford, Nathaniel Chol, Rochiel Atem, Andrew Lauppe, Carrie Lauppe, Stephen Sweetland, and Bernadine Sweetland (collectively, Immaculate Heart et al) filed a motion to intervene as defendants in a lawsuit filed by plaintiffs. In Docket No. 338259, the Michigan Catholic Conference (MCC) and Michigan Association of Non-Public Schools (MANS) filed a motion to intervene as defendants in the same lawsuit filed by plaintiffs. Plaintiffs' complaint named the State of Michigan, the Governor, the Department of Education, and the Superintendent of Public Instruction as defendants. The Court of Claims denied the motions to intervene. Thereafter, Immaculate Heart et al and the MCC and MANS filed applications for leave to appeal, and this Court granted the applications and consolidated the appeals. Council of Organizations & Others for Ed About Parochiaid v Michigan, unpublished order of the Court of Appeals, entered May 11, 2017 (Docket No. 338258); Council of Organizations & Others for Ed About Parochiaid v Michigan, unpublished order of the Court of Appeals, entered May 11, 2017 (Docket No. 338259). Thus, Immaculate Heart et al and the MCC and MANS now appeal by leave granted. We conclude that the Court of Claims lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over claims against Immaculate Heart et al and the MCC and MANS and thus we affirm the decision of the Court of Claims to deny the motions to intervene.

         Plaintiffs filed their complaint on March 21, 2017. The complaint asserted that although Const 1963, art 8, § 2, ¶ 2, prohibits public funds from being used to aid private, denominational, or other nonpublic schools, § 152b of 2016 PA 249, which was signed into law on June 27, 2016, appropriated $2, 500, 000 to reimburse nonpublic schools for the cost of compliance with various statutes and regulations. The complaint further asserted that although Const 1963, art 4, § 30, requires approval from two-thirds of both the Senate and House of Representatives in order to appropriate public money for private purposes, 2016 PA 249 did not pass through the Senate by a two-thirds vote. The complaint sought a declaration that the appropriation of funds under § 152b was unconstitutional under Const 1963, art 8, § 2, ¶ 2, and Const 1963, art 4, § 30; a writ of mandamus prohibiting the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Michigan Department of Education from disbursing funds under § 152b; and injunctive relief preventing public funds from going to nonpublic schools.

         On March 28, 2017, the MCC and MANS filed a motion to intervene as parties in interest under MCR 2.209. The MCC and MANS indicated that, as organizations, they have fought to protect the rights of students enrolled in Michigan's nonpublic schools. In part, the MCC and MANS asserted that § 152b properly permits nonpublic schools to seek reimbursement for compliance with various state-mandated health, safety, and welfare requirements. The MCC and MANS argued that they had the right to intervene because they filed a timely application, that they had an interest in the subject of the action that would be affected by the outcome of the action, and that their interests may not be adequately represented by the named parties. The MCC and MANS explained that they and their members would incur loss if § 152b were found unconstitutional, that they would provide a unique perspective to the case because they had firsthand knowledge of how funds are used and of school operations, and that "no party currently involved in this litigation stands to lose in the way that Intervenors' members and students do." In the alternative, the MCC and MANS argued that they should be allowed to intervene on a permissive basis because they filed a timely application, their defense involved a common question of law with the proceeding, and their participation would not cause prejudice or delay.

         In April 2017, Immaculate Heart et al filed a motion to intervene as parties in interest under MCR 2.209.[1] Immaculate Heart et al attached a proposed answer to their motion, and the proposed answer asserted that Const 1963, art 8, § 2, ¶ 2, was added by Proposal C, the adoption of which was "the direct result of a smear campaign against the Catholic Church and Catholic schools, orchestrated by the Council Against Parochiaid and its allies." The proposed answer further asserted that § 152b of 2016 PA 249 was valid because Const 1963, art 8, § 2, ¶ 2, was unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

         Immaculate Heart et al filed a brief in support of their motion and argued that they could intervene as of right because their application was timely, they had an interest in the action, and the named parties would not adequately represent their interests. Immaculate Heart et al further argued that the state defendants could not take the legal position that Const 1963, art 8, § 2, ¶ 2, was unconstitutional. In the alternative, Immaculate Heart et al argued that they should be allowed to intervene on a permissive basis because they filed a timely application, their defense involved a common question of law with the proceeding, and their participation would not cause prejudice or delay

         On April 11, 2017, the MCC and MANS filed a proposed answer, which asserted their position outlined in their motion to intervene. The proposed answer also alleged that plaintiffs failed to state a claim, that some or all plaintiffs lacked standing, and that Const 1963, art 8, § 2, ¶ 2, was unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the United States Constitution if interpreted in the way plaintiffs asserted.

         On May 2, 2017, the trial court issued an opinion and order denying both motions to intervene. The trial court concluded that the MCC and MANS established a basis to intervene under MCR 2.209; however, the trial court noted that it must deny the motion to intervene if it lacked jurisdiction to decide the proposed intervenors' rights. The trial court explained that it lacked jurisdiction over non-state actors as defendants under MCL 600.6419(1)(a) and held that it must deny the motions to intervene. As part of its jurisdictional discussion, the trial court noted that, if not for the jurisdictional issue, "the motion to intervene as defendants by Immaculate Heart of Mary et. al. would be redundant and their proposed interest would be adequately represented by MCC and MANS." The trial court further noted that, "to the extent the state legislators could be considered to have sought intervention in their roles as state legislators, the [c]ourt would be disinclined to find that their interests were not already adequately represented by the named state Defendants and the Attorney General."

         Immaculate Heart et al now appeal by leave granted in Docket No. 338258, and the MCC and MANS now appeal by leave granted in Docket No. 338259.

         On May 22, 2017, this Court issued an order staying the proceedings in part. Council of Organizations & Others for Ed v Michigan, unpublished order of the Court of Appeals, entered May 22, 2017 (Docket No. 338258).[2]

         Appellants contend that the Court of Claims erred in ruling that it could not grant the motions to intervene because of a lack of subject-matter jurisdiction.

         "Whether the trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction is a question of law that this Court reviews de novo." Bank v Mich. Ed Ass'n-NEA, 315 Mich.App. 496, 499; 892 N.W.2d 1 (2016) (quotation marks and citation omitted). "We review de novo questions of statutory interpretation, with the fundamental goal of giving effect to the intent of the Legislature." Id. "That intent is clear if the statutory language is unambiguous, and the statute must then be enforced as written." Weakland v Toledo Engineering Co, Inc, 467 Mich. 344, 347; 656 N.W.2d 175 (2003), amended on other grounds 468 Mich. 1216 (2003).

         For purposes of this appeal, we will assume, without deciding, that all appellants would be allowed to intervene if solely the intervention court rule, MCR ...


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