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Fowler v. Johnson

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

December 21, 2017

ADRIAN FOWLER and KITIA HARRIS, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
RUTH JOHNSON, in her official capacity as Secretary of State of the Michigan Department of State, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S EMERGENCY MOTION FOR STAY PENDING APPEAL

          Honorable Linda V. Parker, Judge

         This is an action challenging Defendant's practice, pursuant to Michigan Compiled Laws § 257.321a, of suspending the driver's licenses of individuals who fail to pay court-ordered fines, costs, fees and assessments resulting from traffic violations (“traffic debt”). On December 14, 2017, this Court entered an opinion and order enjoining Defendant “from enforcing … § 257.321a to suspend the driver's licenses of people unable to pay their traffic debt.” (Op. & Order at 34, ECF No. 21 at Pg ID 268.) Defendant filed an appeal of the Court's decision and, on December 19, 2017, moved for a stay of the injunction pending appeal. (ECF No. 25.) Plaintiffs filed a response to Defendant's motion on December 20, 2017. (ECF No. 27.) Defendant filed a reply brief the same day. (ECF No. 28.)

         The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure grant district courts the power to stay an injunction pending appeal:

While an appeal is pending from an interlocutory order or final judgment that grants, dissolves, or denies an injunction, the court may suspend, modify, restore, or grant an injunction on terms for bond or other terms that secure the opposing party's rights. …

Fed. R. Civ. P. 62(c). In deciding whether to issue a stay pursuant to Rule 62(c), the court must consider the same factors analyzed when issuing injunctive relief:

“(1) the likelihood that the party seeking the stay will prevail on the merits of the appeal; (2) the likelihood that the moving party will be irreparably harmed absent a stay; (3) the prospect that others will be harmed if the court grants the stay; and (4) the public interest in granting the stay.”

SEIU Local 1 v. Husted, 698 F.3d 341, 343 (6th Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (quoting Mich. Coal. of Radioactive Material Users, Inc. v. Griepentrog, 945 F.2d 150, 153 (6th Cir. 1991)). “These factors are not prerequisites that must be met, but are interrelated considerations that must be balanced together.” Id. The moving party has the burden of demonstrating entitlement to a stay. Id. (citing Overstreet v. Lexington-Fayette Urban Cnty. Gov't, 305 F.3d 566, 573 (6th Cir. 2002)).

         With regard to the likelihood of reversal, Defendant argues that “the preliminary injunction is procedurally improper.” (Def.'s Mot. at 4, ECF No. 25 at Pg ID 278.) Defendant first argues that the Court failed to fulfill the requirements of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 65(d)(1). Specifically, Defendant claims the injunction is ambiguous because it includes the following terms: “enforcing, ” “to suspend, ” “people, ” “unable to pay, ” and “traffic debt.” (Def.'s Mot. at 607, ECF No. 25 at Pg ID 280-81.) The terms are not ambiguous.

         Rule 65(d)(1) provides:

Every order granting an injunction and every restraining order must:
(A) state the reasons why [the injunction] issued;
(B) state its terms specifically; and
(C) describe in reasonable detail-and not by referring to the complaint or other document-the act or acts restrained or required.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(d)(1). Nevertheless, “‘the rule does not require the impossible. There is a limit to what words can convey.'” Windmill Corp. v. Kelly Foods Corp., Nos. 94-5874, 94-5890, 95-5137, 1996 WL 33251, at *6 (6th Cir. Jan. 26, 1996) (unpublished) (quoting Scandia Down Corp. v. Euroquilt, Inc., 772 F.2d 1423, 1431 (7th Cir. 1985)). “Rule 65(d) does not require a torrent of words when more words would not produce enlightenment about what is forbidden.'” Id. at *7 (quoting Scandia Down, 772 F.2d at 1432). Moreover, the words of the injunction must be read in ...


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