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Lauve v. Winfrey

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

November 13, 2017

JANICE WINFREY, et al. Defendants.


          MARK A. GOLDSMITH, United States District Judge

         On August 21, 2017, Plaintiffs John Lauve and Robert Davis (“Plaintiffs”) filed an emergency motion, requesting a writ of mandamus and declaratory judgment on Counts VI and VII of their complaint. See Pls. Emer. Mot. at 1 (Dkt. 5). Oral argument on the emergency motion was heard on August 31, 2017. Following the hearing, Plaintiffs filed an emergency motion for leave to file a supplemental brief (Dkt. 14). Plaintiffs' motion was granted, and both parties submitted supplemental briefs.

         For the reasons that follow, the Court denies Plaintiffs' emergency motion for mandamus and declaratory relief.[1]

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs Lauve and Davis are registered and qualified electors of the cities of Holly and Highland Park, Michigan, respectively. Compl. ¶¶ 12-13 (Dkt. 1). Plaintiffs circulated referendum petitions to repeal Detroit City Ordinance No. 19-17 (the “Ordinance”) which, as Plaintiffs describe, “approved the amendments made to the Detroit Downtown Development Authority's tax increment financing and development plan for the new Little Caesars Arena.” Pls. Br. in Supp. of Emer. Mot. at 4-5 (Dkt. 5). The Ordinance went into effect on July 5, 2017. Compl. ¶ 25.[2] Per Article 12 of the 2012 Detroit City Charter (the “Charter”), when an ordinance is given immediate effect, “[a] referendum petition must be filed with the City Clerk . . . within thirty (30) days after its effective date.” Charter, § 12-103 (Pls. Emer. Mot., Ex. 3 (Dkt. 6-3)). The Charter also provides that referendum petitions “must be signed by voters of the City, not less in number than three percent (3%) of all votes case for the office of Mayor at the preceding regular city general election”; that is, 4, 054 signatures. Id. § 12-102. Once a referendum on an ordinance has been invoked, “the effect of the ordinance shall be delayed or suspended until the City Clerk has made a final report that the referendum petitions are insufficient or, if the referendum petitions are sufficient, until the voters of the City have expressed their support for the ordinance in the referendum election.” Id. § 12-106.

         On August 4, 2017, Plaintiffs went to the office of the Detroit City Clerk, Defendant Janice Winfrey, and presented referendum petitions, which contained 362 signatures. Compl. ¶ 20. The City Clerk's office accepted the referendum petitions. Id. ¶ 21. The following day, Lauve received a letter from Defendant Daniel Baxter, the Director of Elections for the City of Detroit Election Commission, advising him that his petitions were invalid on their face, and, as a result, the City Clerk's office would not accept them. Id. ¶ 22. Plaintiffs returned to the City Clerk's office on August 18, 2017 with additional referendum petitions containing 7, 927 signatures. Id. ¶ 33. Baxter then sent Lauve another letter stating that the additional referendum petitions were rejected as untimely. Id. ¶ 38.

         Plaintiffs filed the instant action against Winfrey, Baxter, and the Detroit City Council (collectively, “Defendants”) on August 20, 2017, requesting (i) a declaratory judgment that Winfrey and Baxter violated Plaintiffs' right to procedural due process by rejecting the referendum petitions; (ii) a declaratory judgment that Defendants violated Plaintiffs' right to procedural due process by failing to suspend the Ordinance; (iii) a declaratory judgment that Winfrey and Baxter violated Plaintiffs' rights to equal protection; (iv) attorney fees and costs; (v) compensatory, punitive, and nominal damages against Defendants; (vi) a writ of mandamus compelling Winfrey to canvass the timely-submitted referendum petitions; and (vii) a declaratory judgment that the Ordinance is suspended until Winfrey makes a final report regarding the sufficiency of Plaintiffs' referendum petitions. Compl. ¶¶ 2-8. The instant motion seeks relief with respect to Counts VI and VII only.

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Plaintiffs' Motion is Procedurally Improper

         Although Plaintiffs stress that it is “urgent” that the Court “grant expedited consideration” of their motion, Plaintiffs have not styled their request as one for a preliminary injunction or a temporary restraining order. Pls. Br. at 4. Doing so would have provided this Court with a framework for evaluating the motion. See Sandison v. Mich. High Sch. Athletic Ass'n, Inc., 64 F.3d 1026, 1030 (6th Cir. 1995) (decision whether to issue a preliminary injection turns on four traditional factors of irreparable harm, likelihood of success, balance of harms, and public interest). Plaintiffs did not address the traditional factors for equitable relief, demonstrating that Plaintiffs have not invoked the equitable process. Nor have Plaintiffs framed their emergency request as a motion for summary judgment, such that this Court could determine “whether the evidence presents a sufficient disagreement to require submission to a jury or whether it is so one-sided that one party must prevail as a matter of law.” Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 251-252 (1986).

         Because Plaintiffs have not properly denominated their motion, the Court will not hazard a guess as to how it should be characterized. See, e.g., Syl Worhacz Ford, Inc. v. Ford Dealer Computer Servs., Inc., No. 06-50546, 2007 WL 2109564, at *2 (E. D. Mich. July 23, 2007) (denying motion for reconsideration where plaintiff argued that the court should have applied a different standard to its claim, because “Plaintiff did not cite this standard or the requisite elements of [the] claim in its seven page motion . . . It is not the duty of this Court to make arguments for a party.”). The motion can be denied on this basis alone.

         B. Plaintiffs Have Not Shown Entitlement to Relief

         1. Writ of Mandamus

         Procedural defects aside, Plaintiffs have not shown that relief is warranted. A writ of mandamus is an extraordinary remedy that will only be issued where the party seeking the writ has a clear legal right to the performance of the specific duty sought; the defendant has the clear legal duty to perform the act requested; the act is ministerial; and no other remedy exists which might achieve the same result. Coalition for a Safer Detroit v. Detroit City ...

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