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Council of Organizations v. State

Supreme Court of Michigan

March 9, 2018

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-Appellants.

         Ct of Claims: 17-000068-MB

          Stephen J. Markman, Chief Justice Brian K. Zahra Bridget M. McCormack David F. Viviano Richard H. Bernstein Kurtis T. Wilder Elizabeth T. Clement, Justices

          ORDER

         On order of the Court, the motion for immediate consideration is GRANTED. The application for leave to appeal the August 14, 2017 order of the Court of Appeals is considered, and it is DENIED, because we are not persuaded that the question presented should be reviewed by this Court.

          Markman, C.J. (dissenting).

         I respectfully dissent from this Court's order denying leave to appeal. The decision by the Court of Claims to issue this preliminary injunction is a matter of considerable significance for the constitutional architecture of this state. As explained further below, preliminary injunctions constitute an extraordinary remedy that must be granted only with extreme circumspection, and the effect of this preliminary injunction is that a single judge of the Court of Claims has summarily halted the implementation of a duly adopted legislative enactment of the two representative branches of Michigan's government. These circumstances warrant close consideration; a preliminary injunction should only be granted when the party seeking the injunction satisfies the high burden of establishing the necessary requirements to obtain this relief. In my judgment, plaintiffs did not do so here and the Court of Claims abused its discretion in holding otherwise. Accordingly, I would reverse the order of the Court of Claims issuing this preliminary injunction.

         Plaintiffs filed suit in the Court of Claims challenging the constitutionality of MCL 388.1752b (§ 152b), which allocates funds to provide reimbursement for "actual costs incurred by nonpublic schools in complying with a health, safety, or welfare requirement mandated by a law or administrative rule of this state."[1] Plaintiffs argued that the disbursement of funds under § 152b would violate Const 1963, art 8, § 2, which prohibits public funds from being appropriated or paid "directly or indirectly to aid or maintain" a nonpublic school. Plaintiffs further argued that § 152b constituted an appropriation of public money for private purposes without a two-thirds vote of each house of the Legislature, in violation of Const 1963, art 4, § 30. During the suit, plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to prevent the disbursement of funds under § 152b, and the Court of Claims granted this request. Defendants then filed an application for leave to appeal in the Court of Appeals, which denied the application for leave to appeal.

         This Court reviews a trial court's grant of a preliminary injunction for an abuse of discretion. Detroit Fire Fighters Ass'n, IAFF Local 344 v Detroit, 482 Mich. 18, 28 (2008). Preliminary injunctive relief constitutes a form of extraordinary relief, Mich Coalition of State Employee Unions v Civil Serv Comm, 465 Mich. 212, 219 (2001), and should be issued with caution and only when there is a compelling case for such relief, Mich Consol Gas Co v Pub Serv Comm, 389 Mich. 624, 641 (1973) ("Before the court grants injunctive relief, even though it is on a temporary basis, a compelling case must be made for such action."). The party seeking the preliminary injunction

bears the burden of proving that the traditional four elements favor the issuance of a preliminary injunction. The trial court must evaluate whether (1) the moving party made the required demonstration of irreparable harm, (2) the harm to the applicant absent such an injunction outweighs the harm it would cause to the adverse party, (3) the moving party showed that it is likely to prevail on the merits, and (4) there will be harm to the public interest if an injunction is issued.

[Detroit Fire Fighters Ass'n, 482 Mich. at 34.]

         First, plaintiffs failed to make the required demonstration of irreparable harm. Irrespective of any standing considerations, "a particularized showing of irreparable harm was, and still is, as our law is understood, an indispensable requirement to obtain a preliminary injunction." Mich Coalition, 465 Mich. at 225-226 (emphasis added). That is, even if it could be said that plaintiffs possessed standing under Lansing Schs Ed Ass'n v Lansing Bd of Ed, 487 Mich. 349, 372 (2010), absent any concrete and particularized injury, they still must demonstrate a particularized showing of irreparable harm in order to obtain a preliminary injunction. "The mere apprehension of future injury or damage cannot be the basis for injunctive relief, " Pontiac Fire Fighters Union Local 376 v Pontiac, 482 Mich. 1, 9 (2008), and "it is well settled that an injunction will not lie . . . where the threatened injury is speculative or conjectural, " id. at 9 n 15 (quotation marks and citation omitted). Absent a particularized showing of concrete irreparable harm, "the extraordinary nature of a preliminary injunction would be trivialized." Id. at 11.

         Plaintiffs offer three unconvincing reasons why they purportedly made the required demonstration of irreparable harm: (1) constitutional violations equate to irreparable harm, (2) the expenditure of funds will detrimentally affect their financial interests, and (3) a preliminary injunction is necessary to preserve their cause of action.

         As to the first basis, plaintiffs rely solely upon Garner v Mich. State Univ, 185 Mich.App. 750, 764 (1990), to argue that a constitutional violation by definition constitutes "irreparable harm which cannot be adequately remedied by an action at law." However, plaintiffs misconstrue Garner, which instead stands for the proposition that "temporary loss of a constitutional right constitutes irreparable harm which cannot be adequately remedied by an action at law." Id. (emphasis added). Plaintiffs here make no argument that they specifically will suffer any loss of a constitutional right and, thus, their reliance on Garner is misplaced. The mere allegation of a constitutional violation is insufficient to demonstrate irreparable harm unless there is a showing of concrete irreparable injury to the party before the court. Mich Coalition, 465 Mich. at 225-226. To hold otherwise would render it such that a preliminary injunction would be warranted in every case seeking judicial review of a legislative enactment. Plaintiffs' argument that the alleged unconstitutional disbursement of funds constitutes irreparable harm is nothing more than an assertion of generalized harm, which has traditionally been viewed as insufficient to justify the kind of premature and extraordinary judicial intervention requested in this case. See generally Hammel v Speaker of House of Representatives, 297 Mich.App. 641, 652 (2012) ("Plaintiffs' generalized argument that a constitutional violation would result in harm is insufficient because it is not particularized.").

         As to plaintiffs' second basis (i.e., the expenditure of funds will detrimentally affect their financial interests), the Court of Claims specifically "decline[d] to find that [the irreparable harm consisted of] the $2.5 million that might have gone elsewhere . . . ." Indeed, plaintiffs cannot show that they, or any other person or institution, would have otherwise received the disputed funds or are otherwise entitled to these funds in the event the allocation under § 152b is struck down.[2] Thus, this argument also fails.

         As to plaintiffs' third basis, they contend that a preliminary injunction is necessary to preserve their opportunity even to bring a claim to prevent the alleged unconstitutional disbursement of funds. However, on appeal, plaintiffs fail altogether to recognize the amendment of § 152b that provides that the unexpended funds from 2016-2017 are carried forward into 2017-2018, which dissipates the need for a preliminary injunction on plaintiffs' "lost claims" grounds. Moreover, even assuming an alleged unconstitutional disbursement of funds in the event of a theoretical loss of their cause of action, plaintiffs ...


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